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Independent media still matters

Two weeks ago there was an outpouring of love and emotion on social media when Fast Forward (FFWD) announced the paper would stop printing on March 5. For the last 19 years, the free altweekly has been the defacto chronicle of Calgary’s artistic evolution.

It’s hard to believe that a city of over one million won’t have a free arts and culture weekly. These free papers made the arts community accessible to average people. You could pick up a beautifully covered newspaper every Thursday and it would outline the latest in art, news and entertainment.

Calgary’s daily newspapers still cover arts and culture, but FFWD celebrated the underground and the independent. When I moved to Calgary, one of the first things I did was seek out a local alt-weekly to get an inside look at the local arts and culture scene.

Talking about how important it is to support the arts only does so much. You have to know what’s happening in the city before you can enjoy it.

Having a platform to promote local businesses, artists and civic issues is crucial to building a sense of community. The death of FFWD means Calgarians are left without a meaningful community platform. Likewise, the arts and culture scene has lost a vital link to their audience.

For communities to work, they require a feeling of connection, and local media provides a uniquely honest perspective. FFWD’s journalists were drawn from a variety of backgrounds, and they contributed unique voices to the city’s discourse.

Calgary is a vibrant and growing city. By giving citizens a way to identify with their community, people become invested in where they live. Caring about local politics and issues stems from pride, and pride comes from being excited about where you live. You can’t expect people to be excited and invested in communities they know nothing about.

FFWD was criticized over the years for their unorthodox style. The corporate atmosphere of Calgary can be stifling, and a paper that gave a less conservative viewpoint to controversial issues — from public art to secondary suites — added to meaningful civic discussion. Their brand of alternative media, which often featured left–leaning columns on political and civic issues, is important in every city, even one as conservative as Calgary.

Newspapers everywhere are disappearing. Currently, there are only a handful of alt-weeklies left in Canada. As advertising continues to dry up in print media, it’s hard to say how much longer they will be around.

FFWD closed because advertising couldn’t sustain their paper, not because their readership dropped. The people who read FFWD did their fair share to keep the paper afloat, but community support couldn’t keep up with the downfall of print media. Their parent company will increase their bottom line, but Calgary is losing an important part of our local culture.

We’ll miss you, FFWD.

Liv Ingram, Gauntlet Editorial Board

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