Always read the letters to the editor first—especially these days when most newspapers are echo chambers for a power elite. In Canada we had 26 of 28 dailies editorialize for our Republican Prime Minister Stephen Harper, a man who has done his best to turn Canada into a pale imitation of our friends to the south, the mighty United States of Amnesia as Gore Vidal named it.
As a teacher I can tell you the young have abandoned newspapers as a serious brake on the corporate takeover of our country. The Fourth Estate as an entity which challenges “the malefactors of wealth” who dominate society here and south of the border seems to have fallen asleep on the job. Or maybe they are wide awake and doing the reactionary work of their owners. In 1907 President Teddy Roosevelt took a shot at this group as “…a few ruthless and domineering men whose wealth makes them peculiarly formidable because they hide behind the breastworks of corporate organization’. A .J. Liebling was closer to the mark when he wrote that “Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.”
The one paper which has struggled to “afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted” has been the Toronto Star. The Atkinson Principles based on the philosophy (and his Methodist religion) of Joseph Atkinson who was the editor of the Star for 50 years until 1948.
Atkinson believed and the Star struggles to continue this belief that “a progressive newspaper should contribute to the advancement of society through pursuit of social, economic and political reforms”. Atkinson obsessed about injustice, be it social, economic, political, legal or racial. The Star continues in this vein. It was one of two dailies that rejected Harper in the last federal election. Usually a left Liberal paper, it supported the NDP.
Young people,at least a creative minority are still idealistic, that’s why they have abandoned newspapers and found online journals or blogs which have the same values that Joe Atkinson had.
As far as letters to the editor go, I saw one yesterday that really hit home as a truthful description of the sagging fortunes of the institutional Catholic church.