Two decades ago, when I first read the then-new National Post, I was filled with startled admiration. In a time when most newspapers were happy to be imitations of each other, the Post was different -- and it was the first daily created in my part of the world during my lifetime.
From the beginning the Post's design was its own, and its contents were rich and fresh. The writers expressed their own personalities, without a whiff of a corporate style imposed from above. Naturally, I wanted to be part of this phenomenon. And so it came to pass.
Most journalism, which often needs to be written in a hurry, suffers under the weight of standardized prose and ancient metaphors. Writers, banging heads against brick walls, experience a baptism by fire while beating dead horses. This is a non-language that fills much space in newspapers and does nothing to reveal the truth or tell what the writers know. As I've noticed while writing regularly for the Post, and reading it, the editors take care to eliminate such fog-creating dreck. Our best writers produce prose that flows freely and imaginatively from their minds.
I've noticed that an elevating ambition and a persistent sense of humour dominate the editorial offices. We can read it in the headlines and the choice of stories. It's the kind of spirit that occasionally infects unusual journalistic enterprises. Today it gathers strength from the fact that so much print journalism has disappeared from the world, leaving the survivors feeling blessed and lucky.
Many expected the Post to be a narrowly conservative paper, but that's not how things turned out. The truth is that the paper accommodates ideas and policies that are often associated with conservatism, particularly on the business pages and in Terence Corcoran's column; but those themes are regularly compared with liberal ideas and both perspectives are honestly outlined.
I'm often criticized by readers from a conservative point of view, and just as often by liberals.
Aside from politics, I think the Post has extended the range of subjects covered by public media in Canada. We often surprise and please readers by taking them places they have never been. I don't know if any other outlet in the country would devote half a page to explaining the great modern philosopher Karl Popper, as the Post did just the other day -- and we did it well, too.
My own mail suggests that our readers enjoy the level on which we address them. They often write long, detailed letters when disagreeing with something I've written or, more often, extending my knowledge with a report on their own experience. The first time someone sent me a reading list, to help me further explore a subject I had raised in the paper, I was astonished. At the two newspapers where I had appeared regularly in the past, no reader had ever sent me a reading list. A few months later, when two more lists appeared on two different subjects, I stopped being surprised. Those thoughtful readers are, I guess, just serious National Post subscribers.