The Littlest Hobo: London.

John White: Bidding an emotional farewell to Castlegar

They made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.

They made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.

The executives at Black Press recently asked me if I would be interested in moving to Vernon to take over as editor of the venerable Vernon Morning Star newspaper and digital properties.

It’s an ultra-competitive market in a thriving area of the Okanagan and would bring with it many challenges and hurdles to clear. Naturally, I jumped at the chance given my penchant for challenge-accepting and hurdle-jumping.

I’ve always been a journalistic nomad, venturing from town to town in search of new mysteries to solve and wrongs to right. Really, I’m the Littlest Hobo of journalism.

Looking back on more than a year at the helm as the regional editor based in Castlegar, I realized I did a lot of crying, and, a lot of laughing and smiling.

I cried covering the peace vigil after Chrissy Archibald was killed in a London terror attack. I often cried when I had to write or edit stories about tragic accidents or opioid overdoses. I cried covering the Humboldt Broncos vigil last week. A lot.

This community really rallies when one of us is hurt or when they sense a coming together of energy and emotion is necessary for healing. The closest I’ve come previously to experiencing this level of emotional support is when I grew up in Winnipeg. In fact, Winnipeg is known as the charity capital of Canada. Us ‘Peggers really know how to rally.

But it wasn’t all tears, at least not all from pain.

I met several intensely interesting, open and warm people in my short time here. I crossed off several bucket list items including attempts at karaoke and yoga thanks to these new friends. I drank a lot of lattes. I covered the Rebels and really bonded with coach Bill and the players and felt a growing connection with the team as the season went on. I attended and reviewed many concerts and performances in Castlegar, Rossland, Trail and Nelson. I hiked. I even got back into hockey, briefly.

Thanks to these friends, the new activities and the stunning trails all around us, I was also able to reconnect with nature and spirituality and in the end, myself.

What I’ll miss from the professional side is the energy and passion that developed in our small newsroom, as Betsy, Chelsea, Pam and I worked tirelessly as a team to cover the community in ways that would both reflect what was happening, but also illustrate what was possible moving forward. They really lifted their game and exceeded my expectations, culminating in several investigative works capped by the Critical Condition series.

We demonstrated that a small newsroom can punch above its weight class and deliver meaningful journalism despite industry constriction and the pressures of expanded digital platforms. We had the full support of publisher Eric Lawson in our pursuit of in-depth investigative journalism, and from head office management.

I want to stress how important that is in the days of doing more with less. They let us take the time away from other possible stories to fully pursue this important work. It is so rewarding to be in an environment that is so supportive.

I thank you for your energy and I know that I will take all of the positives in my time here with me to Vernon, and I’ll hold a spot in my heart for Castlegar forever.

Follow me on Twitter @johnkwhite
Email me john.white@castlegarnews.com
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