Arts & Life
Canstar Community News
Long before archives could be accessed online with a few keystrokes and the click of a computer mouse, there were proud parents cutting stories out of newspapers and putting them in binders for safe-keeping.
"I can't believe I found them so quickly," my mother says upon locating a pair of personal treasure troves that had been gathering dust in her basement. As I crack open the three-ring artifacts, I feel a bit like a child tearing off the wrapping paper on Christmas morning. Much of the contents, which should be familiar, have long been forgotten.
The first entry stops me in my tracks, then brings a smile to my face.
"Frenzy of Jets fund-raising," blares the headline. "It's up to the people," reads the subhead. Below is my byline, followed by the first words I ever typed as a full-time journalist in this town.
"We won't go down without a fight," my story began. "That's the message behind a grassroots campaign aimed at raising public money to keep the Winnipeg Jets in town."
The piece was penned exactly 25 years ago, on May 14, 1995. Not surprisingly, it involved one of my favourite writing crutches in those early days — make a brief, bold statement or even use direct quote in the lede, then follow it up in the second sentence with attribution and context. Tsk, tsk. My journalism instructor, Donald Benham, likely wouldn't have approved.
I was just 20 years old at the time, fresh out of Red River's Creative Communications program. My first work placement had been at local television station CKND for their late-night Sportsline program with Gene Principe and Daren Millard. Three memorable weeks, where I laughed and learned so much from two masters of their craft. Unfortunately there wasn't an immediate job opening. I had better luck with my second placement at the Winnipeg Sun, where I got hired when the placement was done.
Sports journalism was always my first choice, but just like the Jets' immediate future in Winnipeg, it wasn't meant to be at the time. The hockey team was saved for one lame-duck season before packing their bags and heading for the desert. And I was shuffled to the vacant crime beat, which was a pretty big deal at the time for the local tabloid.
It was an eye-opening experience, especially for a kid who admittedly grew up in the not-so-mean streets of North Kildonan. Flipping through story clippings provides a stark reminder of how quickly things changed: "Van falls on man in fatal mishap." "911 wait peril for boy." "Trail of blood leads from stabbing scene." "Cop pierced by needle on suspect." "No charges in shooting." "Family prays." "Human remains unearthed."
Those are just from my first few weeks on the job.
Despite the ugly subject matter, I threw myself into the work. Long days at the office were followed by even longer nights with my police scanner nearby, rushing to crime scenes to get quotes and photos and chat with witnesses, cops, paramedics and firefighters who would become valuable sources.
I got my call up to the journalism big leagues in the fall of 1997 when the Free Press welcomed me into the fold, thanks largely to departing crime reporter Doug Nairne, who convinced his bosses I should take over his beat. My front-row seat to some of the worst society had to offer continued until the spring of 2016, including 17 straight years working out of the downtown Law Courts building.
At that point, with more than two decades, thousands of bylines, six books and a nationally syndicated radio show that had been airing for more than a decade under my belt, I was more than ready for a change. My head, and my aching heart, desperately needed it.
Unlike that first story I didn't recall covering, I saw many things over the years I wish I could erase from my mind, but will stay with me forever.
Kudos to editors Paul Samyn and Steve Lyons, who gave me the chance to leave my life of crime (writing) behind and take my long-awaited shot at the sports department. Long gone was the naive, wide-eyed 20-year-old with the empty notebook covering that ill-fated Save The Jets rally back in 1995. He'd been replaced by the somewhat bitter, somewhat jaded 41-year-old husband and father of two with a thinner hairline and thicker waistline.
To say it's turned out well would be a massive understatement. The last four years have been the most enjoyable of my career, including covering those back-from-the dead Jets, along with columnist duties. As a result, I've now had a much more enjoyable front-row seat to some of the most exciting moments local sports teams have had to offer.
Highlights include covering last November's Blue Bombers Grey Cup victory in Calgary, the hockey club's march to the Western Conference final in the spring of 2018, and back-to-back Winnipeg Goldeyes championships, including being in Wichita, Kansas for the first in 2016, then covering the surreal repeat a year later at Shaw Park in which it looked the Fish had actually lost the series only to have the outcome reversed by a bizarre balk call.
Sports really is the best reality show going, and it's both a pleasure and an honour to cover it for you, one I'll never take lightly.
COVID-19 aside, plenty has changed in the world, and the journalism business since I started. Social media, which can be both a blessing and a curse, is now an integral part of what we do, with news and reaction coming both fast and furious, at times. That means an ever-present need to adapt, and evolve, not to mention constantly have thick skin and accept you'll never please everyone. It comes with the territory.
My mother no longer saves my articles either, which is probably a good thing. Her basement would be overflowing with big blue binders at this point. But its not every day you celebrate a 25th anniversary. So, perhaps to mark this special occasion, she'll make an exception. For purely sentimental reasons, this one feels like a keeper to me.
Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.
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