On Wednesday (April 1), Glacier Media halted publication of the Vancouver Courier and laid off most staff. Glacier, which owns about 50 news outlets in B.C., also laid off staff at other papers — the Burnaby Now, New West Record, the North Shore News and the Tri-City News — saying the cuts were temporary. Black Press, which owns about 80 publications across the province, has also announced layoffs and reduced publishing schedules.
On the last day of my squandered undergraduate years, I walked into the offices of the Vancouver Courier for the first time.
It was April 2014, and I was due to start a masters program in journalism in September even though I rarely read the news. Someone asked me how I felt about joining the “fourth estate,” and I had no idea what they were talking about. I only knew that I loved my city.
I decided it was a good idea to get some experience, so I cold emailed every paper in town. The only one that invited me in? The Courier.
The Sixth Avenue offices were in a two-storey building in the armpit of one of the Granville Bridge’s ramps. One side of the building was covered with a colourful mural of False Creek and the downtown, done like a kids’ picture book. Most of the space belonged to sales, with editorial on the back half of the ground floor. The building was nestled into a hill, and venturing into the half-underground newsroom was like walking into a bunker.
I was welcomed into the office of Barry Link, the very tall editor in chief, and we had a brief chat.
Then he asked, “So when do you want to start?”
And that was how I got into journalism.
I felt like I was in some TV show where the young protagonist gets a big break. But the signs of industry doom were already there. The desk I settled into had belonged to an assistant editor, who had been laid off after 21 years.
On day one, I met the cast. The first to come in by bike and turn on the lights was Mike Howell, always early or on time, always in a nice polo, always with a hearty lunch with vegetables like gourds and beets (he called one particularly colourful meal a “Jackson Pollock”). Howell, who covered civic affairs, was the first reporter I ever met, and everyone I went on to meet in the industry had a good thing to say about him. He always had writing tricks to share with me, whether it be reconstructing scenes or playing with time, and he was always reading some interesting book about people you might not think about, like the residents of flood tunnels beneath Las Vegas.
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