George Brown – Off The Record
So, what did I miss?
It’s good to be back in the office after spending better than two weeks with my own personal version of Planes, Trains and Automobiles as I sallied between provinces and newspaper conventions.
As a director on the board of the Canadian Community Newspapers Association (CCNA), I attended the Ink and Beyond conference and awards banquet in Toronto where I was pleased to accept four awards on behalf of the Ponoka News and our staff, some now departed.
The conference and sessions are a more intimate affair today, what with concentrated ownership of newspapers. Where 20 years ago you would have a two or three hundred independent newspaper publishers and editors attending to learn new skills and to catch up with acquaintances, you now have a few publishers representing the dozens of newspaper links added to their chain. It’s an evolution in the newspaper business as it is in many others where independent owners, whether accountants, grocers or brewers, accept an offer they couldn’t refuse.
In between the trips in and out of downtown Toronto, I managed to squeeze in quick visits with an old school chum and my mother, both of whom offered to take me out for a meal on my birthday, April 28. (I know, you meant to send a card…) It’s probably been 40 years since I’ve celebrated my birthday with my mother. And just when I thought that was something I should make a point of doing more often, out comes the Pickle Barrel restaurant crew to sing their own patented birthday greetings song. My face was as red as the cherry on top of the yummy dessert I didn’t need but enjoyed nonetheless.
The sports scene in Toronto while I was there was quiet since the Blue Jays were on the road — and the Maple Leafs and Raptors didn’t make the playoffs. It felt a lot like being in Edmonton or Calgary.
Somehow, when I travel across Canada I always leave better weather than I am going to. There’s been better weather in Ponoka than when I’ve been in Nanaimo, B.C. or Charlottetown, PEI. And when I return home, the weather here turns foul. While I was shivering in the snow in Kingston, Ont., you had a 25-degree day in Ponoka; I returned to Alberta and it snows when I’m in Calgary. Knowing this will happen to me makes it difficult to pack a suitcase.
Since Cheapskate Airlines now charge you for that second piece of checked luggage, packing for a long trip has become more of a challenge for me. Going Back East, my luggage weighed a hefty 49.8 pounds. Three ounces to spare. I thought I had managed to transfer most of my heavier items to my carry-on bag but I still pushed the scales on my return. Who knew coffee beans, bottles of Scotch, a newspaper award and a litre of fresh maple syrup could weigh so much?
While in Calgary I continued my busman’s holiday by enjoying a round of golf between meetings of the Alberta Weekly Newspapers Association (AWNA) board of directors. I was all set to challenge for the title at the Bing Crosby Golf Tournament (yes, that Bing Crosby donated the trophy) only to learn City of Calgary utilities construction had turned the Valley Ridge Golf Club into a 14-hole course. Consequently, some of us spent a lot of time at the 15th hole and then later in the hospitality suite. I can’t tell you where to find it, but I understand there is a video making the rounds of me losing an arm wrestling match to AWNA president Murray Elliott from the Olds Albertan. The spoils was a golf bag neither of us needed.
It’s good to be back on the job and to welcome a new reporter to the newsroom. Amelia Naismith is from Bentley and has just graduated from the journalism program at Lethbridge Community College. She’s come at the right time to see what this community is all about as we are into one of our busiest periods. We’re in the midst of high school graduations, track and field meets, the Ponoka Stampede and Canada Day. And barbecues. Lots of barbecues. And pancake breakfasts.
What better time or place to start your career?
It’s good to be back.