My favourite and most-often recounted memory from almost six years with the Nanaimo News Bulletin resulted from one misunderstanding, compounded by another.
Misunderstandings aren’t uncommon in the newspaper business. Despite how diligently reporters and editors strive to make their words clear and concise, what’s published is ultimately read and understood differently by each reader, who brings his or her own lens of experience and interpretation to the information presented.
The particular misunderstanding that stands out took place in the 10 months I sat in the assistant editor’s desk, ahead of my five years as managing editor.
A recent story, or perhaps it was a letter to the editor, referenced the Frisbee golf course in Bowen Park. A reader, an elderly woman, took that to mean golf course, and called to query what we were on about.
“There’s no darned golf course in that park,” she said. And quickly added that she was hard of hearing, so I’d better speak up. So in my firmest outside voice, I undertook explaining the reference was to a disc golf course, not an actual golf course.
She repeated what she’d heard, utterly confused – “Fish golf? What is fish golf?”
“No ma’am, not fish golf – disc golf, you know, with Frisbees?” I replied politely, but with increased volume. My colleagues (most of whom are still with the paper) looked up quizzically, chuckling.
Suffice it to say she had never heard of disc golf, and I was not loud enough.
We went back and forth for what seemed like eternity and I recall putting my head in my hands at some point in the exchange, which must have been equally frustrating for us both, just to break eye contact with my roaring co-workers and prevent my smirk from swelling into something more.
The exchange became something of a standing joke in the newsroom, though I can’t recall how the conversation ended. I hope she’s not still wondering why on earth people would want to toss fish around in the park.
Nanaimo News Bulletin