Dear Ottawa Citizen:
I once ran into a Webster. You may recall the rich fellow who owned or ran the Globe and Mail, I can never remember which. Maybe his dad owned it and he ran it, back in the 1980s. We were chatting on the deck of the Club when I adverted to the paucity of comic strips in the then Globe and Mail. I said that the comic strip contains more concentrated thought than found in op-ed pieces and reportage. He looked at me as if I had emitted a loud fart. The conversation did not last long. He clearly thought me a lesser species of human for believing as I did. And I thought him a tedious little pill, and much of the reason why the Globe was then so dreadful. (It is only slightly less so today).
So I will not take up much of your time either, for I still maintain that a good comic strip expresses deeper, more concentrated, and more amusing thought than almost all editorial content, except maybe Robert Fulford, George Jonas, or, on a good day, Conrad the Magnificent. I maintain that George Will, or George Orwell, might come close to Garfield on a good day or Shoe (now resurrected).
Clearly the people who redesigned the Ottawa Citizen thought that we would not notice the poverty of the comic strips that have largely replaced the better ones that went before them. And just as clearly the people who did this are like cooks who cannot taste food, wine critics who hate wine, dreadful dreary post-Calvinist anhedonic, secular humanist dweebs without wit, taste or humour. Recognize yourselves?
Do you think I actually read your newspaper for the views of Kate Heartfield? I have read 100 times more serious books than she has lived years, and that is no stretch. As to the rest of your columnists, I can get them in the National Post, and if I can’t, I shall just invite Brian Lee Crowley over to dinner.
No, the chief pleasure of your paper was the morning comic strips. At their best they were good for about three hoots and a guffaw. On a bad day, a tight smile or two.
So, to make up for the comic shortage, I have discovered the most wonderful site on the Intertubes. It is the Seattle-Times’ general comics page, where, thanks to programming languages which I do not have to know, I can get Garfield, The Wizard of Id, Sally Forth, Dilbert, Doonesbury and many more for a) free and b) without subscribing to your paper. And, what’s more, I can get them without having to recycle newspaper by stepping outside in February and stuffing the always inadequate recycling box at -10C in my slippers, pajamas and overcoat before the almost equally annoying garbage service comes every two weeks. I shudder to recall taking the paper recycling to the curb on garbage day this past winter.
You have also eliminated the New York Times’ Sunday crossword which, by the same token, I can get at the Seattle-Times, for free.
So I am asking myself, why do I need a physical paper? To support local journalism? To support my local community? To please everyone but myself? How many journalists and newspapers are necessary? I am already hyper-informed by the Intertubes.
My cable television subscription just took a huge hit thanks to Netflix. You are next.
Slowly I am being drawn into the implications of the Internet. As a friend once said, I want ONE electronic subscription that brings me the Globe and Mail, the Post, the Toronto Star, and a local paper, the Daily telegraph, the Manchester Guardian, and so on, with full rights to copy them. Not six. Not 12. One subscription.
I digress. I am cancelling my Ottawa Citizen subscription. You can, I suppose, fire Heartfield or the person who cut the comic strips and pour their salaries and benefits into more and better comic strips, but you will have to make the announcement fast. My forty year long association with you is about to end.
Thank you for causing me to change.