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A fond farewell from the Chemainus Valley Courier editor

Reporting career begins and ends in the basement

It’s never easy to determine the right time to leave a profession that’s been such a big part of your life for 44 years.

But, after much consideration, the time for me is now. This is my last issue as editor of the Chemainus Valley Courier. I am retiring as of Friday, March 15.

By the way, for those who are wondering, my departure has absolutely nothing to do with the pending sale of Black Press Media after owner David Black announced his retirement recently. It’s purely coincidental.

I have actually been contemplating retirement for the last year and a half, but wound up staying on for a variety of reasons. I was set to announce it when the company sale trumped me and decided to hold off another couple of weeks at that point.

Looking back on it all, it’s been a wild ride just in the conversion of the print media to an entirely different model during my time with the increasing focus on digital and advancements in technology.

I can remember counting characters and writing out headlines on pieces of paper to fit the required spaces and then handing it to the production department to have them typeset. It all seems very archaic compared to the sophisticated GPS system we use now in the pagination process.

Most of my career has at the very least touched upon Chemainus and, in fact, I never really left covering events in the community, with some overlap during my 32 years primarily in Duncan at the Cowichan Leader and then the Cowichan News-Leader and Cowichan News Leader Pictorial following ownership changes along the way.

It’s the people I’ll remember most, those I’ve done stories on and those who’ve provided me with valuable contacts. Some I’ve known all my life from growing up in Chemainus – and that’s a long time ago – while others are obviously more recent as the community continues to evolve over time with new folks moving in.

I appreciate everyone who gave me the important information I needed in order to print the stories that tell a big part of the community’s history and will surely stand the test of time in the records long after I’m gone.

There is a rather compelling, if not amusing, comparison between the time I started in this business and the last few years leading to the conclusion this week.

Back in the fall of 1979, I began writing for the Ladysmith-Chemainus Chronicle while playing my last season with the Fuller Lake Junior B Flyers hockey team after withdrawing from UBC and returning home. I was hired part-time initially to write sports so I spent the entire weekend primarily gathering information from hockey games at Fuller Lake Arena and other sports around the area.

Once Sunday night rolled around, I would head for the basement of our family home in Chemainus, pull out the foolscap and the typewriter and get to work. It would take me several hours to compile my stories into the wee hours of Monday morning.

After midnight, the radio station I had dialed in for background accompaniment, CFOX Vancouver, switched from music to ‘The Shadow’ classic radio programs. I only paid attention periodically while writing my copy, but even snippets of those episodes provide me with a distinct memory.

I would head to bed usually after 2 a.m. and then back up a few hours later to deliver my copy to the Ladysmith office. No email in those days that would have made the process much faster.

Fast forward to June of 2020 and, lo and behold, I wound up back in the basement at my Duncan home this time after the Chemainus office for the Courier closed during the early stages of COVID. There was just myself as the full-time staff for the Courier anyway and no need to have an actual office location when so many people started working remotely at home at the height of the pandemic.

It’s kind of ironic I am finishing my career in the same manner as I started after so many years: in the basement.

Overall, the highlights for me are too numerous to mention. One of the things I started in Duncan that seemed to be especially popular with the public was the listing of the top 100+ high school-aged athletes of the year for the entire Cowichan Valley, including Chemainus.

It was quite a pain-staking process compiling the list each year, but I still have people asking me about it and talking about it today. Many of the athletes went on to even more amazing accomplishments after leaving high schools in the area and some are still going strong today.

One of my main missions has always been to acknowledge the achievements of our young people – be it in sports, the arts, academics or anything else. And as newspapers have become even more foreign to today’s youth, I wanted to bring the importance of that media exposure to their attention and also so the community knew about the great things they were doing.

After all, that’s really how I got my start in this industry. I was always excited and grateful to see my name in the paper for my hockey, basketball and soccer achievements and I wanted to return the favour, in a sense, and make teens, in particular, feel like celebrities in their own town for doing something extraordinary.

My 6 3/4 years as editor of the Courier marked an interesting change in my career path. I had always been part of a staff over all my previous years, but this was the first time covering absolutely anything and everything on my own.

I learned a lot along the way and branched out into many areas of interest I never thought I would. The community has been so supportive, I can’t begin to truly thank everyone.

There’s obviously a strong base here in community organizations and service clubs. Those matters always commanded my full attention because without those individuals from the Chemainus Legion, the Rotary Club of Chemainus, the Chemainus Health Care Auxiliary, Chemainus Health Care Foundation, businesses around town and so many more, where would we truly be?

As I close out my tenure, everyone who knows me is aware of my love of music and music trivia. I can’t end without some kind of song title reference as a final quote. This is not goodbye for good because as the 1970s group The Spinners declared: ‘I’ll Be Around.’

It just won’t be in the same capacity that so many are used to seeing me with a camera dangling around my neck and a notebook in my hand.

Don Bodger

About the Author: Don Bodger

I've been a part of the newspaper industry since 1980 when I began on a part-time basis covering sports for the Ladysmith-Chemainus Chronicle.
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