Markham is a well-to-do suburb and the people who came were well-informed, curious and skeptical about what has happened to the news organizations they used to know but still support (albeit grudgingly).
I decided to talk about how media is becoming less serious and more trivial as they seek ways to buttress their flagging economic futures. I called the chat "Rob Ford and the Problem of Journalism in Toronto."
(For those of you outside of southern Ontario who may be unaware of Toronto mayor Rob Ford and his alleged involvement with a seamy side of the city, it's worth a moment to google him).
What impressed me most about the 200 or so people who showed up over a lunch hour was how concerned they are and how disappointed they have become about the media.
Granted, it was a small audience and a particular demographic. But these were once the core of any journalistic audience. They have (as far as I could tell) kept up with some technology through Facebook and Twitter. Many said they now rely on overseas media websites to keep them informed.
Their disappointment with mainstream and local media was intense.
They are angry at the amount of time devoted to crime reporting. They do not feel unsafe living in Toronto or the suburbs. Their sense of community is undermined every time they watch local TV news and read the Toronto Star (their newspaper of preference). They appear not to be Globe and Mail readers particularly. No one mentioned the National Post (conservative) or the Toronto Sun (tabloid).
One person asked why there was so little international news especially on television.
Another asked why their particular issues and concerns were never acknowledged by media that seems overly enamoured with a younger and more "downtown" crowd.
And they asked me about how journalism schools were training the next generation of reporters and editors.
Good questions all 'round. For which an hour over lunch was not enough time.
Local media (and journalism schools)! Take note.