Being only five weeks into my internship here at the Times-Herald, and my first foray into the world of print media, it may seem a little hasty of me to write a column about how journalism can consume your life. But I feel as if I have done so much and met so many amazing people already. Indeed, I can’t tell you what I don’t know, or what I’m surely yet to learn, but I can tell you what I’ve learned and experienced so far.
You hear a lot about how journalism isn’t a good business for people who can’t take criticism or deal with scrutiny; that it’s for people with thick skins and tough souls. But that doesn’t necessarily mean hard hearts; to be sure, it may mean the exact opposite.
Empathy is potentially the most powerful tool a journalist can carry. It means opening up your heart and mind to the stories and experiences of others. When you do this, it becomes more than a job; it becomes a visceral emotional experience.
So far I’ve been lucky enough to not have to deal with the intense criticisms that our profession can draw, save for my often-atrocious grammar. What I have been lucky enough to experience is a sense of involvement in important stories and with special people.
At first thought, a story about a local shoebox charity, or about a food drive, a haunted house, or even flu shots and wind, might not seem like the hardest hitting journalism — and maybe it’s not. But when you stop and really think, these seemingly small, local events can have a huge impact on a person’s life, and even if it is just a single person, a difference has been made.
Journalism requires a level of involvement not typical of most jobs. One minute I’m working late on a Friday night to attend a Chair-ity auction, speaking with and being wholly inspired by artists; shedding a tear with Carol Acton over a touching story she tells of the work she does for Hunger In Moose Jaw and the kids they help; or feeling proud that someone had donated a chair after reading my story in the paper. The next minute I’m following tractors around town for a food drive, talking with volunteers who have donated their time, energy and love to a cause so worth it; talking with the CEO of a huge company like Farm Credit Canada, and being touched at how genuine his compassion for the Drive Away Hunger food drive really is. These are people doing amazing things, and they do it whole-heartedly. I’m lucky enough to become a part of these stories and to be swept up in something bigger than just words on a page.
I’ve got to meet people like Terri Smith at the local food bank, whose unwavering compassion and hard work is truly something to marvel at, especially when you see the faces of the people she helps day in and day out. I’ve been shown unprecedented courtesy by people like Doug Smith of the Sukanen Ship Pioneer Village and Museum and I’ve had the privilege of being totally inspired by people like Anna Dubord of the Timothy Eaton Centre Seniors Painting Class, who showed me that it’s never too late in life to become truly remarkable at something — if that isn’t priceless what is? I’ve had my preconceptions shattered by Jared Robinson of Lunar Theory about what Moose Jaw is capable of producing — Moose Jaw is more than capable of producing world class people and world class talent, and I’ve been shown this first hand.
Now, people call me instead of the local health authority to ask questions about why a flu clinic was cancelled, or to tell me about nurses who are protesting unfair business practices, or to thank me for alerting them to the dangers of a windstorm, or to tell me that their cat has finally been found.
Never in my life have I had a job that left me so thoroughly exhausted, and never has it felt so good. I’ve worked numerous jobs of hard labor and long days, but this is something different. This is the type of exhaustion that comes from total involvement and total effort; of being swept up in the chaotic whirlwind of life, and of journalism.
Dustin Gill can be reached at 691-1263