Column: Looking forward to a flood of feedback

My introduction to journalism was less a trial by fire than by water. Yet I was offered no opportunity to get my feet wet — either literally or metaphorically — that scorching day in April, 1997.

Fresh out of J-school at the University of Regina, I rolled into  Houston, B.C. in my 1987 Honda Accord, eager to start my first “real” job in the one-person newsroom at Houston Today.

The scene that greeted me was surprisingly chaotic for a town of 4,000 people.

An early stretch of hot weather had brought on a rapid snow melt in the mountains, and the Bulkley River and her local tributary, Buck Creek, were having their way with the lower parts of town.

My first glimpse of Grace, the interim editor, was brief as she raced past me with her notebook clutched in her hand and an SLR camera slung around her neck.

No doubt she had a few extra pens and rolls of black-and-white film stuffed in her pockets. Unlike me, she’d done this before. And she had zero time to coddle someone with no practical experience.

There’s a mining conference in town, she told me as she breezed by. Go find a story and, most important, stay out of the way.

I did. And I did.

Of course it was disappointing to miss out on what (unsurprisingly) turned out to be the biggest story in town during the entire year I was there, but in the subsequent 18 years, I’ve had plenty of opportunities to get into the thick of things.

A new job at the Langley Times in May, 1998, offered the chance to cover crime stories, fires, business, arts and entertainment, lifestyles and, soon, another flood.

This time, a boy was nearly swept to his death by the swollen Nicomekl River. Instead, he was saved by Langley City firefighters, including one young man named Ron, whose own funeral I had the sad task of covering a number of years later.

In the nearly two decades since my arrival, I’ve got to know Langley well —  as well as you can know anything that changes as quickly as this town does, that is.

Highway overpasses, big box stores, two recreation centres (and a third on the way), an 18-screen movie theatre and countless new housing developments have sprung up to serve Langley’s ever-growing population.

But the one thing that has remained consistent in all that time, is the sense of community that makes Langley unique among Metro Vancouver’s cities.

Like any large and expanding municipality, it also has its growing pains.

With more people comes more crime and more social problems.

The role of the community newspaper has always been to bring the issues  — good and bad — that most closely affect residents into focus and help give them context.

After spending a number of years as the newspaper’s assistant editor, I’m excited to take on this new role and to continue to help The Times’ talented and hardworking team of reporter/photographers tell Langley’s stories — and tell them well.

Our goal, of course, is to get it first and, more important, to get it right. But we’re human, and chances are, we’ll make the occasional mistake.

As always, we’re counting on our readers to let us know how we’re doing. But from here on out, owf course, the buck stops with me.

So, let’s hear it.

I’ve got my (metaphorical) hip waders on and I’m looking forward to a flood of feedback.

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