Webster award-winning journalist Don Descoteau retires after 31 years at Black Press

David Black and Don Descoteau during an interview in David’s Oak Bay home. (Black Press Media file photo)David Black and Don Descoteau during an interview in David’s Oak Bay home. (Black Press Media file photo)
Don Descoteau celebrates retirement with a ball game, courtesy of Black Press Media, among the gifts handed off by group publisher Michelle Cabana (Don Denton/Black Press Media)Don Descoteau celebrates retirement with a ball game, courtesy of Black Press Media, among the gifts handed off by group publisher Michelle Cabana (Don Denton/Black Press Media)
Then Black Press staffers Don Descoteau, left, Dan Palmer and Travis Paterson don jerseys for a day at work. (Black Press Media file photo)Then Black Press staffers Don Descoteau, left, Dan Palmer and Travis Paterson don jerseys for a day at work. (Black Press Media file photo)
Don Descoteau chats with Chris Wakelin, a former sports reporter with the Nanaimo Bulletin. (Black Press Media file photo)Don Descoteau chats with Chris Wakelin, a former sports reporter with the Nanaimo Bulletin. (Black Press Media file photo)

Black Press Media marks the end of an era as a 31-year, hometown journalist retires.

Don Descoteau spent a decade in various forms of sales before turning to the ink as a sports writer for the Williams Lake Tribune in November 1991.

Sports was his first love. “It’s something I can write about with authority and knowledge,” he said. “Everybody has a story, that’s the key.”

For a guy who grew up on the south Island, it was a foray into many new experiences.

He encountered firsts such as rodeo coverage, wildlife and in his words “real winter.”

Landing in the central Cariboo in November also meant the advent of snowmobile racing and cross-country skiing. Summer sports included stories that saw him stand shoulder to shoulder with one of the most notorious bulls on the pro tour.

Forging relationships was always key with getting good story leads. One led him to a helicopter tour with the local hockey club president – who happened to be a provincial wildlife biologist – to check in on fish kill in recently stocked lakes.

“All that was new to a city kid,” Descoteau reflects.

Sports also helped him return to his Island roots, shifting to the Campbell River Mirror in 1995.

When a job became available in Victoria, he hurried home – leaving the sports beat behind – to expand his horizons. Descoteau admits being a little apprehensive, council meetings and weekly briefings with the police department were new endeavours. Again he forged relationships and still counts people such as MLA Rob Fleming and former MP Denise Savoie among his friends.

He learned from longtime journalists such as Keith Norbury (retired) and Kevin Laird, currently editor of Sooke News Mirror.

Looking past Descoteau’s professed love for the Boston Bruins and Red Sox and focused on his passion for journalism, Laird moved Descoteau into the assistant editor role at Victoria News in 2007.

“I found him to be very enthusiastic and hardworking. He’d spend the time to get the job done right – even if that meant staying late to do it. He was always eager to improve himself,” Laird said. “Don was passionate about journalism and was a great guy to work with. He made people around him better, and they became better journalists and people because of it.”

Readers across the region will know his byline, as Descoteau has served as editor of Goldstream Gazette, Oak Bay News, Victoria News, Peninsula News Review and Monday Magazine. He’s written impress branded content and most recently returned to the Victoria news hub as a paginator then editor.

“Whenever we needed Don, he always stepped up,” group publisher Michelle Cabana said.

Among dozens of accolades over the decades, winning a Webster stands out. Descoteau was a member of the award-winning project that looked at the Capital Regional District sewage treatment challenges. Designed to bring newcomers into the conversation, the spring 2016 project earned a coveted Jack Webster Award.

SEWAGE IN THE CRD:

Tackling the treatment issue

Pressure on to find a solution

Park would top underground plant at Clover Point

And along the way Descoteau has ushered in next-generation journalists.

“Don’s guidance and persistent quest for fairness and accuracy served to improve the quality of writing for all the reporters he’s worked with over the years. His knowledge of Greater Victoria and so many of the people who have lived here is something that won’t easily be replaced,” said Dan Ebenal, paginating editor for the Victoria news hub who also worked on the award-winning project.

While the bassist for the Groove Diggers band, and longtime field hockey player plans to add more golf to his repertoire and naturally spend time with family, the byline spotted across the province for three decades is likely to reappear.

He’s already on a freelance assignment for Monday Magazine.

“I’m expecting to find myself in town having coffee with one or more of my many acquaintances,” Descoteau said. “I enjoy doing that too.”


 

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