When printer’s ink coursed through veins

If you are reading this, I am dead.

How’s that for a lead?

Guarantees you read on, at least for a bit.

When you hear that a reporter has written his own obituary and it’s been published, and all the competing papers tell you where to look to read it, you know you have to get the paper and read it for yourself. Such is the case for the obituary of Peter Worthington who died yesterday, that appears today in the Toronto Sun. The Toronto Star, National Post and Globe and Mail also published their obituaries about him today as well.

There’s a lot more copy being filed and published by other people who have worked for and with him, and all is worth reading – besides, everything they’re saying about him is true.

I can only comment about my own experience of reading his work over the years. Our family read the Toronto Telegram, and Peter Worthington was the best of a very good lineup of reporters that paper had, before the Bassett family closed it down in 1971. I still believe it to be the most intelligent newspaper that ever served the Toronto market – it was said that teachers preferred to read it more than any other paper that existed then, and I agree. The competition between the Tely and the Star made for wonderful reading when I was growing up, and it was a joy to pick up when you came home in the evening.

The stories that Peter filed were from everywhere in the world, and there was a lot happening in the 1960s. I particularly remember a story he filed when the Soviet Union invaded Czechoslovakia in 1968, where he detailed how he was able to find a teletype machine that still had an unblocked line to the outside world so that he could file his stories!

In 1971, one day after the Tely closed, the Sun opened up – the last major profitable newspaper to be established in North America, and the third to serve the Toronto market. Peter was the first editor, and he continued to write for the Sun until now.

That paper is still going strong, although I think it has been watered down somewhat since it was taken over by Quebecor several years back. It strikes me as looking more and more like Le Journal de Montréal (their own original flagship paper). Even so, the Toronto newspaper market is served by four papers these days, and is probably the healthiest news market in North America.

That is not to say that there aren’t any problems. The 24/7 news cycle has really changed the game, and the trend to read news online has encouraged the tendency to filter out news articles that do not coincide with a reader’s point of view. That is rather sad – I still prefer to pick up a paper and read it from end to end, and enjoy the serendipity of discovering a story about something I have never considered before, and being enlightened in the process.

There are still a few papers around that reward such effort. The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal are always worth picking up, and I enjoyed picking up any of the British papers whenever I had the chance (not recently, to my regret). It will always be worth the effort, because printer’s ink can never be removed, once you have been struck by it.