The something of nothing

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The Oxford English Dictionary defines a newspaper editorial as “a newspaper article written by or on behalf of an editor that gives an opinion on a topical issue”. This is something I myself learned only after I began to work for the Times. The Times team described editorials to me as a platform for the editor to comment on the issues of the week and the “state of things” that are locally important. I’ve always seen it as an “introduction” to the current issue, even though it isn’t on the front page. 

There have been many times when we are working on an issue (or even before we start working on an issue) that something has me so hyped up that I know right away what the editorial will be. Other times, I sit around thinking about it. Or I talk to local people and ask them what is on their mind. Or I peruse public forums, and sometimes I even just drive around and check for “anything new”. 

Allow me to break down the fourth wall of journalism – this week, there was simply nothing that caught my imagination for an editorial! After going through my usual motions and coming up dry, I decided in total desperation to get up from my desk in the Times’ Winchester office and stare out the window at the traffic rolling by on Main St E. Perhaps I genuinely held onto the hope that “thoughts on the state of things” would fly up and smack the window. This isn’t how it’s supposed to be! I’m not supposed to be confessing in my editorial that I couldn’t think of an editorial to write. How absurd, and yet, dare I say… amusing?

There is nothing to do in such a situation besides turning the absence of a story into a story. Don’t we small town dwellers love it when nothing happens and nothing changes? Isn’t that what makes us love where we live? If I had looked out my office window at Main St E and seen an elephant parade, I may have been grateful for a sensational story, but certainly not for the shake up in my beloved town!

Do I want a Walmart to be built in the field off Gypsy Lane, causing traffic congestion and hurting the overall “feel” of North Dundas? Do I want a beloved local business to close? Do I want someone to lose their home or business to a fire? No… no… and definitely not. 

But then again, it was only two weeks ago that I was writing an editorial demanding progress. Am I now backtracking? Have I changed my mind? On the contrary… there is a difference between looking toward North Dundas’ future and wanting controlled and manageable growth and progress, versus being glad that in a given two week period, the feces hasn’t collided with the ceiling mounted cooling device (the original saying is not family friendly). 

There is always something to complain about, for those who are determined to look for such negativity. As I write this, I can hear the Main St E traffic from inside the Times office, and some vehicles race so fast down the street that you can hear their speed without having to see it. That’s certainly complaint worthy. In fact, I have often thought about the problem of speeding on our roads, and whether it is something that has been a problem since cars first hit the streets last century, or if it’s a steadily growing problem. If the latter, is it because people are busier now? Many people work two jobs, they can hardly be blamed for wanting to get home sooner and enjoy what precious little downtime they have. Or could it be due to diminishing respect for others? Yes in hindsight, this could have been an editorial, but complaints about speeding motorists… have been done already. 

There is also so much to be positive about. I am… dare I say… obsessed with my community. I love everything about North Dundas. And yet the positive things I have to say are based on personal experiences. I love working at a local elementary school where I have so many little buddies. I love owning property and raising a family here. I love going to Foodland or Mike Deans or Ricks Gas Bar or any number of other local stores and restaurants and chatting with 20 people I know. But this discussion… has also been done already. I would much rather read other experiences from locals (letters to the editor are always welcome!) rather than regurgitating my same fluffy drivel over and over again and hoping no one notices. 

This is why today, I have settled on writing about nothing. Instead of worrying about the bad, the good, and the ugly, I am celebrating the non-existent. There have been no disasters, no mind blowing changes, and no uprooting of the quaint, wonderful life that most of us appreciate here in North Dundas. And yet that is something in and of itself. The something of nothing – the news of the fact that our community keeps on ticking, with the humour and joy of “nothing ever happens around here” ringing in everyone’s ears as they “catch up” in the grocery store with someone they saw yesterday. “Nothing” can be just as exciting as “something” in a small town. 

Oh and… since we have already broken down the fourth wall of journalism today, allow me to formally welcome you to the February 8, 2024 issue of the North Dundas Times. Enjoy!

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