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LANA PAYNE: Farewell …

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I have been writing this column for more than 20 years.

It started almost as a dare. I complained to Craig Westcott, who at the time was an editor with The Telegram about the lack of newspaper column inches dedicated to workers’ issues, women’s equality, or progressive politics. He replied: then write a regular column for us.

It was tough to say no to that.

Like so many people, I got my start in The Telegram newsroom — a tough, fast-paced, often unforgiving, work environment. I learned much there, (forgive the stereotype) surrounded by chain-smoking reporters who took it upon themselves to mentor a green 21-year-old.

The Telegram newsroom trained generations of young people.

Union leaders, politicians and award-winning journalists all count themselves as graduates. Outside of my own working-class upbringing, the Telegram is where I first confronted and witnessed injustice. Tough labour disputes over things today we take for granted. The Mount Cashel Inquiry. The murder of 14 women in Montreal in 1989. The arrogance and entitlement of the powerful.

As any writer will tell you, the process of writing is a bit like therapy.

This column has been like an old friend. Always there when I needed it.

It has forced me to think about issues critically, to read more, to analyze more and to develop arguments and counter arguments. So, in many ways, it has made me the worst dinner guest. Or the best if you like a good racket with dinner.

It has given me the incredible opportunity to write about things I care about, things that became much sharper after our daughter Kate was born. Suddenly there was an urgency to making the world better, kinder, fairer, and yes more equal and just. The urgency had a face, a beautiful, fierce face. Often the columns were written with her in mind.

But the time has come to give this space to hopefully some young activist writer. We have so much glorious talent in this province.

Simply, it has been a challenge to find the time to give the column justice and it will likely get more so in future.

This space deserves someone who can devote the required attention and time. The readers of this newspaper deserve it more so.

Speaking of readers, thank you.

You have given me a lot of feedback over the years, some good, some terribly bad. Some of you have been with me almost from Day 1, cheering me on. Others read this column and email me (a lot) even though you vehemently and rudely disagree.

And yet, you still read.

Newspapers, news outlets, the media need all of you. Consumers of real independent news, of journalism.

For over two decades, the news media has been a business in decline. Today it is in a full-blown crisis. More than 250 newspapers have shuttered in Canada in the last 10 years.

And we have never needed independent, professional journalism more.

There has been a lot of handwringing about this crisis, but solutions are needed or we will wake up one day very soon and realize that a critical part of our democracy has died, replaced with fake news, lies, spin and propaganda. We already have far too much of that as it is.

Often, I have used this space to reflect on the hopeful, the possible, if there was more courage, more solidarity, more inclusion, more love, more willingness to listen, less hate, less reactionary politics, less injustice, less patriarchy. Imagine it.

I have been privileged to use this space to also highlight the importance of unions, collective bargaining, workers’ rights and women’s rights, all of which are so crucial to shared prosperity and a more equal Canada.

So much of what we take for granted is potentially at risk. This is the story of human rights, of workers’ rights, of social change. Every generation, it seems, must fight for them all over again.

The world is changing rapidly. Politics are angry and often ugly. The planet needs saving. Climate change and inequality are the biggest challenges we face and there is too much denial and dithering.

As individuals we need to understand how much more powerful we can be, how much powerful we are when we come together in common purpose and action. We can affect mighty change when we do it together.

The times demand this kind of solidarity. We must meet hate with love. We must respond to the attacks on democracy including fake news and political lies with real journalism and support for it.

Canada can be a shining example to the rest of the world, but that will require more from us – from all of us. More reconciliation.

A better world is possible. Don’t give up on it. Fight for it. Fight for equality. Its time has certainly come — indeed long overdue. Fight for love. For the planet.

And finally, a big thank you to the many editors I have worked with over the years Russell, Pam, and Mark and those who have long moved on from The Telegram. Your professionalism and dedication to your craft are exemplary.

And to the readers and Canadians, buy a newspaper. Support journalism. Before it’s too late.

Thank you everyone. Much Solidarity.

Lana Payne is the Atlantic director for Unifor. She can be reached by email at lanapaynenl@gmail.com. Twitter: @lanampayne.


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