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Media pioneers before "the information age"

Unless you were locked in a windowless basement, you heard the news.  This month, both Rick Smith and Fraser Dougall passed away, just days apart.  Both men were pioneers in Thunder Bay media, each taking a different but vital path in the industry.

And yet, despite Fraser having built several companies or Rick spending over forty years on the radio, there is a generation who doesn’t know them.  I’m not talking teenagers either.  There are educated and successful twenty-somethings (and even some early thirties) who don’t realize the impact these men had on our region.

We’ve all got televisions – HD, widescreen, 3D – and computers – for streaming, binging, and whatever else we can do with our shows.  Yet, it seems we’re all so interested in the next new, big thing that our memories are getting shorter and shorter when it comes to the past.

So many would be shocked to imagine a time when in Thunder Bay, we had just one local station and three – yes, three! – American networks to watch.  With hundreds of channels available now, who could conceive of Northwestern Ontario residents getting excited over a second channel?

They can’t process the idea of no internet or social media to spread the word on any subject.  Yet, just 25 years ago, we all waited for the evening newscast, the daily paper or Rick’s morning show (and afternoon TV show) to keep us up to date on the people, politics, sports and yes, weather.  And those people who brought us this information were an integral part of our lives – loved and respected.

Today, information comes from whoever Tweets it first – regardless of its accuracy.  And we’re collecting so much useless data that much of it is immediately forgotten.

Don’t believe me?  Have you ever checked your watch and then moments later, someone asks you what time it is?  What do you do?  You look back at your watch so you can tell them the time.

Why? Because the information was absorbed just long enough to answer the question that flitted through your mind and then it was gone.  Should you be concerned about this short term memory loss?  Call your doctor about a possible brain tumor?  Of course not.  The exact time is not that important and you can always check it again since it’s always right there on your wrist. It gives new meaning to the word “no-brainer.”

Such is the problem with today’s information generation.  However, for Fraser and Rick, local media was about information that made a difference – and made things happen.

So perhaps in honour of these men who dedicated their lives to sharing information and connecting people throughout Northwestern Ontario, we should take a moment to consider what we know about our own community: What’s happening this weekend?  What did city council decide last night?  Which teams are playing tomorrow?

Without these men, yes, we’d still have the almighty satellite and the internet available.  We’d be connected to the world, but not to each other.