Photojournalist or photographer with a keyboard?

Once again, I’m apologizing for my absenteeism. It’s just that keeping up with all this crazy newfangled online stuff can get overwhelming sometimes. Meh. On with the post…

I’ve talked about my job here before. I’ve talked about my job which can be really, really boring at times — babysitting a news web page and monitoring incoming email and editing and posting boring news releases. Yea, that’s boring and rote and mundane. But, I can copy-edit like nobody’s business. I can spot a grammar or punctuation error from a mile away. And I do. And I’m pretty sure it drives my friends nuts. It’s just habit now.

The other part of my job — the photojournalism part — is significantly less boring. I get into shows and events for free (most of the time), and I get to shoot rock stars and famous people and interesting public figures. And cute kids and dogs. I always call dibs on the dog assignments…

The problem with the photojournalism part of my job is the ‘journalism’ part of my job. I really don’t think I’m much of a writer. Never have really thought of myself as such even though it was my writing — an earlier, now defunct blog, actually — that landed me the job in the first place. The new-at-the-time general manager was directed to my blog by a friend and she liked my style. I didn’t know at the time I had a style. But it was that style that prompted her to offer me a job, part-time at first. That was in 2006.

I worked strictly entertainment assignments at that time under the tutelage of the now-former news editor. He liked my photography more than my writing, I think, and guided and groomed my ‘style’ to fit the news outlet’s format. He also encouraged me to not put too much of myself into my pieces, even though I continued to do so. For a bit. He said that putting too much of yourself into a piece puts a target on your back. Especially when working for a news source. He may have been right. But is that a bad thing?

So, my writing gradually became more formulaic and uniform. I began reporting and not reviewing. I fell into a routine when it came to writing. But my photography — in my humble opinion — began to flourish. I don’t want to sound the way I know I sound, but I really am quite proud of my photography. I enjoy and treasure it, and I hope that shows. Although I’m called a photojournalist, I’m really a photographer with a keyboard. The ‘journalist’ part might be a bit of a stretch.

There have been times, on occasion, when I actually have felt like a real journalist, however. Four times, maybe. Yep. I can count them on one hand.

This is not to say that I haven’t written pieces that I’m proud of. I have. Quite a few times, actually. But the times I’ve felt like an honest to goodness journalist are more about the content or circumstances surrounding the pieces than anything else.

Something I wrote ignited a series of events that ended with Canadian musician, Matthew Good, boycotting Sault Ste. Marie. Things got a tad out of hand, words were exchanged, rebuttals were posted, jobs and friendships were jeopardized, and feelings were hurt. Mr. Good himself sent me a private message thanking me for my article. You can read it here (the article, not the thank you note).

Yea, I felt like a journalist then. I think that was the first time.

I also felt like a journalist when I was less than kind to Mr. Danko Jones. I was less than kind to Danko Jones because he was less than kind to the Sault fans that came out and paid money to see him perform here. He was an ass hat, actually. He may never ever play here again. Maybe because he knows he was an ass hat to his Sault fans, or maybe because I wrote about his ass-hattedness (shush, ‘ass-hattedness’ is a word in my world). But really, I honestly don’t think anyone here misses him. Not after how he behaved that night. You can read what I wrote — and laugh at the cover photo I shot — here.

No. It’s not just controversy that makes me feel like a journalist. Back in 2007, I put a tremendous amount of effort into a piece about the 20th anniversary of the A&PHL. A tremendous amount of effort because, not only did it involve photography, video, and a great deal of writing, but because it meant me giving up my Christmas Eve in order to capture the event. It’s a piece I’m extremely proud of.

So, what’s the A&PHL?

The A&PHL is an annual Christmas Eve three-game tournament of pick-up hockey that takes place in the A&P parking lot. That A&P is now a Metro, but the event name remains the A&PHL. There’s two teams — the Unity Squad and the Community Squad — and a pretty cool trophy up for grabs. It’s been happening on that same night, at that same time, in that same parking lot since 1988.

Nineteen eighty-eight!

So, back in 2007, I covered the 20th anniversary of the A&PHL. And I loved every minute of it. And I still think it’s one of the best, most interesting things I’ve done. You can read the whole story here. Rather than click the video link contained within the article, please see the A&PHL 20th anniversary video below, edited with the helpful and able hands of Sault filmmaker, Dan Nystedt. We took great care in selecting the soundtrack for the video, which more than satisfies the Can-Con requirements and includes the Shuffle Demons, the Tragically Hip, and Stompin’ Tom Connors (of course).

In case you’re wondering, I do indeed intend on covering the upcoming 25th anniversary of the A&PHL. If I can stay up that late. I’m old now.

The most recent occasion when I felt like a real journalist was just a few weeks ago. I was granted the opportunity to interview someone I have the utmost respect for. Someone who has a job I envy. Someone who is the best interviewer in the country right now, as far as I’m concerned. I was granted 15 minutes on the phone with Jian Ghomeshi. I was quite nervous, but the interview went well and he was cordial and gracious and funny. He put me at ease. He’s good at putting people at ease, I guess. He’s had a lot of practice.

You can read what transpired here. I feel it’s one of the best pieces I’ve ever written. And, unlike what I was taught by my former news editor, I put quite a bit of myself into it. I felt, under the circumstances, it was appropriate to do so. And it was a piece that was important to me. It was important to me because of my aforementioned respect for Mr. Ghomeshi. But also, maybe because of this opportunity, I’ll be granted other interview opportunities I’d previously been rejected by. Who knows. Maybe not.

So, whether a photojournalist or just a photographer with a keyboard, I’ve done some things in my accidental current career I’m proud of. Some of it controversial, some of it not. I’ve decided that I’m going to share some of my most favourite pieces of writing here, even though I don’t really consider myself a writer. I suppose I should let the reader be the judge.

In addition to writing for my job, I used to write band reviews/bios for the semi-monthly publication Loplops used to put out, LOPticulations. I’ll start my sharing with some of those selections.

Stay tuned.

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