Looking for laughs in Ladysmith

Rick Stiebel is the interim editor for the Ladysmith Chronicle.

As Dan Hicks and his Hot Licks sang so succinctly back in ‘69, “How Can I Miss You When You Won’t Go Away?”

That tune was bouncing around the barren regions of my brain as I headed up Island for five weeks of work keeping the throne warm at the Ladysmith newspaper until the new editor arrives. Since this would mark the longest I’ve been away from the bride in many years, I thought it best to check with her before accepting the gig, but she was too busy packing my bags.

Barely 18 months into my so-called semi-retirement, I can now add the Chronicle to the growing list of Black Press papers I work for that includes, in order, the Goldstream News Gazette, the Sooke News Mirror, the Saanich News and the Oak Bay News.

It’s fair comment to say that I’ve turned into one of those contract wordslingers; this phrase for hire. Due to my Stone Age computer skills, however, I have never seen my name attached to a masthead in the spot reserved for editor until last week. There’s a long list of editors I’ve worked with who will be reeling and retching at the very thought of ever stumbling across a copy of any form of publication that lists me that way, unless it was done in crayon.

Speaking of editors, my new-found sources in Ladysmith insist that the Sooke News Mirror’s own Kevin Laird launched his journey into journalism here back in the day. Other real deal talented editors who have worn out the seat I’m sitting on include Mitch Wright, Andrew Topf and Edward (don’t call me Ted unless we’re friends) Hill.

My original mentor and good friend Keith Norbury, who bore the brunt of my mistake-plagued early years at the Gazette, worked at the paper in Duncan for many years, a short sprint down the highway.

For reasons beyond my limited scope, I’ve been blessed to work with some of the best in the biz in less than a generation, or roughly half of that time frame in reporter years. We’ll leave whether they were digging into the bottom of the barrel at hiring time as a topic for another day, but I do want to give a huge shout-out to Melissa Fryer, the real Chronicle editor who works at the Nanaimo News Bulletin. I couldn’t do this without her patience, expertise, layout skills and sense of humor.