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The Ruttle Report - Finding your voice is key in this gig

It's been quite the journey, with many miles logged.
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The month of March carries some significance in my professional life.

It is, after all, the month in which I started on this journey, this adventure, and this long and winding road called a career in weekly news journalism.

The day was Tuesday, March 27, 2007 and I was 21 years old. My first day on the job! This is exciting! Oh, wait, what's this? My truck is low on gas? Oh, good, Mom says I can just take the diesel. OK, that should be fine. It's big, lumbering and more vehicle than I need for the job, but whatever gets me from A to B for the day.

I get to the offices of The Outlook. In my eyes, this newspaper has been the consistent link in the community forever, and I've always enjoyed reading not only all the countryside news, but all the headlines out of local schools and whatever's splashed across the front page.

This job could be interesting.

Scratch ahead a few months down the road, and suddenly I'm offered a full-time gig as the local "roving reporter". You see, what some people might not remember is the fact that the last 16 years weren't even designed to happen. I was hired in the spring of 2007 to come in a few days a week in order to help type and proof-read copy, as well as help with that coming June's grad issue. That was it! As far as things were set, I was going to be out the door by the arrival of summer, undoubtedly going back to the classifieds to look for another gig.

And then something happened.

The reporter at the time, a university student named Shirley, had an opportunity to further her education elsewhere, so she put in her notice for the end of August. By this point, seeing as how I'd already covered the odd event here and there in the community, I had an interview with my then-boss at the time, was offered the job, and well, here I still am 16 years later and here you are, still reading my stuff.

Sometimes I wonder where I would've ended up if things turned out differently, and maybe Shirley didn't get that opportunity. I'm not so sure things would've turned out that good because while I still enjoyed writing, I was also still very young and in need of some true world experience. Getting out there in our very real world by literally going out and visiting communities that dot the region and telling the stories that make life interesting was the kind of experience I needed at the time.

I've also learned in my baker's dozen years and change that it's really honed and shaped me as a writer. Over time, and whether they're a journalist or an author of short stories, poetry or scripts, every writer develops a voice. This voice starts out very undefined; it's pitchy, it's not leveled out just yet, and it's still growing into its pitch. It's like going through a form of adolescence. You find yourself on not-so-steady ground and you're doing all you can to find your footing.

Then, before you know it, six months have come and gone. Then a year. Then two. Then four. Then, what the heck? We've hit the five-year point already? Are you serious? Seven years? Nine? A full decade now??? What the hell's going on here?!?

Along that journey, you've found your voice and your niche, and hopefully, you've amassed a sizable readership on the road to your self-discovery as a writer. Congratulations, my friend; you just may have what it takes to be a journalist in rural Saskatchewan.

From my perspective, it's the only place I want to be, telling the news of what happens right here at home.

The length of time that I've been doing this is not lost on me. Kids who started kindergarten in the fall of 2007 are now graduating from university. Many kids who were even born in 2007 now have their driver's licenses. Okay, I get it, universe, time flies and it waits for no one.

So what have been some of my favorite and not-so-favorite moments? Well, let me think about that....

In November of 2007, I hopped in a vehicle with my mom and brother and headed over to Rosetown on the night of the provincial election. Plenty of fellow Saskatchewan residents will remember that this was the night that the Saskatchewan Party came into power and haven't vacated it yet, and probably won't anytime soon. On that night in Rosetown, Jim Reiter was elected as the local MLA. I took some photos of the crowd in the Legion Hall, scribbled a page of notes, and I talked to Jim in the basement for a few minutes, getting his thoughts on the night's events and what lay in store for him at the provincial legislature in Regina. Knowing where Jim's career has gone in the political arena, I'm honored to say that I was there with him on the night where he started on his own unique career path.

Oddly enough, I was the lone reporter there that night, even though our neighboring community of Rosetown does in fact have a publication of their own. Strange.

One bizarre story, if you can even call it that based on the amount of uncooperation I received, took place a number of years ago. There was a family who was holding a benefit event at the Outlook & District Heritage Centre in order to help raise some money for a family member who was undergoing medical treatment. I received an invite to the event courtesy of a phone call at the office and I thought, 'That's great, it's always good to see events like this and I hope it's a success for them!' Well, on the day of, I arrived with my camera, notepad and recorder, and something just about the whole thing. It felt to me like I was almost intruding on something, but wait, THEY invited ME, right? Okay, let's just get this article in the can. I went to interview the man of whom this benefit was centered around, and he seemed to go out of his way to not answer anything that I asked. Alrighty then. Two minutes later, he approached me after our "non-interview" and told me to run anything I wrote by him before I published it. To this day, I'm left asking.....publish WHAT?

There have been many stories. There have been many photos snapped. There have been many columns penned. There WILL be a book detailing a lot of it. (Stay tuned on that one)

I'm grateful for what I do for a living, and I'm grateful for where I get to do it. I hope you'll keep reading, for I feel that the best is still yet to come.

For this week, that's been the Ruttle Report.

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