As I sit here typing this, a landmark day for me is fast approaching. Depending on when you pick up this fine newspaper and read this column, it may have already passed.
This coming Monday, March 27 will be my ‘professional anniversary’. It’ll mark ten years to the day that I walked into the Outlook Printers building on Saskatchewan Avenue and began a part-time gig that would eventually become this crazy thing called a career in weekly newspaper journalism.
I’m proud of the milestone, but to be completely honest, I’m shocked that a decade has come and gone, and for the life of me, I honestly couldn’t tell you where the last ten years have disappeared to. Time just has a way of being sucked up into some kind of vacuum that never gets emptied; it just keeps going and going, and it stops for no one.
Tuesday, March 27, 2007 was the day that I started at The Outlook. At the time, I was writing copy and placing it on pages, as well as doing some minor editing, but I was also contributing the odd editorial, and I even covered a few local events that spring and summer. I remember attending the Prairie West Regional College graduation banquet in Outlook that April as “the press”, and going on to experience my first high that came with seeing my name in my first official byline.
It’s a high that I’ve been chasing ever since, people.
With this kind of job, you learn the ins and outs by just simply doing it. At least, that’s been my experience in the past ten years; if I made a mistake, I corrected it, and this is the kind of profession that one never really stops learning. Frankly, I don’t think *anyone* should stop learning in whatever job they have. Once you become complacent and too comfy, I think it’s time to hang up the hat.
I myself never went to school for journalism because this isn’t the field that I saw for myself when I was younger. “My God, but he’s so great at what he does! How does he do it?” No, I went to film school out in BC with the intention of breaking into the movie business, but the realities of the entertainment industry that I learned sort of brought me back down to Earth as far as making it big in Hollywood, so I wound up with this gig. I’m not gonna lie though, I’m still writing scripts and short stories with the intention of making the odd low-budget flick here and there.
In the meantime though, I’m a reporter, and I think I’ve been a damn good one these past ten years.
So what have been my favorite experiences, stories and articles? Man, where do I start? In ten years, I’ve been fortunate enough to interview a laundry list of very interesting and engaging people, and be witness to a multitude of events that have not only shaped me as a person and a reporter, but shaped the very fabric of this community that I write about each and every week.
But you asked, so I’ll share with you a few examples of my ‘greatest hits’, if you will.
Jim Reiter’s Beginnings: This was back in November of 2007, and Reiter was vying for the Rosetown-Elrose constituency for the first time. On Election Night in the province, I drove over to the Legion Hall in Rosetown with my mother and brother to watch the results come in. When Reiter had won, cheers rang out in the hall, and I sat down with Jim in a downstairs room for an interview. He was humble, happy, and excited for the opportunity that was given to him by voters. Almost a decade later, it’s pretty cool to know that I was there at the ground level on the night that Reiter officially broke into the political arena.
The Trial that Gripped Outlook: In March of 2010, a man from Broderick was brutally murdered in his home by his girlfriend. One year later, the three-week trial held in Saskatoon was the talk of the town, and I found myself motoring to the city multiple times to cover the proceedings. This was a story that gripped peoples’ emotions and involved local people, so while I had to be objective and present the facts as I got them, I also had a tiny voice in my head telling me to tread lightly and show respect. That’s the uniqueness of being a small town reporter, because the odds are good that you KNOW the people you write about.
Student Interviews Teacher: In February of 2014, one of my absolute favorite teachers growing up, John McPhail, was named the newest Citizen of the Year in Outlook. On a Friday morning, John – I’m sorry, Mr. McPhail – welcomed me into his home before we sat down at his kitchen table, where we spoke for upwards of an hour about all aspects of his life. I got to know one of my earliest mentor figures in a whole new way, and it’s one of my most favorite interviews ever.
A Town That Cares: This was only about six months ago, but I noticed during the civic election season in Outlook that people were taking such a vested interest in what’s going on in their community, the likes of which hadn’t been seen in a long, LONG time. I would have random conversations with random residents about the issues facing the town, and what changes those people would like to see. Then came the candidate open forum that this newspaper organized and sponsored, and it was basically standing room only at the Civic Centre. Something about it just injected me with a newfound appreciation for the basic premise of my job; covering local stories about local people. When people show an interest in their town, it gets me that much more interested in writing stories about everything going on in this town.
To this day, I continue to learn on the job. I learn about peoples’ lives when I interview them. I learn that there are stories to tell where others may not see them. I learn that this area that I’ve called home my entire life is more interesting than most people can ever imagine.
These are the things that I’ll continue to learn as long as my business card says “Reporter/Photographer”.
To those that read, thank you. To the people I’ve interviewed in the last ten years, thank you too. To the people I have yet to interview, well, your time is coming.
This gig has been the longest relationship I’ve ever had, and hopefully, it’s not ending anytime soon.
For this week, that’s been the Ruttle Report.