Winnipeg Free Press Remembers Marshall McLuhan’s 101st Birthday

15Aug12

My colleague and Winnipeg correspondent Howard Engel reports that the Winnipeg Free Press (WFP) in their Saturday, July 21, 2012 issue marked the 101st anniversary of Marshall McLuhan’s birth by featuring him on their “This Day in Manitoba” blurb  (see the clipping above).  Kudos to them for their nod in McLuhan’s direction, especially since Winnipeg, where McLuhan grew up, did little to remember the centenary of his birth last year. The University of Winnipeg hosted a conference on Marshall McLuhan in the fall of 2010, as did St. Paul’s College at the University of Manitoba next year. But, aside for these academic recognitions, the city of Winnipeg itself did nothing.

The Winnipeg Press, however, had prominently featured Marshall McLuhan as a finalist in their 2008 readers’ contest to name “the Greatest Manitoban”: http://tinyurl.com/c6dmhkn and later published an extensive article about him in their book, The Greatest Manitobans: http://preview.tinyurl.com/d2bzkds.

It took Howard Engel a couple of days, but he finally noticed that there was an unfortunate error in the “This Day in Manitoba” article, which stated “He is born in Winnipeg.”  Upon realizing this point and not wanting to miss an opportunity to tout this prophet in his own city, Howard dashed off the following letter to the editor:

Dear Editor:

I was delighted to see in your July 21/12 issue that you chose to observe the 101st anniversary late great media prober Marshall McLuhan’s birth with the entry “This Day in Manitoba” dedicated to his memory. Although July 21, 1911 was indeed his birth date, Winnipeg was not his birthplace as the blog erroneously states. This distinction goes to another major prairie city, Edmonton, where McLuhan lived for the first four years of his life.

However, since McLuhan lived the next 19 years (1915-1934) with his immediate family in Winnipeg, our fair city holds an even greater distinction than his birthplace. Winnipeg is home to McLuhan’s most formative development as a critical thinker and keen observer of the world about him. Here McLuhan received the solid foundation of his formal education, attending Gladstone, Kelvin and the University of Manitoba . Here is where he gained his panoramic vision, a prairie place that is in his perception without a point of view (according to a 1970 CBC interview with Danny Finkelman). This is because on the expansive prairie horizon all points of view can be perceived at once. In this same interview, McLuhan fondly remembered his formative years here, referring to himself a “Winni-pigeon”. As my McLuhan Initiative colleague Richard Osicki points out in his online article “McLuhan the Manitoban”, “Virtually everything for which Marshall McLuhan became internationally renowned was already evident in his public writings as a young man living in Winnipeg and studying at the University of Manitoba.” (http://umanitoba.ca/libraries/units/archives/digital/mcluhan.html)

Thank you again for nodding in the direction of one of our “greatest Manitobans” whom you have already [rightly] recognized through the Winnipeg Free Press’s keepsake book The Greatest Manitobans.

Sincerely, Howard R. Engel, Co-Director, The Marshall McLuhan Initiative, St. Paul’s College, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada

“I wouldn’t have seen it if I hadn’t believed it.” — Marshall McLuhan

 *****

To their credit, WFP’s Editor contacted Howard immediately to apologize for the error and subsequently published his letter, albeit in a greatly truncated form ( see http://tinyurl.com/8rq5u54 ).

Winnipeg Roofing Industry Provencher Bridge, Winnipeg

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One Response to “Winnipeg Free Press Remembers Marshall McLuhan’s 101st Birthday”

  1. *Nicely put, Alex. * ~ Richard* *


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