Tomorrow I woke up to a steady stream of email and tweets coming into my Blackberry about my first column appearing today in The StarPhoenix.Â Itâ€™s an introductory column so there wasnâ€™t a lot of original research put into it (I knew the topic pretty well).Â While today the column appeared on A3, it is moving to the Forum for itâ€™s regular rotation.Â As a friend joked, â€œYouâ€™ve been demoted and pushed back already.Â In a month youâ€™ll be in the Classified ads.â€
Writing for print is a lot different than writing online.Â Word Limits and a lack of hyperlinks.Â Regular readers of this site know I tend to ramble on and on and on.Â I can turn something better said on Twitter into 1000 words with no problem and thatâ€™s not a virtue.Â That has been dealt with by giving a limit on the number of words which means that literally hundreds of passive unnecessary words will be stripped from the article before you get a chance to read it.Â As Martha Stewart says, â€œThatâ€™s a good thing.â€
The second issue is the lack of footnotes and hyperlinks to document what I say.Â That is a big issue for me because while I have strong opinions, I like to believe they come from fact and an honest search for the truth.Â For right now, each column will be greeted with a background sidebar here.Â It will have links to sources, more information, and even dissenting opinions that I used to create the column.Â While you will make up your own mind regardless of what I say, hopefully this will make that a little easier.
Some of the email and comments I got in this morning asked about my political leanings.Â I donâ€™t know which way I lean.Â I donâ€™t know if I am right wing or left wing anymore and to be honest, I grow tired of populist politicians.Â I grew up as a Red Tory but I lost my partisanship (and I think my party) along the way.Â I wish I could be to the left or the right of where I am as I think it would make for quicker writing, the ability to dismiss my critics with a label, and I am pretty sure both Heather Mallick and Ezra Levant both make more money than I do.Â I do enjoy politics.Â On my staff and among my friends I have partisans on both sides of where I am at.Â It makes for great discussions but in the end I find myself somewhere in the middle.Â Like I said, I care more about policy then I do politics.Â More than a political ideology, I have been influenced by several thinkers, James Howard Kunstler, Steven Johnson, Malcolm Gladwell, David Simon/Ed Burns and Thomas Homer-Dixon. While they all look at the world in a different way, the one thing they have in common is their ability to dissect and take apart an issue in their search for understanding.Â Thatâ€™s what I hope to do.
Before it gets swallowed up by the PostMedia server where many articles go to die, Iâ€™ll archive it here.
The StarPhoenix is introducing a new columnist, Jordon Cooper. He writes about urban issues, public policy and its impact on the lives of those at the margins of society. He wasn’t born in Saskatoon but was raised here. He is the residential coordinator for The Salvation Army Community Services. His column will usually appear on the Forum page.
I was in Starbucks trying to figure out how they make their coffee so hot and still have it remain liquid when I got the offer to write this column for The StarPhoenix. When discussing my first column, it was suggested I introduce myself to the masses, something that is more awkward to do than one would think. I guess I could have refused but it’s not as if I have a volume of columns or vast fame to fall back on. My name recognition is even lower than that guy who runs the Saskatchewan Liberal party.
Some quick research shows that I moved here in 1984 from Calgary and with the exception of one year, I have lived here. It pains me to write this, but I do make Sarah Palin look well-travelled (and I didn’t even have to protect the United States from Soviet attack). For the last five years I have been employed by The Salvation Army Community Services. I have worked at a couple of different positions there and am currently the men’s residential co-ordinator, which means that I coordinate the team of people who keep the men’s shelter open and functioning. They are also the staff who provide front-line support and monitoring of The Salvation Army’s halfway house – which is not nearly as exciting as it seems. From midnight until the Ministry of Social Services awakens from its nightly slumber at 8 a.m., they provide emergency support to those in crisis.
During that time we have seen some crazy things: Dial-a-dopes, a couple having sex in the middle of Avenue C South when it was -30 C; letting one guy bring his half-dog, half-toothless coyote into the shelter to get her and her owner off the street (the centre has no policy that prohibits toothless coyotes from staying here). There have been the stories that stick with you; the prostitutes beaten up by johns who come in during the night – they aren’t looking for medical help but for assistance in getting their money back (outside of our mandate); the teen girls working the streets during school break because of a lack of food; a mother prostituting out her mentally impaired daughter, listening on one end of the phone to a girl being beaten by her mother and her boyfriend on the other end. There is also the insane loss in human potential that comes from children using drugs at a young age and seeing their emotional development stop forever.
When I go home at the end of the day, I often have more questions than answers about the system and how it affects the people who rely on it. It’s not just the social safety net that I have questions about; it is the larger context of the city we call home and the planet that shapes us. As Thomas Friedman put it in the June 7 New York Times, we are at a point “when food prices spiked, energy prices soared, world population surged, tornadoes plowed through cities, floods and droughts set records, populations were displaced and governments were threatened by the confluence of it all – and ask ourselves: what were we thinking? How did we not panic when the evidence was so obvious that we’d crossed some growth/ climate/natural resource/ population red lines all at once?” While I silently grumble as I fill my car with fuel and I notice that my beloved three-cheese Kraft Dinner is a little more expensive this week than it was last week, the changes that we are seeing globally have a much more dramatic impact on those who have no margins in their lives and that’s going to be the most significant challenge we have as a society going forward. Handle it right, and we see a vast opportunity for prosperity for all of us. Handle it incorrectly, and we start to look more and more like a Detroit or a Buffalo, N.Y.
In the end, I want to talk about policy, not politics. I enjoy the theatre we call question period as much as anyone, but others do a good job of talking about that. I want to tackle some of the big-picture changes that will affect our daily lives and what we can do about them.
For a decade now I have been exploring different ideas online. Writing online makes it easier to point to other ideas and sources. The problem with print is that you can click all you want on the paper edition of The StarPhoenix and it isn’t taking you anywhere. If you want to read more, check my sources for yourself or discuss anything I write further, you can track it down at www.jordoncooper.com or find me at twitter.com/ jordoncooper.
June 20th, 2011
Finally, for those of you who have been used to me posting here for almost a decade, things will remain the same.Â There will just be 800 words heading to The StarPhoenix every Monday.