Sunday, August 24, 2008

So, did anything much happen while we were away?

They say that the month of August provides for the Dog days of the year, the sultry final days of summer when not much happens.

As we sit down to our accumulated volumes of Daily and weekly Podunkian newsprint however, it would seem that the events that we are only now just catching up on after our sabbatical from the world of blogging, show that this particular old adage is not necessarily so in Podunk, nor the wider world it seems.

While we were out seeking our share of solar comfort, quite a few events seem to have taken the centre stage in Podunk, BC, Canada and the World, oh where to begin…

Georgia and Russia decided the time was right to recreate some epic battles of the Crimean War era, leaving the world wondering if yet another Cold War was on the horizon.

Barack Obama found a running mate and he ain’t the she, everyone seemed to think he had to pick. With Joe Biden firmly in place as the VP candidate now, the real election campaign is set to begin.

The hopeful VP to be Biden, was quick to his new duties on Saturday with a hard hitting speech that firmly tied John McCain to the Bush Agenda of the last eight years, exactly the approach that the Democrats will need to use to put the final nail in these last eight Bush years.

China, the genial hosts (well to everyone but Tibetans and those peasants inclined to make trouble) stepped out onto the world stage and promptly faked the opening of the Olympic Games. Complete with fancy computer graphics and a swell job of lip synching, sending a signal that every nuance of the next two weeks would indeed be tightly controlled by the Central Party.

Speaking of sleight of hand, Premier Gordon Campbell chose that same period of time and late Friday afternoon to reward the province’s most senior civil servants with much gold and lucre, providing them with yet another pay raise even though there is no indication that they were in any danger of being scooped up and taken away on us.
All of that took place while everyone’s attention was diverted with a long weekend and Olympic dreams. (In fact, the Premier was quick to jet away on a private jet for Beijing and the opening ceremonies of the Olympics. Hey how about that carbon footprint there Mr. Environment?).
It was a move that perhaps provided for his very own Gold Medal performance when it comes to sneaking one around the populace. Indeed, for some it really is "the best place on earth" eh!

Federally my mailbox became clogged with Stephen Harper fliers on any number of “pressing issues” for the nation. A sure sign that we must be on the cusp of another federal election, reported to be possibly set to be called as early as this coming week.

Tragically more Canadian soldiers were killed in Afghanistan, an event which as Gary Mason writes so eloquently and in a heartfelt manner today in the Globe and Mail seems to not be as big a story as it once was, a shameful slam at the news media and a reminder for all of us that Canadians are serving their nation at our behest and perhaps deserve much more thought and concern than we seem to want to consider at the moment.

In the same week that a federal whistle blower reveals some privatization plans for the nation’s food inspection agency, the news is flooded with deadly cases of food contamination which will now jolt consumers away from their favourite deli trays. An almost divine sense of timing, that makes you wonder about the federal government’s lapses in judgment and its priorities from time to time. While Canadians are dying from their sandwich meats, it for a while there seemed that the main concern of the government was to punish the civil servant who alerted us to the privatization plans, hmmm, lets see how that washes out in any upcoming election shall we!

Locally there have been any number of items have jumped to the top of my reading list, an interesting letter to the office of the mayor which has now made its way to the Daily News letter to the editors page and finally spawned a wee bit of attention in the Weekly Northern View. A curious Rupertite has asked a few interesting questions of the Mayor and his council regarding the hiring practices down at City Hall. And through the htmf portal the discussion has appeared to have raged for a few days now.

While some of the htmfers seem quite ready to give the Northern View a Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting, we should point out that this story has been percolating around town for maybe a year now, with its tentacles reaching back even further and the days of the job search for upper management at City Hall. The incubation period of the ”story” has been a long one, and we suspect that neither paper might have yet decided it had legs, if the young lady with the questions for City Hall hadn’t finally published her notes on htmf.

Though its good to see the Northern View finally ask the Mayor some pointed questions about the situation, it seems to be more a case of catching up to the public as opposed to bringing the story to us. Still, at least they broached the subject in a public forum, we’re still waiting for the Daily News to try and find its entry point on the current tempest , so far they've published her letter to the editor, it will be interesting to see if there is any follow up there on the issue .

Speaking of the Daily, we found it amusing to note the number of farewell and hello articles and letters that seem to have flooded the paper in the last three weeks or so.

