One fine afternoon in a string of so many fine afternoons of this superfine summer of ’17, popping into Halliday’s for a tray of fish cakes and half pound of bacon, my eye drifted to the glossy coloured pages of the Newfoundland Herald – Geoff Stirling’s original foray into media (first issue’s headline, 1946: “Hitler’s son alive in Germany”), upon which he built a small empire and sprung himself out into the world in all his many guises: the media mogul and maverick, the mystic, the man being filmed reading CIA: The Invisible Government poolside in Cuba with Joey Smallwood, knowing full-well the book’s subject would be watching their every move while they waited to meet with its arch nemesis.
But I digress.
Back at Halliday’s, there was Elvis Presley on the cover of The Herald – a special commemorative edition marking forty years since his death. It occurred to me that Elvis’ vividly sultry face and leathered swaggering frame were as reliable a presence on the cover of The Herald as a grey sky hung over our (sometimes less than) fair city.
But what exactly has Elvis got to do with Newfoundland and its beloved Herald, I wondered, and so decided to reach out to Geoff’s grandson, Jesse Stirling, who graciously took time from his busy schedule at Stirling Studios in Beverly Hills to shed light on a few questions. First among them: “Why Elvis?”
“The most plain and simple answer is that my grandfather was a big Elvis fan. As Newfoundlanders, we seem to love tradition … I don’t think anyone wants to break the tradition of Elvis memorial covers.”
Geoff loved his fellow King – it made sense. But there was more: as we chatted on, Jesse offered a glimpse into the greater vision informing and driving the family company, “The motto of The Herald, from day one, has been: ‘If you abuse power, you lose it. But if don’t use power, you also lose it.’ As a family, we’ve generally chosen to harness the power of our media to celebrate the more positive aspects of culture: the arts, spirituality, and celebrating the fantastic uniqueness of our province. In an era of fake news, and an ‘if it bleeds, it leads’ mentality, there’s something to be said for reflecting the more positive qualities of humanity in a mass media forum.”
There’s no question, pushing positivity of any genuine kind in a mass media context is radically rare – facilitated only by the equally radical and rare continuing independence of Stirling Communications International at a time when, as Jesse put it, “every small, independent media outlet is getting gobbled up by huge conglomerates. Conformity is the norm.”
Clearly, the Stirlings have never been a family of or for the norm, turning down the no doubt enormous sums to sell out offered by rapacious gobbling conglomerates – those mammoth, monied suitors of little faith, face, or taste – sticking instead to the mission Geoff set forth all those years ago that his family continues to so duly honour and promote.
Glancing again at my copy of the Herald after my conversation with Jesse, I found an all-new appreciation for seeing Elvis’ curling lip of libido on the cover of a magazine in 2017. It sure beat another cover story on how millennials are killing everything (boomers) once held dear; or, worse still, another cringing image of a certain burnt-orange man with a certain knee-length red tie and a certain bleached toupee.
Stay positive, Newfoundland Herald