I started this column a couple of weeks ago, figuring having to fill this space one last time might be difficult.
This Friday marks one last -30- for this reporter, who still knows what that number used to mean at the end of copy headed to the city desk.
To say it’s been interesting would be an understatement. In today’s world, where five years at a job before moving on is considered the norm, spending 45 years in one career (minus a strange 18 months after I left the daily in my hometown and decided to get a “normal job”) is abnormal.
It has included stints at my first newspaper editing business, travel, food, housing, real-estate, books and entertainment sections.
For a couple of years, I was on a night desk remaking section fronts and some inside pages for each of the five editions we put out every day in my hometown and in the regions where we had reporters toiling away in bureaus.
It led to a couple of teaching stints, too, one on how to survive in the freelance world — it used to be easy back in the 1970s and 1980s — and one on covering business stories.
I started when the business was booming, working for a third-generation publisher who cared more about the product than he did about the profit.
Of course, he had inherited the paper and the hefty bank account his predecessors created.
Walter Blackburn was a true believer in the role of journalism — and he liked toys. We had a reporter-pilot and our own two-seater plane for years. We had computers long before most other newspapers in the country, devoting a massive room to what has now evolved into smartphones. Our travel budget was unlimited; one year, a sports reporter took a company car (no, we didn’t drive our own) out on a one-day assignment and came back a week later.
He was forgiven because he had a great story.
Competition wasn’t an issue. Walter owned two of the city’s radio stations, the lone television station and, eventually, a shopper publication called The Pennysaver — think of it as the print version of today’s online classified and display ads.
Our newsroom was huge and, walking into it that first day, fresh out of high school, it was intimidating. There were five assistant city editors who handled copy every day and night. The photography department had at least 10 people, including a photo editor and assistant editor. They all toiled in a darkroom.
I met the love of my life there and he’s the reason we ended up in Kamloops.
Moving from a big-city daily to a smaller community newspaper was a fascinating shift.
Where we were discouraged from getting involved with our city in any way other than reporting and editing at the London Free Press, here it was encouraged — and fun. I’ve met a lot of fascinating people in the past 18 years here, some of them truly unique characters. A lot of those I’ve encountered have become friends.
Some people have wondered if this retirement is health-related and it’s quite satisfying to say it has nothing to do with it. An amazing surgeon got all of the early-stage little bugger last year. She said much of it went in the two biopsies. It hadn’t spread, so she doesn’t expect to see me again, as long as I stick to my meds, supplements and grain-based diet.
That’s easy to do.
This decision comes from something basic — I’m an old-style journalist in a new-age journalistic world.
It just seems like a good time to take a look at new options, other ways to stay involved with the community that don’t involve asking questions, but maybe helping to answer them.
I’m already assisting a couple of theatre folks work on a KTW Christmas Cheer event that would involve food, fun and zany frivolity.
So, stay tuned.
As my hubby so fondly — and accurately — puts it, his hobby is golf. Mine is meetings.
We’ll all likely be meeting again.