In My Opinion: Supporting local journalism is critical to the strength of our community

The 50th anniversary year for Beach Metro Community News comes to an end this month. We thank the community in advance for its ongoing support in the year's to come. The first edition of Beach Metro Community News, then known as Ward 9 Community News, was printed on March 1, 1972.

By ALAN SHACKLETON

EDITOR, BEACH METRO COMMUNITY NEWS

As the 50th anniversary year of Beach Metro Community News comes to an end this March, I would like to thank our readers for the fantastic support they have shown to us over the past 12 months.

In March of 2022, we celebrated our 50th anniversary here at the paper and also put out a call to the community to help make sure we could continue delivering high quality local journalism for the next 50 years.

Thanks to the generous support of so many of our readers, prominent community members, organizations and businesses, I am feeling very positive about the future of this newspaper.

East Toronto residents clearly recognize the important role our newspaper plays in the life of the community.

Like me, they know that local journalism matters.

As I have said before, I firmly believe that neighbourhoods, small towns, suburban communities, cities, (what have you) are all stronger if they have their own local newspaper.

We provide the way for people to talk to each other, listen to each other, learn about each other, help each other and organize together to take action when change is needed.

We also serve as a critical and sometimes the only means of keeping elected officials on their toes and answerable to local residents.

It is one thing for your MP, MPP, or city councillor to blow off a resident’s attempts to make contact, but if they repeatedly do that with Beach Metro Community News then we will raise the alarm and readers will be well aware of how their elected representative behaves.

I am happy to say, though, that the elected officials serving the areas we cover are aware of how important this newspaper is to the community. They do a good job of keeping in touch with us and answering our questions – annoying as they may sometimes find them to be.

That being said, I do hear from readers who don’t like the answers they read from their elected representatives. And that’s just fine. That’s how democracy works.

The important thing is the politician is put on the record and then it is their business to defend their words and actions, knowing that they will do so under the light of journalistic and community scrutiny.

We live in a world where political strategists (the backroom boys and girls), lobbyists, those seeking special favour, and the so-called powerbrokers and influencers try and steer individual politicians – and even entire political parties – away from engaging with legitimate journalists and average residents.

Why talk to a reporter when you can create and distribute your story (true or not) on your own, they think. These days everybody has an angle and there is no end to the political games and ideologically based propaganda that is trying to put itself out as “news.”

It is hard to know what to believe anymore.

And that’s why a source of news that you can trust has never been more important. Good local journalism is critical to preserving our democracy.

That’s especially true in our city right now as we are seeing the democratic foundations of Toronto’s municipal government under attack.

Beach Metro Community News readers will know from columns I wrote last year and in January of this year that I think the Strong Mayor System in Toronto is a bad one. It erodes our democracy. In my opinion, it is dangerous and will have dire consequences for our city in the future if allowed to continue unchecked.

Remember that the Strong Mayor System in Toronto gives the elected mayor the power to pass through items considered to be “provincial priorities” with only one-third support from the members of city council.

No doubt others may feel a Strong Mayor System is the only way Toronto can build affordable housing, improve and expand transit and increase public safety. And it is their right to hold that opinion. But it should be an informed opinion that understands all the facts.

So I would like to remind readers that former Toronto mayor John Tory ran for his third term of office and was elected in 2022 while neglecting to mention during the campaign just how powerful those Strong Mayor powers would be.

With Tory’s resignation from the job of mayor after revelations of his affair with a former staff member came to light earlier this year, Toronto voters have now been given a chance to debate the issue of whether power should lie with the mayor or members of council. We need to make sure we take the opportunity to do so.

During the upcoming mayoral byelection campaign, I say it has to be one of the top issues and voters must know where the candidates stand on it.

You can bet Beach Metro Community News will be watching the campaign and the candidates regarding this issue.

That said, voter turnout in the 2022 municipal election was horribly low, mainly because there seemed to be no issue or candidate who could attract the interest of voters. I believe that will not be the case for the mayoral byelection now scheduled for June.

I’m hoping Torontonians will vote in large numbers and reclaim our city from those who are trying to subvert our democracy.

We here at Beach Metro Community News take the role a free, local and independent press plays in preserving our democracy very seriously. Which is why the work we do here continues, and why your support is so important.

Please know that Beach Metro Community News is a non-profit community newspaper run by a volunteer board of directors. We are here to serve the residents, not make a profit for non-existent private owners or shareholders.

Thank you again for your critically important support. To become a Beach Metro Community News Supporter, please go to www.beachmetro.com/support


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