Today we’re going to find out a little bit about one of Ascar’s most important institutions, although it may not be acknowledged as such. Of course, I’m talking about the Ascar Daily Informer, the city’s major newspaper. As its name suggests, this publication is printed daily. It contains topics of relevance to all citizens: whether updates on Council policy, reports of newsworthy events or even snippets of gossip. There are occasional advertisements from local businesses—goods for sale, situations vacant—which contribute a modest amount for the privilege. However, the paper is essentially funded by the Council and distributed at no charge. Stan, the boy I picked up my copy from, was very proud of the “free press” that Ascar boasts.
I’m sure we’ll return to the Informer in future, but I’ll start with an overview. You’ll have noticed from previous articles that the technology level in the countryside is very limited, and even in Ascar it’s not much higher. For example, many residences use oil lamps or candles, with only very affluent establishments—or official buildings—using electricity. However, they do have factories for mass production of various items such as clothing, even if powered by watermills and the ubiquitous pedal-power. Newspaper production is also relatively advanced, with movable type and intriguingly modern-looking equipment that allegedly is based on plans brought by the original Settlers.
Ascar has around twenty-five thousand residents. Stan tells me that he and the other paper boys distribute maybe three thousand copies of the Informer every day. The paper is printed overnight. Copies are delivered to specific locations, such as the Council hall, library and barracks, with the remainder handed out to pedestrians by Stan and his mates in the morning. In the evening, the lads go round collecting old papers which they return to the press building for recycling. It’s just as well, otherwise the streets would be knee deep in crumpled pages. Should citizens wish to access back copies, they may enquire at the library.
Other periodicals are available—craft magazines, serialised books and so on—many of which are printed at the same press. Unlike the Informer, citizens have to pay for these. There are also small shops that produce small runs of printed materials: anything from restaurant menus to poetry books.
On our next visit to the Informer, we’ll hopefully be able to follow around one of the reporters.