When I go to get our mail on the morning that R-Town News comes out I sometimes notice a few people throwing out the paper and its inserted ads. A few others take out the ads and throw away the paper and some do the opposite. I am thankful that there’s a paper recycling program.
As a writer of one of the regular columns I can take this a bit personally. Nearing my 200th column I well know what’s required to do a well-researched, weekly article. Even if some readers don’t stick with my lengthy columns, there are many other informative pieces in R-Town. However, as a writer I also know you must take a leap of faith and trust that there will be readers who may appreciate your effort. Like all creativity, in the end writing is an unconditional act.
SMALL IS BEAUTIFUL
There’s some truth in the saying ‘small is beautiful’. Though a relatively small paper, R-Town spans rural and northern Saskatchewan. There are more in-depth columns than people often get in the big city dailies. And other local weeklies often carry their many ads right in the paper, restricting the space available for information. Almost all of R-Town’s pages feature columns.
The paper is a prize not to be taken for granted. Where else can you get the global geo-political insights of a Gwynne Dyer delivered to your mailbox? His recent reflections on the 10th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq were more informative than provincial or national TV coverage. And where else can you get the steady ecological wisdom of a David Suzuki?
These may be the paper’s ‘big-hitters’, but there’s also to-the-point columns on a diversity of topics. I read the last few papers from cover to cover to better appreciate what people might be throwing out and also as an act of solidarity with others willing to face their vulnerabilities to write for public consumption. I always appreciate the penetrating imagination and wise insights of Kay Parley. I am challenged by the reflections on life’s lessons and the continuing return to gratefulness in the writings of Judy Sorestad.
THE DIVERSITY OF IDEAS
The diversity is refreshing. You can get practical psychotherapeutic advice from Gwen Randall-Young; you can also get a wide range of tips for domestic life from Reena Nerbas. Lori Penner stands ready to provide another perspective on common topics, most recently plagiarism or bullying, while Joan Janzen can transform the seemingly extraordinary into lessons for the ordinary. And Ken Rolheiser’s biblical reflections regularly remind us all, whatever our belief, of the importance of generosity and renewal. You can read everything from “Dear Ellen” to “Earth Talk” to the unexpected in “Fact or Fiction”.
All these possibilities delivered free to your mailbox.
And there’s something for the political junkies. Murry Mandryk strives for safe balance in his opinion pieces about provincial politics, while widely respected MP Ralph Goodale provides more critical analysis of what’s happening in Ottawa than we get from all the other Saskatchewan MP’s combined. And then there’s specific reports targeted to the regions served by the United Newspapers of Saskatchewan (UNOS), the La Ronge Smoker, the Weyburn Dispatch, or the North, Border, Calling Lakes or South R-Towns. In our Calling Lakes edition we can get reports from Vibank, Spy Hill, Odessa and elsewhere as well as from the RCMP.
THE BIG AND LOCAL PICTURE
I’m not tooting my own horn here. Before I wrote for R-Town I regularly read the late Paul Beingessner’s column to better educate myself about farm-rural issues. Having Gwynne Dyer and David Suzuki delivered to my mailbox helped keep me up on vital global and ecological matters; they are both excellent sources on the emerging climate crisis. As a research-writer R-Town helped me keep informed about both the big picture and the local picture. It helped me more than the editorially-predictable Regina Leader Post, which I now read only selectively.
More and more people are trying to keep informed on-line where, if you are careful about sources, you can get more penetrating news and information than from the mainstream media. I often use the internet to go outside narrow mainstream biases to help prepare my column and I continue to count on R-Town for a diversity of views that help me keep a broader awareness.
Having a paper like R-Town delivered to you weekly at no personal cost is a real gift. And I appreciate all the effort that goes into making this paper happen – the time and perseverance of all the writers who fill the column inches. Hats off to them! And in particular, for all the effort, vision and commitment of the Dahlman family – editor Melanie, publisher Eleanor and to the memory of the paper’s founder Rick Dahlman who died in 2010. It is they who have kept this important project going. They are indeed servants of the democratic process and the public interest. They have found a positive balance between entrepreneurship and citizenship.
Each week, usually on Friday after I pick up that week’s issue, I start to focus on the next column which I send in by Monday evening. Narrowing down the topic from many possible topics takes time and mental effort, though I trust my intuitions and don’t try to control this part of the creative process. Scratching down some ideas and pertinent information but mostly just clarifying the questions, gets me started. I also use a journal where I keep background information on traditional and emerging issues of sustainability.
Doing the research, draft writing, re-writing, editing and re-writing with the help of my spouse goes on over the weekend. I have to continually re-learn when to walk away to give the process some space. There’s a lot of faith in public writing; it can start with a big black hole of confusion to which words may or may not bring light.
I have to feel confident about the truth of my writing and how well I am communicating this before I finally press the “send” button. As an adult educator for most of my life I know that there’s no point making a point if the reasons for it aren’t clear; discussion and dialogue should always be encouraged by critical writing. I often do an additional “fact check” just to be sure before I submit.
SPRING IS COMING
I am refueled whenever someone stops to tell me they like a piece. Then I am less likely to be discouraged when I see papers discarded in the local recycle bin. But I still feel there are people who don’t realize what they are missing when they toss away the many gems in this paper. Sometimes I wonder if eyesight, health, stress or even literacy may be at play.
I realized this week that it was time to express some gratitude as both a reader and writer of R-Town. I had no idea that this column would result. Though it felt initially like the idea lacked substance, I am glad I proceeded; I had been starting to take R-Town for granted.
The energy of spring opens us up. Perhaps each enthusiastic reader could take a minute this weekend to give one of the throw-away copies to a friend, neighbor or family member as a way to nourish a conversation and to reconnect. It’s all about community-building and it’s worth a try.