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REPORTERS SHOP TALK Episode 19: Farewell, for now

'I get just as energized when I take a new job as when I leave one because I know the potential there to have some excitement about it.'
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Welcome to Episode 19 of Reporters Shop Talk. This is Stu Campaigne, a reporter at BayToday, along with my colleague David Dale, unfortunately, not my colleague for much longer. Dave, what's going on?

Dave: Well, you know, journalism is a transient thing, I found from my experience and my seven months with BayToday is coming to an end and I depart on Wednesday to wrap it up as the LJI reporter.

Stu: It's been a good run, and we should say you're leaving on amicable terms. The contract was up and you're moving on to some other projects.

Dave: Yeah, well, what I thought when I took it was that this was going to be a shorter than long-term situation because I was mostly wanting to get through the winter with employment. And when Jeff gave me the opportunity, I thought it would be perfect, I got my journalistic muscles flexed again, because I had left the Nugget in 2018 and I had been doing a bunch of different things, including the magazine and contract work. But with Covid, you know, I figured a full time gig to get through the winter at least would be a good move. And, I always wanted to sort of check out to see what it was like working for Village Media and BayToday. So this is perfect for me.

Stu: And so, well, it's a little bit odd. You took over the contract that I was working on, so I kind of had the same thought as you, that I transitioned over from a local radio station and I didn't really know what I was going to do next. I mean, I guess getting the job, the LJI contract gave me some options. And, like you, without knowing what's going to happen down the line, I accepted it. And I transitioned into the role I'm in now to a full time position. And like I said, you took over what I was doing. But maybe we should talk just a little bit before we move on to something else about what you thought about the LJI experience … Is it a worthy enterprise?

Dave: Well, I think it has a lot of potential. It's the first time I've ever worked under a federally funded program doing journalism. I've never done that before and I know why they created it. It's to help media outlets deal with the transition of the economy with online news and the ability to cover more communities that aren't in your main market, so I think it's actually a good thing. Good response, definitely. North Bay councillors are happy to see what's happening in some of the other communities and then just see that there's a similar type news stories everywhere. But I'm not 100 percent comfortable being paid by the federal government to do journalism, I wasn't able to write opinion columns and do podcasts, interviews, which is my goal, and that's where my strong suit is and that's what I want to do. So. I wrestled a little bit with that personally because it's not straight news writing, and being limited to that and not being able to write about North Bay stuff that, I found that kind of constraining, personally. I think it's a good program to cover the outlying areas because otherwise it's hard to justify that with the way the advertising market is. So that's a good thing to explore that, but not necessarily what I wanted to do, that's all.

Stu: My experience ended up being shorter than yours, I believe I did five months and you did seven. I do see the benefits for sure. I mean, there are so many great stories out there that don't necessarily happen in urban areas, and they just need to be fleshed out a bit, and to your comment about, you know, the columns…I think this is a program that, you know, if it's going to continue down the line, there's definitely some tweaks that need to be made. I mean, it's important for that buffer between the federal government part of it and the reporter, the buffer of the media. That's really, really important. And it can't be coloured in any political stripe at all, and I didn't find it was… So I think they're doing a lot of good things. I think there's definitely some stuff to work on, as with everything. 

I think it's a really good program. And another point I want to make was it's a really good program for young journalists starting out because it gives them a real opportunity to get out, dig up your own leads, you know, follow some boards and commissions and councils and kind of learn the ropes there. And there’s a number of people who were headed toward retirement that have taken advantage of the program and maybe not having to being tied down by a full time position. So, you know, like you did seven months at a time or, you know, someone who is just looking to work for another year, who was 60 or over. I think there's a lot of opportunity there because these are people that have so much experience locally and have been like teachers for those young journalists. I think there's a real opportunity, you know, as we have you and I, for us to learn from each other.

Dave: So, yeah, I think it's a it's a good thing. I appreciated it and it worked out well for what it was. It's just not necessarily what I wanted to do long term. 

Stu: That's understandable. Right. You've got your own tastes and you've already done all this before.

Dave: So yeah, it reminded me of what I liked and what I didn't like about being a hard news reporter. And this is something I wanted to stress in our discussion today is that, you know, I have a hell of a lot of respect for people that do the hard news day in, day out…five days a week and to be consumed seven days a week by it in your mind and to keep going. I understand really well that commitment and I respect it. It's just not something that, at this stage of my life, I want to do full time. I think I can probably do that two days a week and still be able to do the rest of the stuff I like to do. But it's not something I want to do full time ever again, really.

Stu: Yeah, believe me, there it is, I am right there, just like that, and I'm only so many years into this and there are days where it's just so frustrating.

