One chapter ends, another set to begin

Looking back at a life in journalism

Greg Knill

This column has taken nearly 32 years to write.

It began September 7, 1987.

I was a nervous journalism grad reporting for my first day of work at a small-town newspaper in Alberta.

It was Labour Day.

And the fact that my first day on the job was a statutory holiday pretty much set the tone for the next couple of decades.

Journalism is not a 9 to 5 job. It wasn’t back then and it certainly isn’t now, thanks to websites and social media.

But that’s about the only thing that hasn’t changed. I graduated just as the first rays of digital pagination were warming the horizon. It was a slow, and at times graceless dawn, but it was unrelenting and it quickened with each passing year.

It wasn’t long before reporters were not just responsible for researching and writing their stories, but also designing the pages they appeared on.

Soon, the rigid deadlines so sacred in newspapering were softened, smudged and eventually dissolved by the digital wave. Today, our stories are more likely to appear online (coupled with video and dutifully tweeted and posted to social media) before they ever show up on your doorstep.

Despite the changes, journalism at its core remains fairly simple. We tell stories, either through our words or our images. We lack the luxury of being unfettered by facts; we don’t get to make it up, and when we’re wrong, we hear about it.

The stories we tell are your stories. Some you’ll be happy to read, others you’ll wish you hadn’t. But our goal is always to reflect reality – celebrating the good and not shying from the tragic.

Some of the stories I’ve been proudest to tell have been about our veterans. They’ve taken me to the trenches of First World War France, to the beaches of Dieppe, the hills of Italy and the skies over Normandy. Their stories are worthy of being told and their recollections protected from the corrosion of time.

I’m also proud of the people I’ve worked with, laughed with, and learned from. Their dedication, enthusiasm and ability to adapt to the multitude of changes and challenges our industry has faced is inspiring.

We are fortunate to have them.

True, I am biased. But in a world awash with misinformation and misdirection we need professionals who can suss through the facts, fictions and outright fantasies.

One of the ironies of our age is that we have never had so much information at our fingertips. And yet, much of it is garbage, written deliberately to deceive and divide, but still consumed hungrily because it flatters a world view. Knowing who to trust is essential to navigating this fractured media landscape.

And my money is on the professionals who understand how to verify a fact, seek multiple sources and consult credible authorities. They won’t be my only reference, but they will have my confidence.

Today, this column ends. I am officially retired, with other chapters ahead of me to write.

Chilliwack is on the cusp of some exciting things: the redevelopment of the downtown, the revitalization of its retail sector, the promise of economic growth, and the improvement of its educational facilities.

The Chilliwack Progress, like it has for the past 128 years, will be there to record these achievements and continue to tell your stories.

I am grateful to have played a brief part in that history.

And I thank my colleagues and the community for making this story possible.

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