Newspaper Publications and Political Agency: Responding to Port Hope Project Outcome

Print and Publication are platforms that promote and disseminate literacy and education. Prior to the increasing demand of print and publication within Europe, printmaking was already strongly developed in Asia. For example, several decades before Europeans began making their first sheets of paper, cast metal moveable type was developed in Korea. Before casting type with metal was made possible, 200 years earlier moveable ceramic type was used in China. When examining the history of print it is typical to centralize Europe. This is where parallel histories in continents like Asia lack acknowledgement within the liberal arts cannon. It is extremely important to recognize these early developments in Asia. Eventually these techniques spread as the dispersion of information in America and Europe dates back to the fiftieth century where it all began with printed books. Most printed books at that time dealt with subjects of religion and were typically written in Latin. Thus, this publication format was often inaccessible to the average person. Nevertheless, printed books are not insignificant when it comes to disseminating ideas. Although, it was the development of cheaper and faster print/publications that allowed the spread of literacy to flourish. With the consistent reproduction of pamphlets, printed songs and newspapers there came an increase and demand in popular politics. The newspaper format was proven to encourage/promote serious thought and discussion through broadcasting information for the public who respond by delivering back a consensus through political expressions including voting, poll results, letters to elected officials, etc. As a result, early on print and publications have been agents for change.

More often than not, there is a natural predetermined outcome that differs between various formats of prints and publications. This is partially definitive based on the historical context of each format. As print and/or publication students we are aware of how important it is to consider the origin of each format. Recognizing this can help establish the nature of certain publications and/or prints when producing a creative project. Overall, there is an expected and initial understanding of the particular context different print media fosters. Based on this element among numerous publications, producing a newspaper would involve critical thinking and honest opinions from every contributor. It is important to note the inherent political agency of a newspaper format, an element naturally conceived from its own history. Our newspaper project was aimed to create a publication that could ask hard questions, provide a forum where the stories on Port Hopians minds and hearts could be expressed, addressing important political topics and ultimately touching upon our own experience and perspective of Cultivate and Port Hope. Overall, we wanted to be honest, incorporate different contributors and include as many personal stories/answers as we could gather from the people of Port Hope.

When our newspaper publication took shape, we were able to see everyone’s contributions come together and reflect on our own experience with the project. There were several politically engaging questions that went unanswered. Our gathered contributions from the public turned out to mostly address personal/positive stories surrounding the town or family history. Thus, there was an overall lack of substantial and relevant answers addressing these important questions, which we were ultimately counting on as well. Perhaps a food festival was never the ideal space to engage critical thinking and that is okay. I think what is most vital when reflecting on this project is our side of the situation and how could we have made the space open and engaging for deeper thought. A major aspect that comes to mind is the volunteering portion. It was great to be involved in print activities during Cultivate, although, our time volunteering took away our presence at our own booth. Perhaps if there were more of us actively asking questions and discussing Port Hope amongst each other within the booth, this could have possibly changed the content we collected from our contributors.  With more of us present we could have left a different impression and come across united as serious free thinking individuals (which we are). Conclusively I believe it is impossible to create the perfect space (in any situation/project) for inviting individuals to participate in answering politically rooted questions. What is most important is the disposition, encouragement, support and presence that should come from the people asking the questions.

Personal Encounters in Booth at Cultivate

Reflecting on creating a better space for more people to engage in brought to mind a specific encounter I had with a man at the beginning of the festival. He had shared an emotional story regarding the mistreatment of his family’s land. Here is the story he shared with me:

Steven & Maragret Mylene Wiggins Story

G.B. Wiggin, entomologist found 8614 cold springs camp road in the 1940s’ as a fishery student at the Orono fishery. A biology student at the Orono fishery’s. As a fresh water biologist, he was struck by the 70 emergent headwater springs of the main tributary of the Ganaraska river, here in Port Hope. He acquired the 100 acres in 1953 and our family has taken care of the woods and water ever since. We are upset the neighbouring conservation authority fills the former quiet nights with amplified disco marriage celebrations. The weddings release balloons, we find in the deepest shadow woods water. We can’t understand why people enjoying their lives would distort the natural environment. They chose to host them. They’re future.

When transcribing his story, I continued to encourage him to speak and that it was safe to share personal opinions/negative experiences. We made sure together that everything was correctly spelt by reading back what I wrote. I was excited to receive such an emotionally juicy response right off the bat that commented on land use in Port Hope, a critical topic that was up for discussion. I felt like we had made a good connection and he seemed extremely thankful someone would finally listen to what he had to say. Soon after this, while still chatting he mentioned to me that if it weren’t for the presence of our teacher Shannon Gerard, he wouldn’t have come over to the booth and trusted students to listen/document his story. I felt a drop inside my chest, imaginary scissors cutting our new birthed connection with just one sentence. It was defeating. Whatever his reasons were, I can’t help but think of how we could have done things differently. Could other members of the public feel this way too? Why were we not taken seriously? This insight has left me wondering if the absence of our own presence and engagement in the booth was the reason for this man’s response.

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