First Person Voices

I am grateful for the presence of the first person voice on the pages of our national newspapers.  In our house, it’s The Globe and Mail.  

When I read the editorial page, I am annoyed at the anonymity of the editorials.  I know that it’s an age-old convention not to have by-lines with editorials, but I like to have a person linked to the words.  The idea that there is such a thing as objectivity has long been exposed as a fiction, so I appreciate the explicit and thoughtful use of the first person voice in the newspaper. 

In the Globe, Karen von Hahn was my paragon of the first person done right.  She takes a simple anecdote from her life and she expands upon it to tell a bigger story, a story always tethered to the concrete details of raising a family in Canada in the early 21st century.   This is one of my favourite from last year, about renting summer cottages.   And this one, about a road trip with her son.  She is now writing a column for The Toronto Star.  I miss her in my Globe.

Of course, I often disagree with what the columnists write.  Leah McLaren’s stories do not speak to me.  Russell Smith is often entertaining but has a snobbery that I find off-putting.  Margaret Wente ususally makes my blood boil, but I appreciate her no-holds-barred articulation of her opinions.  It’s refreshing to be challenged and spurred to action by thoughtful writers. 

With this column, Timson, I think, wrote something deliberately provocative, and her off-handed dismissal of the enormous work of childcare and elder care as a “blip” was ill-considered.  This is not a model of thoughtful first-person writing.  True, she wrote her story, her take on the time crunch from her vantage point of too much time on her hands, but her mistake was not to put more emphasis on herself.  I would have liked to have read about the great stretches of time she has now and what she does with them.  Details.  With a different angle, she might have written the article in a way that would give hope to those of us up to our middles in the care of others.  “I have been there, too, fellow travellers, and I have survived.  The time crunch will not last forever.”  She might have lit a beacon on the horizon to which we could drive our thoughts.  Instead, she just drove me away.