First of all, a disclaimer. I'm putting up these two links not to invite debate on the actual issue of a local minister who said something that got him into hot water. I'm putting up these two links as a useful reminder to myself and to all people who like to comment on public issues.
So yes, a local cabinet minister said something last weekend and got himself in a bit of hot water. Here is what Nunatsiaq News had to say about it. Here is what a Barbara Kay, a columnist with the National Post, had to say about the issue.
Go ahead and read both.
And so, what is the lesson we've learned in reading these two very different op-ed pieces?
Well, first of all, it's pretty apparent I could get a job as a columnist with the National Post if I wanted to, since intelligence in writing isn't much of a prerequisite. But I've pretty much always known that and a writer has to have standards.
No, as always, the lesson learned is that it really, really helps to be on the ground when you're commenting on these things. Jim speaks with intelligence and the knowledge gained from living up here for years and years. He adds some depth and nuance to an issue that is more complicated than it first appears. Barbara speaks with the voice of somebody who read a CP wire story and a press release.
Unfortunately, one is going to be read by a lot more people than the other. Then again, perhaps not. What is the Post's circulation these days? I mean, actual paid circulation, not all the papers they give away.
The lesson learned is one I have to remind myself of every time I want to plunge into Newfoundland political waters. The simple fact is, no matter if I read The Telegram, CBC, the Muse, the Scope, several community weeklies and read a half dozen pretty intelligent blogs commenting on Newfoundland matters, nothing replaces actually being there. I simply have a better grasp on the issues reading the paper at Hava Java then I do on my laptop in Nunavut.
I think I'm a good enough writer, and have enough connections, that if I really wanted to I could be writing op-eds for Newfoundland media. But that distance gives a very different perspective and I have to be careful. Prtending like I'm writing on the ground and in the know would make me just another hack screaming into the void.
Granted, that's apparently not stop the Barbara Kay's of the world, but anyway...
It's just that I have been ranting at Premier Williams a lot lately. And I think, from this distance, he deserves a good measure of it. Distance can be as good as being on the ground in some cases. It can give you a clarity of view that being right in the middle of it can't. But it's a fine edge between clarity of distance and ranting and raving about stuff you obviously know little about because you're missing all the little, important details.
Kay did that with her little column. And maybe I wouldn't have noticed or paid as much attention if Nunatsiaq hadn't produced such a compelling op-ed piece. It served as a nice wake-up and reminder; when you're commenting on these things, it helps if you know what you're talking about. It helps if you've done the research. It helps if you don't fly off the handle with the first drop of information when you don't have any perspective.
So thanks Barbara and Jim. Different lessons from both of you, but both appreciated and received.
1. Good grief - Foo Fighters
2. What I did for love - Me First and the Gimmie Gimmies
3. Education - Modest Mouse
4. Did she mention my name? - Gordon Lightfoot
5. No sissies - Hawksley Workman*