Dave: Well, I don't think people realize how consuming it is. It's in how they look at what we do some days and think we didn't do a good job. But it's such a cycle of ups and downs, emotionally, mentally, your ability to focus. You know, I work in spurts, I can do a good job if I can focus on something for a set period of time, but there are days where the brain is used up, man, and I don't feel comfortable writing and I'm going to make mistakes that way. It's hard to do. So, you know, I have a ton of respect for people that have gone through it and done it for a long period of time. It's a hard job and people don't realize the commitment that it requires to do day in, day out.

Stu: I guess one day maybe I'll be one of those people doing it for 20 years or whatever. But I mean, I compare it to being a high level athlete. It's not as physical, obviously. But I mean, my brain, I think constantly for seven days a week around the clock, we're always thinking about, “Is that a story or is that a lead?” Or I have to remember to follow up on this. And, you know, we're juggling four or five stories at a time sometimes and it's not like I am looking for medals or anything like that, but there are some afternoons, if I've been up since 5 or 6 a.m. where I just I need to stop for a couple of hours because my brain can't take it anymore. Like, I can't look at my computer screen and I almost can't figure out what to do next. And, that's when I know it's time. And, you know, sometimes with deadlines and expectations, that just doesn't work. And you've got to keep writing through that or you've got to cover that meeting and then get the story out. The big story before you go to bed. There's lots of things about this job that are extremely rare in other professions, probably not as expected to kind of give that much of your time to it. But we do it because we do it for lots of different reasons, but mostly because we love it.

Dave: Well, there's a lot of professions where people are, you know, they're fully committed and engaged and then go through the same sort of the patterns of spectacular effort and then not so spectacular effort. And it's just being able to get used to that. There's a lot of guilt involved that you didn't do what you could have where there's stories that you don't do that you wish you would. But it wasn't the right time. It didn't fit in. You had other priorities. I, I know what I could have done better and I know what I did well. And sometimes it's tough to take, but I think a lot of professions are like that, I really just don't know if we're made for that. Some people are made better for it than others. I am not made to feed the machine 24/7. I just can't do it. I recognize that. So I wanted to sort of fashion my next 20 years of working. I'm 55. I have to work till 75. I have to pace myself out and I know what I do well and what I don't and what I enjoy and what I don't. 

Stu: Hopefully, with your work with your magazine, you can spread things out a little more and really do what you want to do. I think it's a lot easier on the body and soul to do things that you enjoy, even though they take up all your time. I mean, like I said, I think it's easier to do something you love. 

Dave: Yeah, it's just a matter of finding a way to pay the bills. I enjoy feature writing, I enjoy opinion writing. And once in a while I really enjoy doing a good hard news story. So it's knowing that ratio and trying to create something where that's how I'm making my living. So. Yeah, that's my plan. I'm hoping the magazine is a quarterly print product and the website that I'm creating is a storytelling platform, and that recipe works. I'll just have to go look for a part-time job somewhere because that's what it takes.

Stu: Yeah, at least for now, right?

Dave: Yeah, at least for now. That's my plan for the next year. Next year, I may plan something different.

Stu: Well, it's a lot like life. Is it an adapting thing? I've seen my parents go through different jobs and maybe even careers and trends. I have friends who went to university to be one thing and they're not even close to that right now.

Dave: I was just telling somebody about how I enjoyed and was impressed with Village Media. And, you know, I'm not sucking up here or anything because I'm leaving. But I've worked for Postmedia. I've worked for Sun Media, Quebecor, Osprey, for Hollinger. I worked for the Union of Ontario Indians as their PR guy and managing editor. I worked for Thomson Newspapers. I worked for three different independent newspapers. And that's pretty well parallel to what a lot of reporters, journalists do through the course of their careers, there's very few who stick with one place. So transitioning and changing and making a new plan, that's just the way my life goes. And I like it for that. You've got to have the flexibility. And I get just as energized when I take a new job as when I leave one because I know the potential there to have some excitement about it.

Stu: I think I might pull that out as the quote of this article. Well, you know, it's been like I said, I don't think I have to get too far into it, but it's been a real honour and pleasure to be your colleague and to remain friends. 

Dave: Oh, sure, we will. Yeah, it's been great working with you, too. And I love that aspect of it. I've met new people everywhere I've gone, and I enjoy working with most of them as well.

Stu: So there's a possibility this is our last episode together. So, you know, we’ll let you say your goodbyes, but we're hoping to have you back next week for one kind of bonus episode.

Dave: Let's round it off with 20.




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Stu Campaigne

About the Author: Stu Campaigne

Stu Campaigne is a full-time news reporter for BayToday.ca, focusing on local politics and sharing our community's compelling human interest stories.
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