Thanks for everything

This past May I moved back to Fort Frances and joined the editorial team at the Fort Frances Times to complete a summer internship here.

At the time, I fully expected to be the fifth reporter in the newsroom who got to write about whatever the others didn’t want to and anything that just came up, but to my pleasant surprise that wasn’t the case at all.

Over the past four months I’ve had the opportunity to cover a wide spectrum of events and topics—from flowers to fishing and much more.

I’ve been able to enjoy my mother and grandma’s cooking again and sleep in my childhood bed for longer than a couple nights at a time.

I’ve also been able to reunite with a lot of old friends and family who I may have not gotten to see on prior trips home because of limited time. And I had the opportunity to meet Chris Pronger and see the Stanley Cup in Dryden. This was definitely something I wasn’t expecting to happen in “the middle of nowhere,” as I like to refer to my home as.

Even though I was moving back to a familiar place with few exciting things going on, I was nervous about starting my job here.

Back in April when Times publisher Jim Cumming offered me the summer position, I felt overwhelmed because I didn’t know what to expect. On one hand, I was excited to be coming home to spend time with my family, but on the other, I was nervous about writing for the paper I had grown up reading and knew the entire town read.

I was even scared to attend my first meeting of the editorial staff, which they hold at 8 a.m. each Thursday morning, because I didn’t know what it would be like or what was expected of me. (I had once heard it referred to as the “Knights of the Round Table” meeting.) Why I found this intimidating, I don’t know.

Without letting my apprehensions stop me, I showed up on May 1 at the Times’ front counter ready to conquer my fears and the town.

Luckily, my fears disappeared almost immediately after the first day. My teammates all greeted me with open arms and let me know if I needed anything, all I needed to do was ask. I quickly learned editor Mike Behan wasn’t going to cut my head off if I made a mistake (like I’d imagined), and I could take a picture and produce copy within a deadline (as I’d feared might not be the case).

My first couple of weeks on the job were slow but they quickly picked up once news reporter Melanie Béchard went on holidays for two weeks.

During that time, I was responsible for her beat and found myself attending my first school board meeting and writing about the electoral reform report—the latter of which I had no idea what it was at first and found myself calling local MPP Howard Hampton hoping he would ramble on giving me good quotes and a better understanding of it all.

I also attended several final school events and graduations and wrote about the upcoming provincial candidates and the struggling Northwestern Ontario economy and forestry industry. I even survived my first letter to the editor during that time period.

Just when I thought things would slow down again because Béchard had returned, our other news reporter Duane Hicks had to take time off for medical reasons and I found myself writing about town issues such as road construction, dock closures, and town officials.

I quickly went from not having a phone of my own at my desk to having people calling to speak with me. It was all a strange concept because I once wasn’t sure I could be a reporter.

This all seems funny and as if it happened years ago rather than months ago now, because I’m now fully confident in my abilities as a reporter and am sad my summer job and stay are coming to an end.

However, this journey has taught me a lot of lessons in a short period of time and reminded me of many I learned previously.

Currently attending school, I reside in Calgary, and I must admit from the day I moved there I fell in love with the mountains and have been crazy about the west ever since. But now, after this summer, I’m going to have to re-think my love for Alberta.

Through this opportunity I’ve not only realized I can be a reporter and be successful at it but, I’ve realized the benefits of growing up in this community and Northwestern Ontario.

By coming home and working in this community, it has reiterated the importance of growing up in the North and the life lessons it has taught me. I’ve always known I was lucky to grow up in a small town because I’ve experienced the close-knit community’s generosity and had the opportunity to participate in every outdoor activity I can think of that city folk don’t always get to.

But, until this past summer I didn’t realize just how much that meant to me, or the importance and pride that goes with saying I’m from Northwestern Ontario. Since the day I first ventured off to a post-secondary learning institute I’ve always told people I’m from NWO—no not Ontario—but NWO. They’d ask, “Why?” and all I could tell them was because it’s a long way from Toronto.

Now, I have a better reason. When asked, I will tell people because it’s one of the most beautiful and unique areas you could ever visit. The people are kind and willing to help without asking them. You can go swimming practically anywhere considering the roads cater to the lakes and not vice versa. The sunsets and sunrises are breathtaking.

The fishing is fantastic, but the shore lunches are even better. Hockey is a religion here, and we know where other cities are on a map, even if others don’t know where we are.

Basically, I’ve realized no matter how hard I try or wherever I go, the NWO mentality will always remain with me and I will forever be grateful for that.

I’d like to thank: the Times for giving me my first job as a journalist and making me feel comfortable with this as a career option; my friends who made this summer one I’ll always remember; my family; all the people who where kind, cooperative, and returned my calls; Duane—thanks for being so patient with me when I’d ask a million questions; Heather and Justin thanks for the many laughs; Uncle John for everything you help everyone with; and Mike, I appreciate all of your patience with me and I’m happy I could make you laugh.

This community is truly a great place to work and grow-up in and it’s something everyone should be extremely proud of. As I head back to Alberta and the mountains this time, I will keep NWO and its beauty close to my heart.