"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.”
For John, that quote by author Douglas Adams pretty much sums up his life.
Born and raised in southern Ontario, in 1976 John decided to attend university in Winnipeg on a whim — just for one year. But one year turned into two, then three and four and now, all these years later, he is a Winnipegger.
In 1978, on another whim, he applied for a summer internship at a magazine. Although he had zero experience, he got the job. The storytelling bug bit hard, and he’s never looked back.
That decision led to a winding and almost whimsical career through three countries and nine different jobs, mostly in communications and marketing for international relief and development organizations (which provided the added bonus of being able to tell stories from around the world).
Along the way, John came to see the importance of working with the media as a great way for non-profits to share stories with the public. This led him to write Making the News: An Essential Guide for Effective Media Relations (Novalis).
One constant through John’s career has been his belief that almost every story has religion angle, and that the media could do a better job of telling it — as a succession of Free Press editors, beginning with Nick Hirst, knows only too well!
This belief also prompted him to organize Canada’s first-ever conference on faith and the media in in Ottawa in 1998, in collaboration with various media and local and national faith groups. More than 250 people from the media and faith groups attended the conference, which was sponsored by the Carleton University School of Journalism and Communication and the Canadian Association of Journalists.
In 2006, John received the Distinguished Contribution to Religious Communications from the Association of Roman Catholic Communicators of Canada. He has also won awards for his writing from the Associated Church Press and the Canadian Church Press.
John is a big believer in interfaith relations. Faith groups may differ on matters of belief, but also have many things in common. This includes making sure the role religion plays in society isn’t ignored by the media.
As the faith page columnist since 2003, John is grateful for how the Free Press has maintained its commitment to covering religion — even as other Canadian newspapers have dropped the religion beat.
John is a member of River East Church (Mennonite). He also writes for Religion News Service in the U.S., and blogs about the media, marketing and communications at Making the News.