The sound of stories not being told…

Russell Walker, Chair of Halifax’s Board of Police Commissioners, isn’t happy with me. It has to do with my comments two weeks back about his lack of comment on the city’s startling number of unsolved murders. I’ll save the specifics of Walker’s complaints for another column.

Today I want to talk about something Walker said, almost in passing, as he criticized the fact I’d written about the board without having sat through one of its (often brief) meetings.

“Nobody covers us anymore,” he lamented.

It’s true. There was a time when reporters from both daily newspapers routinely showed up for its meetings. But then the Daily News folded and, this spring, the Chronicle Herald eliminated 25 per cent of its newsroom staff, including one of two city hall reporters. Now no reporters cover a board that is supposed to provide civilian oversight of our police force.

What is the sound of stories not being told?

While it won’t rank up there with the election of our first NDP government, or Tiger Woods Master’s Tournament of Transgressions, my candidate for the most important story of the year—the decade, in fact—is the continuing implosion of the traditional newspaper in large and small cities across North America. Including Halifax.

I know, I know. I’m self interested. I’m a journalist. I teach journalism.

But I’m also a citizen. And I worry about the consequences of not knowing.

There’s a disconnect, of course. We now have far more sources of information than ever before. The web, cell phone video, citizen journalism, free dailies like this one. But do we know as much?

I confess I was among the skeptics when Metro launched following the demise of the Daily News. I happily eat crow. Thanks to an above-and-beyond collection of young journalists, Metro continually punches above its weight among local media. But even those responsible for Metro will acknowledge it was never intended to replace full-meal-deal newspapers like the Daily News. Neither was News Talk Radio. Or even 30 more minutes of underfunded CBC supperhour news.

And that’s the problem. If there’s no media outlet—print or otherwise—whose job it is to report on mundane happenings at the police commission, the school board, or the planning department, how will we know what we don’t know when there’s something we need to?

My hope for the new year is that someone figure it all out. We need journalism.

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