Lifestyle ColumnistsNeil McKenty
Journalist remembers labour of love
by Renee Joette Friesen
A little more than 11 years ago, I was a relatively young journalist who had recently moved to Montreal from Winnipeg. That was during the heart of the referendum; I barely spoke French and I thought my journalism career was doomed. I looked for jobs quite literally by flipping through the Yellow Pages. I made a cold call to The Senior Times and somehow managed to pique the interest of the publisher, Barbara Moser. I met with her shortly after, but there was no job available. I was impressed that she even gave me a chance to present myself to the paper. And it paid off. A few months later, Barbara called me asking if I was still interested in working for her. I started as the staff was putting together the 9th anniversary issue of The Senior Times, and I worked as the reporter/editor for three great years.
In that time, I interviewed local seniors who were wonderfully candid. I gathered stories about people struggling in the sandwich generation. I learned about adventures in adult education, and got to tackle tougher issues, like seniors who had contracted HIV or who were battling alcoholism. I even got to interview twins celebrating their 90th birthday together.
I also got to do some terrific restaurant reviews. It was through Barbara’s influence that I gained an appreciation for Jewish culture and its fabulous cuisine! Barbara not only taught me how to edit – she showed me how to make latkes with less than a teaspoon of oil.
I think that, without knowing it, Barbara became a mentor to me. She challenged me to look for different angles to a story but gave me the freedom to pursue my own ideas. She taught me how to cut copy with minute edits that never changed the context of a story but remarkably saved space. But mostly, Barbara taught me how to be passionate about my work as a journalist while never forgetting to be a compassionate human being.
During the frenzy of production each month, we would usually work late to meet our deadline. The money generated from advertising would cover the costs, but the profits, as I remember, were never great. “It’s a lousy business, but it’s a labour of love,” I heard Barbara say on more than one occasion.Undoubtedly, each month, once a new issue was born, we would receive calls from readers pointing out an error or reacting to a story. But that was okay. You learn to develop a thick skin in journalism, and you soon realize that reaction – even negative – is better than complacency among readers. Newspapers are there to make you think, and in the case of community papers like The Senior Times, they are also there to inspire.
I will always be grateful to Barbara for giving me a chance to work at her paper. I have never had a job quite like it and I doubt I ever will again. I felt like I was part of a family at The Senior Times. I’m glad that even though I’ve long since returned to Winnipeg and now work in public relations, I still freelance for community papers on a regular basis. It continues to be a labour of love…
Happy 20th Anniversary to everyone at The Senior Times!
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