From the introduction to the newest reporter on staff, George T. Baker, to a fond farewell from the paper’s intern Carla Winstersgill and even a letter to the editor from the recently departed host of Daybreak North Russell Bowers, the Daily was a veritable conduit of introductions and selections from the thanks for the memories files.

Of course there has been one glaring omission to the memory files, that of the long time workhorse of the Daily News reporting staff Leanne Ritchie, who as we pointed out in an earlier post prior to our break left the Daily News under what seem to be some rather mysterious circumstances.

The one reporter who perhaps had the most memories to share with her readers from her many years at the Daily, did not get her final moment in print to share any final thoughts of her time spent in the Northwest. When you examine the various reminiscences of those that did get published, it just makes you even more curious as to how Ms. Ritchie’s departure came to be.

As for the paper itself, we still find that they have any number of gremlins attacking the final product delivered on a daily basis. From sentences that just seem to drop a few pertinent points (and the occasional verb, nouns and appropriate adjectives) to spelling troubles and an occasional lapse in research, reading the paper at times makes for an interesting experience of having to occasionally join your own dots...

It took them a couple of attempts to come up with the proper tribute to a much respected local doctor and even then managed to get the date of the funeral wrong, making for a nasty introduction to the reading public for the new reporter, who quickly found his work under the microscope on htmf.

While we’re always willing to cut new folks some slack as they learn the ropes, there surely must be a spell checking program the paper can purchase, not to mention work on the editing of the final product a bit more and most importantly provide a bit of assistance when it comes to local colour and research for the staff.

All of that being said the Daily is still the one main local current of information on the day to day basis. And even though they seem to have suspended their program of posting news articles to their website (we suspect that this has to do with the fact that the editor is on vacation), they at least strive to keep us informed.

Rocking the boat doesn’t seem to be their thing, nor investigative reporting (we guess that will be the domain of htmf in the short term) and of late the paper seems to have become more of a chamber of commerce newsletter in daily form, but they are pretty well the only game in town at the moment.

During the break from blogging, we kept an eye on such things as yet another bomb threat in Prince Rupert in this year of the angry phone callers, Unemployment statistics that continue to record some ugly numbers here, despite all of this talk of a boomtown and now the backbone of the city’s economy the fishing industry seems to have once again dropped into a free fall once more, leaving this coming fall, winter and spring to be a rather bleak period of time for many local families.

This finally seems to have caught the attention of City Council which suddenly has discovered that there may be some social issues to be concerned about in the very short term. For Councillor Thorkelson this must the moment she can stop banging her head on the wall, for the last three years she’s been raising the alarm on the growing issue of poverty, unemployment and homelessness, in August the bulk of council (or those that attended the last meeting) seemed to finally join up with her cause. Cynics of course might point out that hey there’s an election coming up soon, but we’re sure that the timing is purely coincidental.

Our cruise industry took a hit with the cancellation of a scheduled stop next year, the crabbers and the gillnetters are facing off over gear on the waters and one of the gas stations ran out of gas, to name a few of the many items we've quickly browsed over…

So much to catch up on and our head is still mired in vacationland mode and its refusal to bow to deadlines or obligations!

We’ll attempt to bring the blog up to date in short order, catching up with the past articles and archiving them as in the past, all while trying to introduce current and new material in a timely fashion. It will be a bit of a time consuming project however, so the next few days will be a flurry of postings mainly of past events, bear with us as we work to get caught up.

However, we offer up the warning that we found our time away from blogging to be quite enjoyable. No researching stories, no pushing a little longer each day to cobble together a few stories or a new angle on an old one and no feeling as though an enjoyable hobby was turning into a chore.

Sometimes in blogging you become a slave to the product, your interest begins to wane and the zeal for the project fades, the potential for burn out rears its head far too frequently.

On more than one occasion in the last few weeks we have given some thought of joining our former blogging friends in blogger suspension and putting away the word processing for a while.

We even went so far as to work on our final posting, complete with an appropriate music video to bid farewell.

We haven’t quite crossed that Rubicon just yet, but it’s tempting at times.

We’re holding on to the music selection for that eventual day and will refine that farewell to the troops at a later date, but for now it’s back to the blog, it may last for a week, a month or who knows maybe even more than another year.

When we tire of the grind you’ll be the second person to know…

But for now we’ve got some reading to catch up on, come along as we recap a month of Podunkian tales...

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