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Editor: news team  embraces responsibility  that comes with publishing a quality newspaper

Editor: news team embraces responsibility that comes with publishing a quality newspaper

by Chris Daponte

As the summer of 2005 dragged on, I became increasingly frustrated with the lack of employers jumping at the opportunity to hire me, a young(ish), newly-graduated journalism student.

On a whim, I decided to call the publisher of a Fergus newspaper where a close friend of an aunt worked.

The publisher on the other end of the line sounded a bit annoyed – perhaps he hadn’t yet had his third cup of morning coffee – and informed me there were currently no reporter jobs available. Nonetheless, I sent along my resume and requested that I be considered should anything open up.

A few weeks later my phone rang with an offer of an interview. And the following Monday, on Aug. 15, 2005, I started full-time as a reporter for the Wellington Advertiser.

My very first assignment was a small photo and story on an impromptu performance by local Elvis tribute performer Wayne Langille in downtown Fergus on the anniversary of the King’s death.

Looking back, it was a pretty pathetic first appearance in the newspaper, but like any other young reporter, I was extremely proud of my debut (paid) byline - and I will never forget it.

As chance would have it, a bona fide journalism opportunity presented itself just days later.

In the early afternoon on Aug. 19, just my fifth day at the Advertiser, severe thunderstorms hit the Fergus area. The sky darkened fast and the lights at the office on Gartshore Street in the north end of Fergus flickered.

Then the power went out and branches and leaves started to fly by the office windows, though it seemed eerily quiet.

Looks like tornado weather, I thought to myself. Mike Robinson, a veteran Advertiser reporter, verbalized the same suspicion, but he was quickly shot down.

“No, it can’t be,” bellowed longtime reporter David Meyer from the next cubicle. “Guys, tornado season is May and June, not this late in the summer.”

He talked with such conviction on the topic that I started to second-guess myself.

But it was only a matter of minutes before the office phones began to ring with reports of a tornado touching down just 1km north of the office. Around the same time, another twister hit the Conestogo Lake area in Mapleton Township.

For the rest of the day, and for the next few weeks, I helped to cover the tornadoes and the aftermath. It was a horrible experience for those who lived through the devastation, but it was a phenomenal learning experience for me.

Thirteen years later, it remains one of the most important stories I have ever covered.

It also provided one of the office’s longest standing jokes about Meyer’s inability to predict the weather (we still remind him of it often).

In the years to follow there were many other important stories covered, in addition to the “run-of-the-mill” community news that is equally vital to residents. My first seven years were quite busy, between council coverage, assignments, photos, layout and copy editing. But they were fun times and I learned a lot, particularly from failed weatherman Dave Meyer.

In 2011, I was named copy editor and the following year I was appointed editor.

Since then it has been my privilege to help welcome reporters Patrick Raftis, Jaime Myslik and Olivia Rutt. Along with me and Robinson, they make up the five-person team that brings residents their news each week. I am confident in declaring it is the best editorial team in the region, and one of the finest in the province.

This amazing team was integral to some of the Advertiser’s greatest achievements in recent years: improved and expanded news coverage (including an added focus on sports, school boards, public health, etc.); publishing more breaking news online and in the newspaper, and incorporating social media as a regular part of our coverage.

Not everyone realizes the dedication and attention to detail that’s required to publish a quality community newspaper. It’s a huge responsibility, but it’s one everyone here embraces.

We love telling stories. Your stories. And with good fortune, this newspaper will continue to do just that for at least another 50 years.

Thanks for reading.

April 13, 2018


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