The best goodbyes manage to sum up the entirety of a relationship in a highly digestible, tear-inducing method. I hope this final editorial manages to do none of those things.
In the past 2 years working with Arthur, I have been immersed in Peterborough’s media landscape. The changes have been anything but glacial, and Arthur’s role in this landscape will be crucial. Arthur’s role will be crucial because of the steady stream of funding that it gets from Trent students in the form of a levy. This steady source of funding is a luxury that other media companies in Peterborough do not have. This steady source of funding allows Arthur to be a beautiful fucking mess: rife with errors, devoid of a consistent editorial stance, a shifting kaleidoscope of chaos with moments of serenity that could only come from people who have no clue what they’re doing. Also, it’s free.
Contrast this with Electric City Magazine: a consistent reflection of the downtown core in Peterborough that is maintained by putting people you know on the front cover. They pay their writers, they shit on city council. They position Peterborough as cool, gritty, but most importantly, as a community on the come-up, and deserving of the unconditional love that it gets from so many of its citizens. That being said, Electric City doesn’t feel like traditional journalism. Electric City starts conversations but does not follow up on them the way we expect journalists to follow up on things. Electric City is a service that the downtown core provides itself to tell the stories it wants to hear. Which is dope. Unfortunately, this business model has kept literal saints like Gabe Pollock and David Tough trapped in some form of perpetual poverty, and recently they had to sell the magazine to a woke cult.
The Resonance Centre bought Electric City Magazine in early December 2017, and to their credit, nothing has changed about the magazine since the purchase. Electric City continues to do great work representing the arts scene in Peterborough the way it wants to be represented. There’s a whole other article that could explain what the Resonance Centre is, but I refuse to waste space and time trying to define an organization that stands for nothing. The point stands, Electric City is everything Arthur isn’t (consistent, purposeful, principled) and it failed as a business model until it was bought up. Electric City had everything that media gurus prescribe: a brand, a captivating story, an audience — and still, they just barely made it. That’s really fucked up.
Meanwhile, in normie news land, Canadians are bearing witness to the modern equivalent of railway barons dividing the news markets into fiefdoms. In late November, Postmedia and Torstar (both bumbling behemoths of news corporations) swapped a bunch of publications, and now The Peterborough Examiner belongs to Torstar. MyKawartha and The Peterborough Examiner are now owned by the same company; both are publications that attempt at being the “paper of record” in the Peterborough region. The answer to the question of “Why have two papers of record?” owned by the same company in a dying industry in a dying marketplace (yes, Peterborough is that old), is layoffs.
They haven’t happened yet, but they’re coming, and it’s going to be a real shit sandwich when they do. This is because, over the past decade in Canada, conventional market solutions of providing an essential service like journalism to citizens have collectively puked their pants. Corporate media will make sure that there is a paper of record in Peterborough as long as there are profits to be made.
It will turn a profit by ensuring that it is run by a bunch of underpaid, overworked journalists, all with their own Adderall abuse problems. Ghoulish upper management will pit 6 to 14 people against one another to see who can attend the most community events for all of 13 minutes, to collect 3 quotes and 4 pictures for a 348-word article to be posted on the website 20 minutes before said event even ends. We need to find a better way to support these journalists working in local community newspapers.
And then there’s Arthur — the only publication in town that is beholden to no one, can afford to be hilariously bad with money, go biweekly for a couple years, and then maybe come back as a weekly publication. The only publication (Absynthe notwithstanding because you folks rock) in town that can give young aspiring writers a chance to write and get paid is Arthur. Arthur’s stable source of funding gives it the potential to be a training ground for up-and-coming writers. It was not that while I was editor.
It wasn’t a training ground for up-and-coming writers because I had no formal training to be a writer while working for Arthur. I just wrote my ass off because I liked it. Maybe that’s the strength of a place like Arthur. For me and many others, it has been an institution in which you get exactly what you put into it. I chose to do city council coverage during volume 51 because I knew that I could learn from other journalists just by being around them for anywhere between 45 minutes to an hour and half at a time.
This entrepreneurial approach to journalism should never leave Arthur. The issue with learning things like, say, journalistic ethics on the fly, is that the misapplication of these ethics can lead to real harm in the community. That doesn’t have to be the case for future writers. There is potential to make Arthur into a better learning institution for young writers in the short term, but it involves community contributions. Not in the content, but in the behind-the-scenes work at Arthur. To be a real learning environment there needs to be someone on the Arthur’s board of directors whose sole job is to put incoming editors in touch with workshop coordinators for writing, photography, ethics, etc.
Publications like Electric City need to be supported financially because they provide an essential service to the downtown core, as well as providing a platform to the countercultural voices who are shunned out of the mainstream. Publications like MyKawartha and The Peterborough Examiner need support for their writers, because corporate media is a human spirit meat grinder for people who just want to provide decent reporting for their communities. Arthur needs to be supported by people with skills and knowledge.
Arthur needs to be a messy place where students and editors alike have the freedom to make mistakes, both big and small. It also needs to maintain institutional memory from community members who join the board and offer guidance to incoming editors.
I’ll be joining the board after my editorship as Treasurer to ensure that there’s someone who can bother with exhilarating topics like the remittance structure of TWSP employees. But my area of expertise is narrow, and being a former editor doesn’t qualify me to guide the next editors, because they should be allowed to make different decisions. The real guidance comes from the community realizing that Arthur can be exactly as good as they want it to be.