It seems like I just wrote one of these introductory columns a few months back, after starting as the West Kootenay regional editor for Black Press based in Castlegar in January of 2017.
In reality, that was 14 months ago, and it was just last week that I wrote my emotional farewell column there.
I’m thrilled to be taking over as editor here in Vernon. I’ve heard many great things about the paper and the newsroom and I understand that we have a storied history in the community.
If you look at my history in journalism, you’ll see that I’m a print-digital hybrid of sorts. I started way back in 1992 as the sports editor at the Kenora Daily Miner and News in Kenora, Ont. That was back when darkrooms were still a thing, and a Mac Classic was considered “cutting-edge technology.” I actually learned how to do the layout with QuarkXpress on the tiny-screened Classic. It often took 20 seconds to scroll down a page. We also had to do paste-up with wax and border tape. I can still smell the waxer, and likely still have some of that tape stuck to the sleeve of an old dress shirt somewhere.
After moving up the ladder with Bowes Publishers (later bought out by SunMedia), I landed back in my hometown of Winnipeg at the Sun. I was there five years, before heading into corporate communications with Investors Group. From there, I started Canada’s first online-only news site called Winnipeg First and then jumped to the Winnipeg Free Press as digital editor. Five years there, and then a layoff, followed by three years as the digital editor at the Edmonton Journal, and the big layoff when Postmedia combined newsrooms and cut more than half of the newsroom.
Those layoffs were very painful, as you’d imagine. For a time, I felt like I was burned by journalism and did not want to get back into it. I was jaded and angry.
But, when I heard there was an opening in community news with Black Press in Castlegar, I was intrigued. I’d always thought those years working boots on the ground in smaller communities were the most rewarding, and certainly where my work had the biggest impact.
Those feelings were rekindled in Castlegar, as we were able to help shape political policy based on the reaction to our investigative reporting and at the same time provide a voice to those in the community who felt marginalized.
Community news is evolving at an exponential pace. With web-only news sites emerging in all markets, we’ve had to adjust our mandate and workflow to reach new audiences and build on our brand reputations in the communities we serve.
We will continue to share breaking news and coverage of major news events online as they happen, but we’ll also think of the print product more as a companion piece, providing the necessary depth and context often missing from the real-time coverage on the web.
One of my mandates is to accelerate the work we’re doing online, both in stories and video and on social media, without compromising the quality of the print product. It’s certainly a balancing act, but one I’ve been able to manage well in other newsrooms.
I’m ready to jump in and get rolling. I look forward to hearing from you in the days and weeks ahead.
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