Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Accosted by Free Newspapers

Something has happened in Ottawa over the last year, and the result has been that suddenly, there are about a gazillion free, short little papers available for commuters to read on their ways to and from work. It started with Metro and Dose, last year sometime, then Dose disappeared to online form only, and for a few blissful months, Metro was the only one available.
I enjoyed my Metro greatly; it was a good, short read with sections on Sports, National News, international news, and the token celebrity gossip section that now seems to exist in every newspaper, serious or not. Then, last month, something crazy happened. Ottawa was invaded by free papers. There is now, along with the Metro, and English 24 Hours, a French 24 Heures, and an afternoon paper called "Rush Hour". Add to that the Epoch Times, which has been around for at least several months, but which I only really noticed a few weeks ago, and you have at least 4 free daily papers you can read. Then there's the weekly freebies: the Express, and some others I haven't bothered to remembers' names that are new.
All of this would not be much of a problem, if it wasn't for the fact that each of these papers has a paper distributor standing at the main bus stops downtown (where I work) waving the papers at you as you arrive at the bus stop (either getting off the bus in the morning, or waiting to get back on at night). It's a sign of how truly timid I am that I feel guilty NOT taking a paper from every one of these individuals as I try to thread my way through the crowd to work. I mean, am I applying favouritism when I smile and shake my head apologetically at the 24 Hours woman (in Orange), the 24 Heures guy (in yellow) and the Epoch Times gentleman (not wearing a discernable colour uniform each day) and reach for the Metro outstretched triumphantly in the hand of its Green-clad distributor? Is this unfair? I try to remind myself that this is their job, that it doesn't matter if I take the paper or not, but what if these people get paid based on the free-newspaper equivalent of commission? What if it DOES matter?
As it is, I only barely skim the Metro as it is; there is definitely NOT enough time to read all these papers. I get most of my info from theglobeandmail.com anyway, so I shouldn't give a second thought to this, right?

A typical line of newspaper dispensers on an Ottawa Downtown Street

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