It is the people who keep me reporting the news
January marks my 10th year at the Nanaimo News Bulletin.
It doesn’t feel like a decade has passed. I don’t feel that much wiser than the wide-eyed (all right, deer caught in headlights) 23-year-old who showed up to work on a dark, rainy Tuesday morning for the first time in 2004.
Even after nearly two years working in the Comox Valley, it was still a steep learning curve every day I walked into work. Moving to a new city for the third time in six years was especially hard – those first six months didn’t have a day where I didn’t think I should pack up and go home.
So what kept me here? The people, of course.
The train of thought is long and convoluted so I’ll save the trip, but I dug up an old article about a whistle-stop on Stephen Harper’s campaign trail in 2005 — before he was elected in a minority government. Nine years on and the rhetoric is still the same.
When people ask about my job, about the famous people I’ve interviewed, I’m often at a loss as to what to say. Talking about the last city council meeting can make even the most dogged city hall watcher’s eyes glaze over.
But looking back, it’s pretty cool that I interviewed our prime minister — often the National Press Gallery can’t even boast that.
I also interviewed Justin Trudeau before he was famous. He was boosting the Katimavik program at Malaspina University-College and I couldn’t get over how much he looked like his mom and sounded like his dad.
I wrote about tragedy, and how a family lost its daughter to a Tylenol overdose. I sat through a sentencing hearing for a man who pleaded guilty to second-degree murder of his wife as his mother and daughter cried on opposite sides of the courtroom.
I remember my heart pounding as I dialed the number for Henry Rollins, the former frontman for punk legend Black Flag. I hoped I had good questions. He turned out to be one of the nicest people I’ve ever interviewed and gave me the best quote: “the best way to stick it to The Man is to do nice things for people.”
The newsroom giggled as I shouted into the phone while interviewing the 96-year-old Honeyboy Edwards, the last of the original Delta blues players. And they looked quizzical as I discussed marijuana cultivation and kittens with The Trailer Park Boys.
I got to meet hockey legend Howie Meeker, interview the boys from Big Sugar and Wide Mouth Mason multiple times, as well as one of my childhood heroes Bif Naked, whose tattoos and black hair made me realize there’s more to the world than the Gap uniform.
Reporting has its challenges, like the feeling of walking into work with an acid stomach because you knew the day’s front page story was going to garner some outraged phone calls. Or knowing that because of time, space and budget constraints you could’ve done a better job.
It’s a job unlike any other and the only people who truly understand you are those who also worked in the trenches. People who leave, miss it, which is why so many of us in the industry were gutted when the Kamloops Daily News closed without warning this month.
The names might change and the stories might stay the same, but at the end of the day it’s the people who make the difference.
It’s the people who convinced me to stay. And now when I talk about “going home,” it’s to the Harbour City that I’m referring.
Melissa Fryer is the editor of the News Leader Pictorial’s sister paper, the Nanaimo News Bulletin