My how time flies. t was 30 years ago this week that I ran into former Orléans Star editor James MacArthur in a downtown bar and asked him if he could use a photographer.
James had just taking over as editor of The Star after a stint with the Napanee Beaver and I had just returned to Ottawa after being laid off by the now defunct Montreal Daily News.
As it turned out, The Star already had a photographer. So after telling him that I had written a few stories while I was in Montréal, he invited me to write a guest column on whatever subject I wanted. I chose Hallowe’en.
To be more precise, I chose to write a sacrcastic, tongue-in-check critique of why Hallowe’en should be banned which you can read on the page opposite.
Soon after my column was published, the newsroom received six letters to the editor from readers who took umbrance with my position.
The most letters to the editor the paper received previously on any one topic was three.
The publisher at the time, Gord Brewerton, was suitably impressed and the rest, as they say, is history.
I started writing a regular weekly column, which appeared on page seven, for the better part of the next 12 years.
After leaving The Star in July 2001, I continued writing a regular column on OrleansOnline.ca until I purchased the paper in October, 2016.
All told, I’ve probably written over 1,000 columns along with several thousand more stories.
Back in the day my columns were a mix of political commentary and personal pageantry. During the first few, I wrote much in the same as the old saying "Dance like no one’s watching". Well, I wrote like no one was reading.
Some of my most popular columns were the ones which I wrote about my personal life and especially my now ex-wife and kids.
Way, way back in the day I would often reference the Girlfriend, who then became the Wife and eventually the Ex-Wife who is now our creative genius and production manager.
One of my favourite letters to the editor came from a reader who took exception to my calling my wife “The Wife”. “Doesn’t she have a name?” the person asked. To which I responded that “The Wife” was a much better moniker than my original nickname for her –“The Old Ball and Chain”. The kicker is that the offended reader was a man.
The column that generated the most e-mail was the one in which I called for a ban on pets and argued that if you needed a dog for companionship you should go out and find a friend. I also argued that the $7 billion Canadians spend annually on pet food, supplies and services might be better spent on feeding and housing the homeless.
It was meant as tongue in cheek social commentary, but apparently a great many pet owners in Orléans didn’t find it very funny. Go figure.
Without a doubt the column I am most proud of was actually an obituary I wrote for the Gannon family after she Erin Gannon succumbed to cancer on April 26, 2004 at the age of 18.
Her grandmother personally asked me to write something.
It took me over 10 hours working through the night to pen what I thought was a fitting tribute to an incredible young woman. Days afterwards the family reached out to thank me. It was one of the proudest moments of my career in journalism.
There have been other columns and stories that made me proud to be a journalist in this community.
When I first started OrleansOnline.ca, I was often asked why I did it and I never had a very good answer until a woman wrote me a letter about her 10-year-old.
The young girl had performed at a Gloucester Music Club recital and I happened to write a story about how talented the kids were.
According to the woman, the story had not only made her daughter’s day, it made her entire year. She had emailed a link of the story to all her relatives and printed off a copy to take to school.
It was then that I realized my mission as a local journalist and columnist has been and always will be to provide positive reinforcement to our youth by writing about their many accomplishments and publishng them online and in the newspaper. Covering the actual news was merely a side benefit.
As I look ahead to the next 30 years, that will never change.
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