In my early twenties I worked at a number of small newspapers and was always surprised that I, as a 20-year-old with relatively little experience, could attend an event, interview a person of interest or even simply formulate an opinion on a subject and whatever I wrote would appear in print for everyone to read.
There were some hard lessons along the way. I once wrote a bloated 1,500-word article about a local retired nun who made oil paintings of the flowers in her garden and my editor made me hack it down to a reasonable 200 words. In 1987 I interviewed a Canadian band that had just cut its first EP and I submitted a fairly dismissive review of its music. You might have heard of The Tragically Hip. And I was once sent out in a blizzard to capture a lastminute picture of the weather before press time and all I could come up with was a shot of a young man riding a unicycle in the snow. I still remember the look of disappointment on my editor’s face.
Although I soon left journalism for teaching, I have never lost my interest in storytelling. In this issue of Education Forum I became much more involved in the production of some of the stories and in doing so rekindled my old excitement for reporting and writing. Because this magazine is written mostly by our own members, I thought I’d share some of these experiences in the hope it might inspire you to consider contributing.
When the editorial board of Education Forum sat down to discuss story ideas and the topic of Educators’ Financial Group came up, we all agreed it was high time for an article featuring its services. A classic story idea for any publication is to find a topic that most readers know nothing about but probably should. Educators’ Financial is one of those topics: it is a financial-planning company owned by OSSTF/FEESO. It was also a timely choice because it was kicking off a promotional tour as part of its 40th anniversary. As someone who uses their services I was interested in talking with their President, Chuck Hamilton, and was amazed to learn of its history within OSSTF/FEESO.
When Jason Bremner, a teacher in District 29, Hastings-Prince Edward, came to me with the idea of interviewing Ed Broadbent for Education Forum, I thought it was a fantastic idea. When I pitched the idea to the editorial board, they expanded the idea and wanted to see an overview of some of the progressive and alternative media outlets our members might want to explore. This led Jason and me on a two-day tour of Toronto and Ottawa, visiting editors and having them explain how their particular news product fit into the media landscape. In Ottawa at the offices of Press Progress, we sat next to a window facing the Parliament Building talking to Sarah Schmidt, Director of Communications, who repeatedly pointed at it, saying, “That’s why we’re here.” The passion of the people working there and at the other alternative media outlets we visited was infectious.
In September Nanci Henderson of District 24, Waterloo asked me if she could write a review of Naomi Klein’s new book This Changes Everything. I suggested we try to get an interview and do a feature story instead. After numerous phone calls and e-mails we had one hour of her time booked. We met at a small, quiet table tucked away at the back of a diner in Toronto’s Roncesvalles Village. After reading the hefty 576-page book, we had both composed a neatly ordered list of questions for Ms. Klein, but our plan seemed to fall away as our conversation deepened and we struggled to touch on as many of her ideas in the short time allotted. Then whittling her responses down to a 2,000-word feature article was more agonizing still.
Deciding what stories would be of interest to our members and then finding writers willing to chase them down is always a challenge. As final deadlines near, I’m never sure we will make it but, like a play in disarray the day before opening night, we know the show will go on, Education Forum will get published and it will be worth it. Want to join us on the adventure? Have a story you want to pitch or a resource to review? Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.