Beach Metro a career highlight for former reporter

It seems only fitting that my phone would ring just before Easter weekend, with Beach Metro News’ general manager Sheila Blinoff on the other end, asking if I would be willing to write for the paper once again. No, it wasn’t an offer to return to the best job in journalism, but an opportunity to reflect on my time as the paper’s reporter/photographer. Just the thought of it put a smile on my face.

So I spent the long weekend thinking about all of the stories I covered during my time at BMN. I also spent time that weekend reading about the Easter Parade in the dailies, and watching live coverage on television. It made me reminisce about the many times I had cruised along a closed-off Queen Street, cameras in tow, covering the parade, or Jazz Festival, or the replacement of the streetcar tracks.

Queen Street was always a place to go for action, but it wasn’t always a great photo op that drew me there.

In January 1999, before dawn broke and in the midst of a brutal cold snap, a fire raged in an apartment building on the north side of Queen at Neville Park. It was so cold my cameras seized up in minutes, and the water from the fire hoses froze, encasing the building in an eerie shell of hanging ice. Two people died, and for the rest of Toronto’s media, the story was all but forgotten within 48 hours. But not for BMN.

We had a duty to tell the entire story. So together with my editor Carole Stimmell, we put together a package that encompassed stories about the victims and the local effort to help their families. We talked to the first firefighters on the scene, and tracked down the streetcar driver who went door to door when he spotted the smoke. We offered a page of photographs that captured the heartbreak of that day. In the end, we beat the major media players, and were recognized for it with an award.

But the true reward was knowing we did everything we could to tell the story that impacted our readers – our community.

It is the community that makes Beach Metro what it is: a truly incredible resource. It is the community that lives in the Beach Metro newsroom. It is the community of volunteers who make sure the paper makes its way to doorsteps across The Beach. It is the community who contribute to Beach Metro in ways no other local paper can ever know.

This community has been a beacon for me ever since I was a kid. I would regularly make my way from Scarborough to visit my Nan, who lived at Queen and Coxwell. It was my Nan who saw the reporter posting in Beach Metro and passed it along. And the community took it from there.

The late, great Mark Dailey was on the board during my time as a staffer, and it was on his recommendation that I was hired at Citytv. My move from print to broadcasting brought me more challenges than I could imagine. It took me to the Vancouver Olympics. It now has me overseeing the production of a national network. But the community has not left me. In fact, The Beach is the place I proudly call home.

Quite simply, if it wasn’t for my colleagues at Beach Metro, and the community that supports them, I don’t know where I’d be right now.

I am blessed to have contributed in some small way to its storied history.

I still look forward to every issue – and to the memories that flow every Easter Sunday, when that bunny makes its way along Queen.

Beach Metro News: Thank you. Here’s to many more years of continued success.

Grant Jennings was the reporter/photographer at Beach Metro News from February, 1998 to September, 1999.

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