Professionally opinionated man Robert Macklin is raging against the modern era where everyone gets to have an opinion, and misses when he was in the privileged position of everyone having to listen to what he thought.
For example, after I joined “The Canberra Times” in 1990 and became arts editor and a columnist, it was perfectly possible to engage the community in all sorts of interesting ideas.
When I proposed an award of Canberra’s Artist of the Year, for instance, every arts group in the city nominated a candidate; when I suggested “The Heart of the Nation” as the motto for our rego plates, it was adopted in short order by the government of the day; when we were forgotten by the national organisers of the walk of reconciliation in favour of the Harbour Bridge, I was able to initiate our own walk across Commonwealth Bridge with the warm support of the local police; and to my astonishment hundreds turned up on a cold and windy Sunday.
I’m not going to waste my time pointing out the dozens of easy, free, and powerful ways anyone can interact with the Canberran community. I’m assuming you’re all aware of what an internet is, and how you can use it. In fact you are currently looking at an internet right now.
Every month I attend many events organised by individuals, and organise many myself. Anyone with an idea and a computer has the power to summon hundreds of people to a single location, even when it’s cold and windy.
The “Times” has become the hybrid “Canberra Morning Herald” with a local content written either by kiddywinks or (with one honourable exception) garrulous old grumps. Circulation is collapsing and this at a time when at last we’re big enough to support a paper that could really reflect its readers’ interests, intelligence and sense of humour.
Print is dying. Everywhere. Whether or not we’re a big enough city to support a paper that reflects its readers interests is irrelevant. We didn’t stop painting on cave walls because our local caves were becoming too much like the Morning Herald. The death of the newspaper isn’t a death sentence for community discourse, it’s a jailbreak. You don’t have to write a letter to the editor anymore, you can address it directly to the world now.
It is still “perfectly possible to engage the community in all sorts of interesting ideas” the only difference now is that anyone can do it. Robert doesn’t miss when it was possible to engage the community, he misses when he had no competition. He misses when being one of the few people with a soapbox meant you got attention even if your opinion wasn’t worth listening to.
Everyone has a voice, everyone can be heard, and everyone can choose who is worth listening to. That is our community, and I think it’s brilliant.