Expansion, Picton Gazette

Twenty-four hour news cycles are a relatively new phenomena. There is no question that with time to fill and ratings to achieve, the style of news reporting has changed.

Carol Off, a seasoned journalist and radio host for CBC’s As It Happens, in her upcoming talk at St. Mary Magdalene Church on Saturday, Nov. 24 at 7:30 p.m. will contemplate the responsibilities of a journalist and the damage that overstatement, inaccuracy and ill-advised exposure can cause.

In her recent book, All We Leave Behind, Carol muses: “I guess this book is a call for us to rethink how we function as journalists, how we encounter people, how we interact with them.” She says, “We don’t look back over our shoulders to see what we left behind after we left. We don’t look back to see what happened to the people we covered. And if we did, we’d find out more often than not, that we might have left a bit of a mess.

Off was born in Winnipeg. She left that city at the age of 10 and moved to Ottawa and later London, Ont. She was one of seven children. Her mother presided over the noisy household while her father was a special tax investigator for the federal government.

She kept a diary as a young girl and read constantly. She spent a lot of time in libraries. Growing up she was always in possession of a library card and used it heavily in the cities where the family was currently residing. In the October issue of Fifty-five Plus magazine she describes her reading past. She devoured the Nancy Drew and Bobbsey Twins series and then moved on to Agatha Christie. From there she graduated to Dostoyevsky. She goes on to talk of the “explosion in Canadian culture” when the likes of Margaret Atwood appeared the literary scene in Canada. Carol says that Atwood’s early books, The Circle Game and The Edible Woman “totally flipped my head around”.

Off attended the University of Western Ontario where she studied English Literature. This era began her writing career; she started doing arts reports from London for CBC Radio. She left London for Toronto still covering the arts for the CBC.

The Fifty-five Plus article recounts an anecdote from Off’s early career when, after a trip to India, she had an idea for an article that she submitted to a publication that would pay a princely $50 for a piece. It was promptly rejected with the comment that it was “simply awful” and to rethink it. She did, resubmitted it and the response that it was worse than the last time and unpublishable, came back. Carol then sent the article to Maclean’s magazine and they paid her $500 for it. There is a lesson to be learned from that tale!

Saturday, Nov. 24 is an opportunity to hear more from Carol Off, her travels and life experiences. Carol is donating her time for the benefit of the Picton library expansion fund.

Recently, fundraising committee chair Alexandra Bake and some members of our committee met with someone with some expertise in the art of fundraising. Along with some wonderfully sage advice, at two or possibly three junctures in the meeting she commented on the importance of the library. She said that “libraries are the single most democratizing institution that we have in the world today.” Her tone and fervency resonated with me as I know it did with Alexandra.

Join us on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. to hear Carol Off who has made it her life’s work to seek truth. Support your public library – “the single most democratizing institution that we have in the world today.” Tickets for “An Evening with Carol Off” are $25, available at all library branches and at timetorenew.ca.

– Barbara Sweet