GREAT WHITE NORTH!
Jonathan A. Gilbert
All Rights Reserved.
I must be doing something wrong writing this column as up to this point no one has threatened to sue me.
At first glance that comes across as weird I am sure but in the newspaper business it makes sense.
Over the next few installments of this column I am going to be talking about just that; the newspaper business. Or more specifically about my days as a newspaper reporter and columnist. While my first love a a writer is and always has been comics working as a reporter has also had its interesting and fun moments.
My stretch in the newspaper industry was five years from 2002 to 2007. While I had previously written articles for newspapers it was during those years in the early 2000s that i devoted all my writing energy to that medium. I worked for three different papers over that period and each job was different. I won't be naming those papers for reasons I am sure will become obvious but anyone who was around Port Stanley back then will know who I am talking about.
When I started working as a reporter in August 2002 I thought that outside of writing more and shorter articles it was pretty much the same as what I was doing before for newspapers. I could never have been more wrong. Within two weeks of working for the first paper I was covering a story about property lines on the beach that had the potential of dividing the village into two factions. And that wan't the only story I was working on. The paper I was working for was a weekly that covered news from Dutton Ontario to the west of Port Stanley to a village named Orwell near Aylmer Ontario which is east of where I lived. I covered Central Elgin (which Port Stanley was a part of) municipal and Elgin county politics for the area as well as the crime beat. It was pretty much an impossible task to cover all the news within that area for me and the other two reporters so I had to pick and chose what I felt my readers would be interested in. While there was occasionally someone who was disappointed that I didn't cover his or her event for the most part everyone was happy including my publisher who saw a steady growth in circulation after i came aboard.That's why I was taken aback one day when my publisher called me and cheerfully told me I was being sued.
Now if you have never been threatened with legal action-as I hadn't before I got that phone call-you might understand why I went into automatic panic mode. As I tried to express my concerns over the matter to the publisher he replied that my being sued was in fact great news and that it meant that I was doing my job.He then went on to explain that most of the time nothing ever comes from such threats and that I was obviously starting to uncover something that the person who was suing me didn't want me to.
"Don't worry", he said. "Keep up the great work", and then he hung up.
While the phrase "nothing usually comes out of such threats" rattled around in my brain and the the word "usually" being in bold type I decided reluctantly take to my publisher at his word. Nothing ever did come out of the threat of legal action or of the other six threats I received during my time as a reporter and in each case what was being done was the person threatening me was trying to scare me off a story.
It was at first unsettling though to say the least. To say that the newspaper business does not have its exciting moments would be false. it would also be false to say that reporters are sometimes asked to do the impossible like the time i was instructed to cover two stories at the same time that were happening on opposite sides of Port Stanley. We'll cover that next time out.
Jonathan A. Gilbert is a writer, editor, publisher and comics creator who lives in London Ontario Canada. He can be reached by email at JonAllanGilbert@yahoo.ca .