Not Newsworthy

One of the main reasons Jane-Finch On The Move was formed was to change the media perception of our community. Bad enough that “Jane-Finch” had become a code word for “bad neighbourhood”, but it seemed that the only time the media noticed Jane-Finch was when something bad happened. And nothing got attention like a shooting.

When JFOTM held a neighbourhood forum in September 2007, we were surprised that various members of the media attended. As Chair, I had to deal with microphones and raised pencils. Why the turnout? There had been a shooting nearby only a few days earlier.

We would hold two more forums over the next year or so. Fortunately for the neighbourhood, there weren’t any shootings in the days beforehand.  Unfortunately for us, no media appeared.

I mention this because I got an email from a friend and JFOTM member a few days ago. She now lives in the Lawrence Avenue West-Allen Road area (Lawerence Heights). She was concerned that there had been three shootings in her neighbourhood within the past few weeks, plus a neighbourhood man had been shot and killed while out in Hamilton.

I wanted more information, so I got to Googling. One of the shootings happened on Neptune Drive.  Using “Neptune Drive”, I found a number of news accounts going back to 2007. This included the 2010 murder of a 16 year old boy who was killed by three other 16 year olds. A 46 year old man was shot when standing in the lobby of a Neptune Drive building last August.

When I changed the search to “Lawrence Heights”, most of the results were about the July 2014 shooting death of Abshir Hassan. He was a substitute teacher who died going out to move his car. Police reports indicated he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. This death made the front pages at the time.

How about all those other shootings? I found a Globe and Mail article titled “Toronto’s New Murder Capital”, which was about the spate of murders in an area that included this section of Lawrence Avenue. It was written in 2009.

The point is that while I knew Lawrence Heights was a “rough area”, I didn’t know it was like this. Back when Jane-Finch seemed to be a “Murder Capital”, every death made the front pages.

Now it’s only newsworthy if the victim is very young, or is “not targeted.” Otherwise, it gets stunted to the back pages, if mentioned at all.

Does this mean we are getting used to gun violence? Does this mean we are willing to let select areas of our city slowly drift into a lawless state where bullets rule and people cower in fear?

Toronto is still seen as one of the safest cities in the world, with The Economist calling us Number One.  I guess it’s all relative. How safe does my friend feel living near Neptune Drive?

There are no easy solutions to the scourge of gun violence. This shouldn’t mean we give up trying.

Giving up?

This past Sunday (January 25, 2015), I read an article that was depressing on a number of levels.

The writer, Cynthia McCabe, received an email from one Doug Williams, a sixty-six year old man who said he was going to kill himself.

“I am taking my life not out of despair but simply because I’ve said everything I wanted to say and consider my work finished. Since no one at present (nor in the past half-century) is interested, I have no platform upon which to stand and talk about my work.”

Much of the article details Ms. McCabe’s personal reaction to receiving such an email from a complete stranger. Since she’s a reporter, she ultimately pieced together the full story. I won’t spoil the article for anyone who plans to read it.

Although there’s probably a few good reasons why I said this article was depressing.

(You can read it here)

The only part I will reveal is that Doug Williams considered himself a writer and self-published a few books. As you read above, he could not find an audience for his work.

Ms. McCabe interviewed Ron Charles, Washington Post book editor, who said the following:

“There are more people writing than ever who are desperate for attention, and we just don’t have that much attention to give.”

As someone who has just helped self-publish a book, that sentence made me shudder. The brutal reality is that for every self-publishing success story, there are hundreds (thousands? MILLIONS?!) of works that go straight to oblivion.

If you’re a creative type, are you also shuddering right now? Should you throw in the towel on your dreams, or at best, consider your creative efforts to be no more than a hobby?

Well, listen up.

Do you have something meaningful to say? Whether you write, draw, or perform, are you doing something that means something to you? If you care enough to create it, somewhere there’s someone who will care to enjoy it. And not simply because they’re related to you and have no choice.

Back in 2001, Jake Sibley wrote “What it Takes to Sell Records: The Truth About Numbers.” Astonishingly, that article seems to have vanished off the Internet. Luckily, it so inspired me that I saved a copy some years ago.

In a nutshell, Jake Sibley used math to show that you can count on at least one person in a thousand who will like your work enough to buy it. If you’re Beyonce or the Rolling Stones, it’ll be more than one, but if you’re Beyonce or an aging rich rock star, you’re not reading this blog.

So, you have one fan in every thousand people. If you live somewhere that has maybe five or six thousand people, that’s five or six loyal fans. Depending on what you’re selling, that’s not going to do much more than pay for a latte every now and then. Don’t give up yet! How many people in your country? Your continent?

A million people gives you a thousand fans. A thousand people who will buy your stuff. That’s beginning to sound like a living, right?

How could you possibly reach a million people, or more? If you’re reading this, then you know about the Internet. Make use of it to reach out and touch a lot of people.

I’m not saying it will be easy. In fact, if you appeal to one in every thousand, that means there will be nine hundred and ninety nine who at best will be totally indifferent to what you do.

That’s a lot of indifference. There may even be hostility and unwarranted criticism (not to be confused with the constructive kind). Don’t let it get you down. Going by the math, the more of this you encounter, the more fans you will find. Eventually.

So go forth and find those who would be your fans, if they knew about you. Work at it with the same passion you have for your art. Yes, everyone and their dog (and their unhappy cat) is looking for attention. But you are not “everyone”.  You are looking for your one in a thousand.  The one who wants your work.

That gives a creator two options.

Option one is to be persistent. Get books on marketing, try out ideas, write a blog, try out other ideas, talk to people, try out even more ideas, and above all – do not stop. While you’re at it, try to get opinions about your work – how can it be refined? Always try to improve.

Option two is to quit. It is a lot of work, and if the world isn’t going to beat down a path to your door, well, the heck with the world. As Homer Simpson once said, “If at first you don’t succeed, give up.”

You decide.

Thoughts? Marriage proposals? Cat photographs? Leave them in the comments.


Hello World

Here's a Jay to brighten your day.

Here’s a Jay to brighten your day.

A Brief Introduction

Welcome to our blog!

With any luck, we’ll use this space on a regular basis to discuss topics related to the Jane-Finch area.  There’s a good chance we might mention a book we’ve recently published, but we’ll try to avoid being too heavy-handed.

Talk to you soon!