Of leaky hulls, righted ships and the strength of hometown papers


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If you’re reading this week’s edition of City Scope, then you’re doing so online as the T-J family is enjoying a well-deserved Christmas break and the next printed copy of the paper is Dec. 29.
In the past that would have meant a one-week hiatus, but as our journalistic future increasingly shifts to electronic media, references to “this corner” may soon refer to cyberspace and not the column on an ink-stained page.
Especially given the vagaries of newspaper publishers on this continent.
All of which allows me to take liberties over the Christmas holiday to mirror the sentiments of Carl M. Cannon, Senior Washington Correspondent for Daily Politics, an online political news magazine comprised of a small team of old pros committed to traditional journalistic values.
Cannon’s wish this Christmas is that in 2010, “newspaper publishers will patch up their leaky hulls and right their ships. A great deal depends on it.”
Amen.

He continues with an excerpt from a Christmas story by author Ann Patchett, who writes of the emotional weight the holiday carried for her as a child of divorce. (You can read his entire article here).
Cannon confides the passage that got his attention in the story was a mere set-up line.
“My father called because he wanted to read me a short story that was in the newspaper,” Patchett writes. “My father’s newspaper has always been the Los Angeles Times.”
Of course, you can freely fill in the space with your newspaper of choice. The take-away from this is Cannon’s conclusion.
“My simple prayer this Christmas is that future generations … will nod knowingly when they read a line like that. They’ll know their hometown newspaper, too, even if it’s mainly a Web site. And even if they know they can send a link to a story they love in a second with just click of their mouse, they’ll still want to dial a phone number and read the story aloud to their daughters and sons.”
And each Saturday you will be able to continue to read about your hometown and issues that warrant attention, such as …

THE FLAME THAT LIT UP ST. THOMAS
Residents of St. Thomas afforded the Olympic flame a most hospitable welcome this week as thousands lined Talbot Street and congregated in front of the CASO station to witness the torch as it wends its way westward to Vancouver for the 2010 Winter Olympics.
An approving nod to the St. Thomas organizing committee, all of the volunteers and torch bearers, most especially Jim Waite and Richard Haddow.
The latter deserves extra space for the gracious manner in which he allowed youngsters at the east end of Talbot Street to hold his torch and have their picture taken by beaming parents while he awaited the flame hand-off.
A nice touch, Richard.
Tuesday’s festivities at the railway station were but a precursor to what awaits when rehabilitation of the structure is complete. The nostalgia-laden meeting place will truly be a dynamic hub in the comings and goings of St. Thomas.
Funny how what goes around comes around.

MELON MUSINGS
Faithful reader John passes along greetings of the season and encouragement to get to the bottom of some civic loose ends in 2010.
To wit, John wonders what the final tally will look like for the transit terminal/Sutherland Press building fiasco.
I like to think I have the ability to wring the most out of the words I write, but I’m a rank amateur based on this musing from John.
“In my mind they (the above buildings) are forever linked,” he asserts.
“Spending $260 K on a $140 K building, only so it cannot be used because we are spending thousands to demolish, no wait, litigate, no wait, procrastinate, no wait, simply waste our money on lawyers, debris bins, engineering reports, meetings, fences, street closures, lest we forget, temporary warm shelter for our buses at a remote site of the contracted firm?”
He continues, “I wish someone would give their melon a shake once in a while and simply ask themselves, ‘What would a sane man do in this situation?’”
I tip my City Scope pen to you John. You have made your point in a most eloquent fashion.
I hope you likewise continue to tell it like it is in the next 365 days.

DON’T BELIEVE ALL YOU HEAR
The media release mid-month from St. Thomas-Elgin General Hospital alerting to bed closures and staff cuts doesn’t quite paint the whole picture.
To summarize, one staffer, and possibly a second, are going to lose their jobs as the result of a series of moves announced at the hospital which will impact the Continuing Care Centre (CCC).
STEGH announced it is closing 20 transitional care beds from CCC, effective February of next year.
The implication is these 20 alternative care beds were not heavily used or required.
This corner understands those beds were, and continue to be, fully occupied.
In essence, B wing of CCC will be completely vacated, as was A wing previously.
Surely this is a continuation of the master plan to transition valuable ward space into retail/office/community access areas to improve the bottom line?
Additional insight (even of an anonymous nature) would be appreciated.

CATTY COMMENT OF THE WEEK
The first recipient of this new award is none other than Mayor Cliff Barwick who, at Monday’s council meeting, selected Ald. Gord Campbell and Ald. Lori Baldwin-Sands to sit in as acting mayor during his absence next month for kidney-stone surgery.
He concluded that piece of business by noting their appointments mean all council members will have served as acting mayor during his term.
Barwick justifiably earned the honour by then observing, “That cannot be said of all councils.”
Wow, a menacing shot across the bow of the good ship Kohler.
If you recall, it was former mayor Jeff Kohler who turned to his bullpen with great regularity to call upon Marie Turvey, Tom Johnston and Bill Aarts to take to the pitcher’s mound in his absence. Leaving players like Ald. David Warden to ride the pine in disgraced silence.

NEXT WEEK …
The past year in quotes and the top five things you won’t hear in 2010.

City Scope appears every Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be e-mailed to: mccallum@stthomastimesjournal.com.

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