A grateful good-by(line)

Elisa Nguyen
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Yesterday was my last official day of work as a reporter for the Fort Frances Times, so I wanted to take this opportunity to try and capture how much my time here has meant to me. For the longest time, writing has been a form of self exploration and a cathartic practice, so when I received a job offer as a newspaper writer, I was beyond excited to make a living doing what I already loved to do.

The Times team patiently guided me through the ethics and standards of news reporting. It still awes me to see how tirelessly they continue to work each day to publish weekly papers. They are present at key community events and listen intently at important meetings to keep people in the loop. Through watching them work, I learned how to be engaged with important issues, how to respond graciously to concerns, and how to never stop striving to tell the stories that matter.

It was a challenge at times, learning the town council lingo or trying to capture the heart of a big issue I may not have heard about before. And as someone who is naturally shy, sometimes I needed to do a few jumping jacks before conducting interviews with strangers to get the courage flowing through my veins. (Thankfully I’m a remote worker, so I could do as many jumping jacks and air punches as I needed without capturing awkward glances). This opportunity allowed me to cultivate the skills I’ll need for the rest of my life. And for the first time, I could call myself a “writer,” a title I feel very proud of.

My mentor John Pierce was a never ending source of encouragement even into his retirement, and believed in my abilities even when I didn’t. He helped me when I needed contacts or context about the town and gave heaps of positive feedback to my articles, which fueled me to keep writing. Despite being a remote-worker, I always felt supported and connected to Fort Frances thanks to his regular check-ins. He taught me how impactful kind words can and always will be.

I am so grateful to all the people I had the privilege to interview. Whether they were a farmer, business owner, young entrepreneur, student, councillor, artist, funeral home director, health care worker, athlete, or volunteer—everyone had incredible insights and a story that mattered. And even though I was an outsider to Fort Frances, many didn’t hesitate to invite me to coffee or said they hoped to see me at the next community events. I’d often have to explain that even if I left the house immediately, I wouldn’t arrive until at least around 20 hours later. You have all inspired me to give back to the community around me and to never give up on the work I’m passionate about.

And thank you, reader, for the privilege of your time. Your interest in what’s happening in your community matters a lot. I hope each copy of the Times has either brought a smile to your face, provided information that benefited your daily life, or even a bit of entertainment. I enjoyed receiving emails from you now and then.

Next, I hope to travel to where my family grew up in Vietnam, and keep some promises I made to myself before I turn 25. But each week, I’ll look forward to a new issue of the Times to catch a glimpse of Fort Frances, where my first foray into journalism all began.