Food and drink 

Food for thought: Kathy, the Pique and other contemplations

It’s with a sodden heart that I put digital pen to illuminated paper this week in the shadow of Kathy’s death.

It’s hard to think of anything else except her and loss and the implications for Bob, their families, Piquesters regular and irregular, the people and initiatives she spurred on, the community at large — each of us tied to her in our own way.

I’ve thought about what small stick of value or meaning I might contribute to the bonfire of tributes and sad notes of mutual condolences that have been pouring in, and will continue for who knows how long.

What I bring to the wake is my perspective as an inside-outer — someone close to the publication but not on staff. And my perspective as another newspaper woman who loves publications that do the right thing. And as publisher/editor/reporter/designer/janitor/fixer/booster/salesperson who saw the Question through tough but rewarding years — the era right before Bob and Kathy worked there — who’s gone on to start, shepherd and, occasionally, say sad good-byes to other small but vibrant newspapers.

And while this is a food column, the fact I feel free to appropriate that tired but seemingly appropriate cliché of “food for thought” as a metaphor to drive what I want to say here speaks volumes, no pun intended, about Bob and Kathy and the Pique and my take on why their work, her work, is so important.

Here’s a big point: it’s a marvel and a miracle, one that continuously grows in rarity and value, that we writers and artists who feed the Pique are given… nay, are actually paid to express ourselves in this free-wheeling forum without feeling that an editor’s hatchet or a publisher’s purse strings or some off-base directive of what sells newspapers from head office in Toronto is dangling over our heads or throttling our throats.

People might intuitively grok the Pique , but they might not fully understand why they love it so.

I believe it has much to do with this freedom thing — embodied by the little riff on “Free” on the cover each week (a Kathy idea). Free to remember… Free miracles?… Free tales from the deep… Free to be imaginative, spunky, genuine, original and relevant.

’Tis a sorry state of affairs but few, very few publications that rely on advertising for revenue — including the big boys, the ones you’d swear could rise above it all, financially and otherwise — can or will stand up to pressure from advertisers and bean counters who interfere with the holiest of holies in the newspaper biz, the editorial “hole” — the space that’s not ads, where the news and columns and letters and editorials run, and readers should and must feel that what they read there is free from the stink of power or money, the pressure from business managers or the I’ll-buy-an-ad-if-you-run-an-article-on-my-widget routine.

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