COLUMN: Twenty years and time to move on

NANAIMO – Leaving post means walk down memory lane.

In late June 1993 I was an unemployed truck driver/warehouseman fresh out of an employment upgrade program and hoping to catch on with the Nanaimo News Bulletin.

No, it wasn’t with circulation, driving the trucks that delivered the bundles of papers to the carriers, but with editorial – the newsroom.

The upgrade showed I still had a working knowledge of Grade 11 English and math. And with my love of photography, the teachers figured journalism might be a good fit as I took those classes in high school and the first couple of years of college.

So, with a salary-splitting deal with the Bulletin and the federal government, I joined the one-, now two-person newsroom thanks to publisher Roy Linder, who took a chance on me.

The rest, as they say, is history.

I’m taking this walk down memory lane because I’m leaving the paper June 28, almost 20 years to the day my July 1, 1993 Canada Day photo spread and story ran with my byline and photo credit.

That was an exciting time.

I was quickly brought down to Earth the next week however, when my front page photo had a glaring typo in the cutline.

In the last 20 years I have had my share of typos in stories, cutlines and headlines that have caused me consternation, but I’m only human.

It’s the exciting times over the years I’d rather dwell on.

Times like a ride along with RCMP Const. Gary O’Brien on a night shift when a girl handed in a  suicide note she discovered on the way home from school.

By 3 a.m. and after some fine detecting on O’Brien’s part, we were at the home of the young man who wrote the note, making sure he was OK. What made the biggest impression on me was the father was more annoyed we woke him up rather than concerned his son wrote a suicide note.

Or the time I played golf with hockey legend Paul Henderson. We sat down to chat over lunch and he told me he wasn’t even supposed to be on the ice when he scored the winning goal in the 1972 series against the Soviets.

There was the time I waded above my chest into the water at Departure Bay so Nathan Barlow could buzz his bathtub as close as possible to me for a photo.

There was crawling alongside army cadets during war games in Washington state though I only had a camera, not a machine gun.

And of course there was my three-year reign as kayak on ice champion during the Nanaimo Clippers intermission.

In between there was a trip on a submarine, driving a stock car and jumping at the Bungy Zone.

But it wasn’t all fun and games.

Getting wacked in the head by a flying object at a wrestling match resulted in the only time I told an editor ‘no’ to those assignments.

I had a camera smashed by a lacrosse ball, took a soccer ball in the stomach and felt the wind as a softball whizzed past my head.

I’ve been accused of plagiarism, misquoting a politician, and bias against female BMX riders, but can truthfully say none were true.

But heck, the sun doesn’t shine every day.

A satisfying part of my job was building relationships with the people on my beats. Knowing that Clippers coach Bill Bestwick, Mayor Gary Korpan, RCMP Insp. Dan Tanner or MLA Leonard Krog trusted me and my work – and were forthcoming – means a lot. Not all the stories about them, or the people working under them, were flattering, but we had, I believe, a mutual respect.

But the brightest spot in my career has to be my co-workers.

The Bulletin has had great people in every department, but every version of the newsroom, as people came and left, has been outstanding.

Look up the word ‘teamwork’ in the dictionary and you will see photos of today’s Bulletin’s editorial staff and every other one before it. I will miss them all.

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