we live, as we're constantly reminded, in an era of mass communication.There are more digital and satellite cable channels than there is intelligent, interesting programming. High-speed Internet access means television broadcasts from around the world can be watched on your desktop at the click of a mouse, and every morning I have dozens of online newspapers and magazines, everything from the Guardian (www.guardian.com) and the Times of India (www.timesofindia.com) to Slate (www.slate.com), to choose from.
How, then, do you explain the collective pause for breath across Canada this weekend at the death of Peter Gzowski?
The broadcaster/journalist was one of a thousand voices fighting for attention in this culture of gab. He wasn't a ludicrously tanned television personality or a syndicated columnist whose work appeared online in your e-mail in-box every week.
Gzowski's appeal and connection to the country was obvious and has been detailed countless times since Thursday evening. As important as those factors is the fact that he worked mostly in the relatively low-tech world of radio.
Without sounding like a throwback to some old-timey age when things were simpler, there still is nothing more immediate and connecting than radio.
Whether it's a crackly shortwave broadcast from the BBC World Service, a fundamentalist preacher shouting fire and brimstone late at night on a hazy AM station or the sound of CBC on FM as you're driving home, radio has an immediacy that's hard to duplicate.
For all our bleeding-edge connectivity, it's a disembodied voice coming out of a speaker that's often most arresting and intimate. Unlike crystal-clear high-speed transmissions, it's maddeningly imperfect and never really consistent, requiring you to flip across the dial every few minutes to lose an annoying song or voice.
From 50-watt college stations to slick national broadcasters, though, radio is one of the most direct forms of communication, something the digital world has so far been unable to replicate.
For all the online publications and television feeds available, the thing I love the most about being wired is the ability it gives me to listen to radio stations from around the world. We are now able to listen to everything from free-form radio sites like the brilliant WFMU (www.wfmu.org) and John Peel's legendary show (www.bbc.co.uk/radio1) to the documentaries of This American Life (www.thislife.org) and the 24-hour roots reggae of Trojan Radio (www.trojanradio.com). Hundreds of these online broadcasters are listed at the excellent Radio Locator site (www.radio-locator.com).
It's hard to imagine Gzowski on anything other than the radio. It's also hard in these times of information overload to imagine anyone taking his place as the "voice of the country."
If it happens, though, it'll be on the radio. firstname.lastname@example.org