On this day last year, I was sitting in my Airbnb apartment in Charlottetown, P.E.I., defending my master’s research project during a lunch break at my internship with the local newspaper.
My professors, a panel of journalists who’ve been at the helm of the CBC, written for massive North American magazines and reported from around the world, stared at me through the web cam set up at Carleton University in Ottawa. It was likely the most nervous I’d ever been. For a half-hour they prodded my use of adjectives and information-gathering techniques, while asking why I featured the voice of person X while leaving out the quotes from person Y.
The thing I’d sunk more than a year of my effort into (and all of my bank account) was on display. Really, there’s no more effective way to feel what it’s like to attach your name to something for all to see than to have those you admire the most try and tear it apart.
In the end, it was solid work, they concluded. Before the defence got underway, I thought the same, so I was greatly relieved to hear the same from my panellists. When I’d closed my laptop after my defence in Charlottetown, I didn’t think I’d be that nervous again for quite some time.
A little over a week later, the first Grand Forks Gazette with my name on the front page and my mug shot on page 4 was printed.
For the 52 weeks since I arrived, I’ve felt the same nerves spring up as pages get sent to the press.
I’ve made mistakes, and for those I should rightly be nervous and embarrassed (and apologize profusely). I’ve aimed to rectify what I could, and I now have a large sign above my computer that reads, “About to submit? CHECK NAMES!” I printed that message after I tried to spell former Grand Forks Secondary School teacher Terry Nuyten’s name phonetically. That mistake would have led to a failed assignment in school.
I think it’s a positive thing that the nerves don’t go away, week after week, because those weird gut feelings are what tell me I care what you think about the work we do here. (Please, let us know how you feel about stories and coverage anytime, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org).
The nerves are also a small part of the job. Most of my week is spent researching, and interviewing – those are the fun parts! To be clear, I love doing interviews, so long as the recorder is pointed away from me. People have asked to speak to me on occasion about a this or a that and I get quite nervous and sputter through my thoughts. Recognizing this, I would like to formally apologize to those who have felt this way speaking to me this year, but I want to also thank you very much for sharing your thoughts and stories.
As odd as it may be, one of the first characters I came across in literature that made me want to be a reporter was Ford Prefect of Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, because he made research seem like a ton of fun. Perhaps Ford isn’t the most admirable of characters (heaven knows he loves drinking Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters a bit too much), but he does seem up for adventures and has a knack for distilling ideas down to their essence. “Earth: Mostly harmless,” reads his entry in the Guide. (Reflecting on this now, perhaps I could be less verbose from time to time. There’s likely a happy medium between his style and mine.)
That brings us to now. For 52 weeks, I’ve sometimes used too many words and other times too few. This is the 52nd Gazette with my name as part of the team that made it, and for that I am grateful. (If you’ve had qualms with anything in the past 51 editions, please let me know and I will continue to be appropriately nervous, even if it means writing more reminder signs above my work station.)
After the nerves passed last year in Charlottetown, I returned to the P.E.I. Guardian’s office, sat down at my workstation and hammered out the last few sentences of my final story for that paper. It felt quite nice to recognize that the nerves would pass, as would the achievement, and that there was still regular, perfectly fun and fine work to get done.
Nowadays, that’s my Tuesday mornings, when the newspapers reset and I plan for the following week. So we’ll see you next week, for yet another edition of the Gazette, just as you and I do every week.
Thank you for reading, for writing and for sharing your stories in these pages.