Telling stories

Posted: April 27, 2017 at 11:34 am   /   by   /   comments (2)

Truth be told, it was a simple case of fraud. Thirteen years ago, I had no experience or training in running a newspaper. Armed only with the arrogance of a newcomer from the city and an unhealthy confidence in my own views, I acquired the Wellington Times from Gord Dancey in April 2004. A few months earlier, I had purchased his main-street-Wellington home and had convinced myself in the interim we could do this—that we, Kathleen and I, could run a community newspaper.

It has been a terrific, though sometimes chaotic, adventure. Along the way we poked the complacent, unsettled the comfortable and angered those who believe the public should best stay out of public business.

Lily, our youngest, was a brand-new baby then. Next fall, she will attend high school in Picton.

In 2004, the newspaper was still laid out on large paste-up boards—every story and column of text, cut and pasted into six narrow columns. Each board photographed and the resulting film used to burn printing plates. After six days of preparation, it took just 12 minutes to print, fold and package 1,800 copies.

It took the better part of a year to make the transition to digital production— beaming our files to Belleville rather than carrying them in unwieldy flat-pack cases—praying an ad or photograph didn’t shift on the journey. The technology bit was easy, it was the workflow process—selling, production and editorial— that proved much harder to change.

I began tweaking a few things. I learned quickly that the editor of a community paper shares a similar predicament with that of the United Church minister. It easy to delude yourself that this is your church—that is, until you move something. Oh how quickly you are reminded to whom the church actually belongs.

Our first issue in April 2004 featured a frontpage story about a West Lake high school student, Connor Emdin, who had just won the Quinte Region Science Fair. I remember feeling wildly out of my depth as this young man explained how he had assessed the use of milk whey as a method of treating or fending off fungal disease in leafy plants and vines. Connor went on to study at University of Toronto, earned a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University and is currently conducting post-doctoral epidemiological research at Harvard.

But back in 2004, however, Connor’s story elicited fewer comments than the fact that we had moved the What’s On column off the front page, deeper into the paper.

The best part of my job is that it gives me a reason—other than idle curiosity—to approach strangers and ask them about their stories; to see the world, but for a moment through their eyes. Whether with a young Connor Emdin or an utterly enchanting afternoon with musician Guido Basso, I have been blessed these past 13 years to have learned and shared the stories of the lives of many of the immensely interesting, diverse and astonishing people who call Prince Edward County home.

Absent any requisite training, I have made plenty of blunders and missteps—often without being aware. But we got a few things right, too. Among the most important of these was to surround myself with great people—people with insight, compassion for this community and intelligence.

I always figured I could get away with my more indulgent, less gracious views when they were balanced by the wise, kind and penetrating words of folks including David Simmonds, Robin Baranyai, Mihal Zada, Marjorie Seguin and Conrad Beaubien. Or the gentle, but incisive humour of Tim Snyder, John Kennedy and Celine Papazewska. And even the grittier offerings of Theresa Durning or Steve Campbell. Mary Darlington, Drew McCandlish and Sharon Harrison have each taken turns at sharing their passion for the garden and the beauty that grows within. And each week Ramesh Pooran and Kathleen Sabyan have reflected back to us stirring images of our community—of children, of achievement and of celebration.

I have benefited immensely from the tutelage and encouragement of folks with bona fide journalism credentials including Pat and Roger Whittaker, Trish Worron and Kevin Scanlon.

Each of these folks and many others have helped make The Times a distinctive and compelling voice in Prince Edward County. It is why our circulation has risen three-fold in an era of declining print journalism. It is why each and every copy is picked up by someone who made a decision to pick up The Times this week. It is an accomplishment for which we are tremendously proud.

It is time, however, for Kathleen and me to take a step back. It is time for younger, more energetic voices to move to the fore. Effective May 1, Corey Engelsdorfer will become the owner and publisher of The Times. Mihal Zada will become editor.

All else, with our contributors’, readers’ and advertisers’ blessing, will remain the same.

I hope to continue to write a column each week—and to contribute in other ways. Perhaps the opportunity to pursue stories that are uniquely or personally appealing.

We aren’t going anywhere. This isn’t farewell. Merely a nod to the hardworking and able folks who have earned their opportunity to put their stamp on The Times, and in doing so continue the mission of delivering unique, compelling and sometimes unsettling stories each week.

We have had the extraordinary privilege of documenting the story of Prince Edward County, as it has enjoyed, sometimes endured, significant transformation over the past 13 years. It has been our honour to share these stories with you.

Thank you.

Comments (2)

  • May 7, 2017 at 2:17 pm David Brown

    Thank you Rick and Kathleen. I’ve learned a lot about the newspaper business since meeting you and hope to keep seeing you at Dukes games.

  • May 4, 2017 at 11:11 pm Farkas Baranyai

    What’s more to say? Thanks Rick, you’ve made our community a better place.

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