When I first went to journalism school, I never envisioned being interested in hard news.
I had the interpretation all news stories of the political and crime persuasion were written the same and contained no style. Just the cold, hard facts.
The first memorable assignment I was tasked to write involved whether incineration would return to the Ashbridges Bay Treatment Plant.
I remember feeling overwhelmed – being tossed into this situation where I didn’t understand how the three levels of government worked and why this issue was important to local residents.
But the more time I devoted to learning about what the story actually meant to the people I interviewed, it all began to make sense – people were really worried about chest pains and asthma resulting from incinerating sewage sludge.
The Beach Metro ran a two-part series on this topic and by the end, I realized my purpose as a reporter – I wanted to help people, particularly the underdogs. I wanted to put pressure on government and hold them accountable.
Sure, it sounds a bit cliché, but it’s the starting platform I use in my work now at the Toronto Sun.
Working at the Beach Metro was my jumping-off point into my news career. Since leaving the community paper in 2004 or 2005, I’ve worked at other outlets including Post City Magazines, CBC-Radio and Now Magazine.
At the Sun newsroom – despite it being a large metropolitan daily – I’m often reminded of the family feel I experienced working alongside my colleagues at the Beach Metro, particularly editor Carole Stimmell and writer Bill MacLean, who were always there if I needed help clarifying stories. It was a small staff and you had to do more with less, so I learned to multi-task.
There’s merit in keeping small community papers around. It might not be shootings and fiery car crashes on every page, but these papers know the area inside out and the people that continue to live there. There is a long-standing relationship with the Beach community this paper has nurtured. They cover stories that we big dailies can sometimes miss.
Oh, and one last thing.
One big lesson I learned on my first day at Beach Metro after being sternly corrected is it’s “the Beach,” not “Beaches.”