The Is­land in­vented so­cial me­dia

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - OPINION - Camp­bell Web­ster Camp­bell Web­ster is a writer and pro­ducer of en­ter­tain­ment events. He can be reached at camp­bell@camp­bell­web­ And An­other Thing

In case you have for­got­ten, this news­pa­per you hold in your hand (or the on­line version you are gaz­ing at) is not all of the news, but of­ten an in­dex of what you al­ready know. For all of our lo­cal news out­lets are of­ten just the ad­vance scouts, or com­pil­ers of the con­tents page, of what we are all chat­ter­ing about al­ready.

The im­por­tance of this func­tion of our lo­cal me­dia is that it can help fo­cus our col­lec­tive minds on what the im­por­tant news is.

It gives us the in­dex, but we fill in the rest, es­pe­cially the sor­did bits not suit­able for print. For ev­ery Is­lan­der has a la­tent ca­reer bub­bling up in­side of them: That of in­ves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ist and in many cases, yel­low jour­nal­ist. Prince Ed­ward Is­land doesn't need sen­sa­tion­al­ist tabloids: We do that our­selves.

Some name this ten­dency among us as “gos­sip,” but it is deeper than that, it is an in­tense ex­am­i­na­tion of all of those around us. An ex­am­i­na­tion that of­ten leads to moral con­clu­sions, rang­ing from rea­son­able to not so much. Our lo­cal me­dia gath­ers the facts, or at least the ti­tles of sto­ries, and some facts. The rest of us in­ves­ti­gate fur­ther and end up with more facts, ex­pla­na­tions, sto­ries, and then we de­velop the in­creas­ingly com­plex web of who is all con­nected and why. And fi­nally, we is­sue our ver­dicts.

On one level it can make the in­ter­net, when it comes to Is­land news, seem al­most su­per­flu­ous. While larger con­stituen­cies, and in­deed planet Earth, con­tinue to grap­ple with the power of so­cial me­dia and pub­lic air­ing of ev­ery­thing on­line, we have lived this for a good long time. From this per­spec­tive, it seems al­most silly that a bunch of com­put­ers strung to­gether is any­thing more rev­e­la­tory than a bunch of Is­lan­ders strung to­gether on a street cor­ner. Or on the phone.

This gos­sip pa­rade, an end­less march of prob­a­bly hun­dreds of thou­sands of news gath­er­ing con­ver­sa­tions that hap­pen on the Is­land on a minute to minute ba­sis are not all about con­dem­na­tion and judg­ment. It can serve many pur­poses, in­clud­ing ten­der­ness that comes from round­ing out the per­son­al­i­ties in each of the sto­ries, in ap­pre­ci­at­ing the com­plete hu­man­ity of those in the news.

The shoot­ings in Pleas­ant Grove on Christ­mas Day is one such ex­am­ple. While our news out­lets of­fered some ba­sic facts about the events, as did the po­lice, the chit­ter-chat­ter pa­trol of prob­a­bly thou­sands of us, filled in the rest.

In a con­ver­sa­tion with one of the ed­i­tors of this news­pa­per about Pleas­ant Grove, we quickly de­scended into whowas-mar­ried-to-who in the story, what pro­fes­sions ev­ery­body had had, who they were re­lated to, what a great fel­low one of the fa­ther's of one of peo­ple in the story was, etc.

Our ex­plo­ration and eval­u­a­tion of the peo­ple in­volved, the friends, or friends of friends that we had con­nected to the story, the not­ing of other peo­ple who lived in Pleas­ant Grove who were our pals, all added up to one thing: Fill­ing a de­cid­edly sad story with warmth, a warmth made pos­si­ble by find­ing the fa­mil­iar, even the love that we had con­nected to the events. And no doubt thou­sands of other on­go­ing con­ver­sa­tions are ac­com­plish­ing the same thing. In the end, it prob­a­bly makes us all a lit­tle more likely to just stay close.

For on the Is­land, as in other small con­stituen­cies, there are few iso­lated Is­lands with the Is­land. News sto­ries are not sim­ply lists of the good and bad. They are com­plete nar­ra­tives, nu­anced nar­ra­tives, and they are nar­ra­tives which are never about oth­ers. They are al­ways about us.

Chat away.

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