Paige Mueller for The Free Press
I was laying beneath my mosquito net after a particularly emotionally draining day in Nigeria, when I logged on to check my emails and my jaw fell open in surprise. I had one new email. One that I wasn’t expecting even a little bit.
The subject line read, “A random call from Canada” and random it most certainly was. The email was from the editorial director for BlackPress media, a man that I’d met once while working for the Williams Lake Tribune. The last time I’d talked to him, he’d promised me a job with any BlackPress newspaper that I wanted in the future. At the time, I thanked him for his offer all while thinking to myself that I would never again work for a community newspaper.
Since it had been several years since my stint at the Trib, I was incredibly surprised to get his email. In it, he said he’d heard I was in Nigeria but that he had a few reporting/editing positions that he wanted me to consider.
I read through his email with ragged breaths and shaking hands – I’d really and truly been struggling in Nigeria and was just about at my wits end. The final line of his email would end up being the catalyst for a monumental shift in my life.
“Oh, and the Fernie editorship is coming open at the end of November… :)”
After days of mulling it over, talking with many friends and family members and doing a whole hell of a lot of soul searching, tarot card readings and deep thinking, I sent my resume in.
Almost before I knew it, I’d committed to being the editor of The Free Press, a community newspaper that covers Fernie, Sparwood, Elkford and the surrounding country. I’d never been an editor before and I only had six weeks experience of actually writing for a real newspaper.
That being said, the email was so out of the blue and came at a moment when I was reaching out to the universe, asking for answers and guidance. Even though I said I’d never go back to community journalism, and actually hadn’t intended to keep working in journalism at all, I felt like the universe was leaving me breadcrumbs and I had to follow. I could only hope that the breadcrumbs lead to a delightful little bakery with all my favourite baked goods and not the house of the wicked witch.
I gave my notice to my organization in Nigeria, promised to keep volunteering with them online and booked a flight back to Canada.
I arrived in Canada on November 15 and exactly one week later, I had my first day The Free Press. My first day was the previous editor’s last day so there was no training, no hand over, no anything.
Two days later, my reporter quit. Meaning that jet-lagged, utterly unprepared, still recovering mentally from my trip to Nigeria me had to both write, edit and layout the entire newspaper on my own.
What followed was two months of intense, balls to the walls, gonzo community journalism. I was adjusting to getting back to Canada, returning to a profession I’d intended to leave and a town I thought I’d never live in again all while singlehandedly writing 15-20 stories a week for the paper.
Although an intense experience, now that I do have a reporter working with me again, I feel like I’ve got a good grasp on reporting in the Elk Valley.
So that’s what I’m doing. That’s where I am. If you’re interested in reading my stories, seeing what I do every day and learning more about the Elk Valley, click the header link at the top of the page.
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