Edith Josie

Stop the Presses!

In the mid 1960's, a column began to appear in the The Whitehorse (Yukon) Star. It was written by Edith Josie about the going's on in her community of Old Crow, Yukon, which is situated on the Porcupine River, just north of the Arctic Circle. The newspaper's publisher decided to leave Miss Josie's words unedited, to reflect her unsophisticated voice.  Over the forty years it ran, the column gained worldwide recognition for its simple charm, but was also the subject of some debate about whether leaving it unedited--and perhaps reflective of someone who grew up in an oral tradition--was condescending. "Lots of things is going on in Old Crow. Even helicopter take Elder up river to Whitestone, Johnson Creek and Elder are glad to see their country. Where they use to stay there summer and winter they all happy. Some boys working in Old Crow. They fix the house and busy every day. And some boys set net for fish some of them they one or two king salmon and beside that they get whitefish so it was good. Band Office are busy working and everything is good."

The community news Miss Josie recorded is an example of hyper-local reporting. Where I live, we have a weekly newspaper, but in between Friday publication days, news gets disseminated through a community Facebook page. It's a great source and reflects life here, from the worry about a stray dog without a collar, to the breaking story about permanent layoffs at the regions's largest employer, Howe Sound Pulp and Paper. The community page was also the first to report that a popular lifelong resident and tree faller, Johnny Phare, died while fighting a forest fire that had been smoking up skies and dropping ash all the way to Vancouver.

It's an all purpose site, with room for complaints such as:
"Behind the school in Davis Bay... Bags and bags and bags of drywall dumped... Of course dumped on the side that didn't have the No Dumping sign!"

For complaints that include advice:
"OK Everyone ! It's a Long Weekend and a Full Moon...Drive Safe Please..So many in a hurry (smile emoticon) you want to get there Safely RIGHT..to the person In the dark grey Rav4 282ntb YOU suck ! I waited a long time on turn on to the Highway safely from Flume..during ..just after the ferry traffic this afternoon just after 12pm and you come out of no where and turn right in front of me from Lockyer rd...after I was there first waiting for a clear spot to get on the Highway!"

For breaking news:
"Just saw four emergency police vehicles lights and sirens going,racing past Davis Bay, going towards Gibsons.'
"The grey whale is back at the foot of Maskell Road, lolling about, but generally heading toward Roberts Creek."

For consumer reports:
"A quick note to anyone who likes the cooked meat packages in Super Valu, there's about a dozen packages there as of ten minutes ago, turkey, chicken and sausages. $6.99 a kilo. But, all marked with 50% off stickers. Will be gone soon I expect."

And want ads:
"Anyone have a 1730 drill bit available to use borrow buy asap?"

In the last stages of editing my novel about Chicago in 1919, when there were nine general circulation newspapers, several of them dailies with more than one edition, I see that our appetite for information about what's going on around us--that is to say right around us, as well as in Syria and Yemen--hasn't changed a bit. Despite the demise of hundreds of newspapers, stopping the presses doesn't mean stopping all the news that's fit to post, podcast, stream or even pass by word of mouth, the oral tradition Miss Josie carried over to her long-running column, "Here Are the News."