Brief return to ‘Gazoo’ offers good community reminder

Longtime Gazette writer enjoyed reconnecting with West Shore communities

Based on the number of people who expressed encouragement, surprise and dismay, or any combination of the aforementioned seeing my byline appear again, I thought a little clarification may be in order.

For those old enough to remember, I wrote for the Goldstream News Gazette from roughly 2000 to 2008, carving out a reputation as the world’s oldest cub reporter along the way. When I pulled the plug to share my lack of expertise with the City of Langford and the West Shore RCMP, I held the title as the longest serving scribe in the Gazette’s history, a mantle I still wear with a sense of misguided pride.

Rick StiebelAfter I was gently nudged to the curb by Langford in January following an enjoyable and rewarding seven-year run, I began to grapple with the meaning of semi-retired, from the perspective of keeping the bride and the bank off my back. I approached the Gazette about doing a column to add a few pounds to the pensions arriving when I turn 65 in June, and the real belt-tightening begins.

As luck would have it – and remember that lady comes in two forms – the Gazette was dealing with a reporter void in March and asked if I would be interested in returning. While the left side of my brain has grown quite comfortable with an alarm-free routine other than putting on the coffee maker for my wife, the other side and better half decided to take the offer.

As the month wound down, I found I didn’t regret the decision to climb back into the saddle for another gallop, other than getting used to working with a Mac after seven years on a PC; no easy task for someone whose co-workers at city hall referred to as the Fred Flintstone of the computer age.

Fortunately my colleague Mike Davies was there to help answer my borderline asinine questions, and politely avoided laughing out loud until he was safely out of earshot. To summarize in one word what it’s like to return to the scene of my original crimes, it’s been, well, just swell. Kind of like running into an ex-wife you are happy to see again.

While so-called experts have been predicting the end of print media ever since I begged my way into journalism school in 1990 to short circuit my mid-life crisis, I believe reports of the demise of community newspapers are exaggerated.

The local paper provides a service that people are looking for, news about what’s going on locally that tends to slip through the craters of what the big dogs run.

Mike helps steer the ship for where community papers are headed. He brings a wealth of social media savvy that provides myriad ways for people to stay connected to where they live, wherever they may be at that particular moment.

That’s quite a swan dive onto uncharted waters for people like me who don’t text or Tweet and have steadfastly refused to spend a single second sitting on Facebook. But it is the future of media and it’s good to see the Gazette doing its best in that regard.

I’ve also been fortunate to work with a great bunch of editors over the years, an impressive list that includes Keith Norbury, Mitch Wright, Andrew Topf, Edward (don’t call me Ted unless you know me) Hill and Don Descoteau. Without damning with quaint praise, each one has been instrumental in helping me make modest improvements at my craft, and they all deserve an award for demonstrating excessive amounts of patience for putting up with my queries, quirks and patently politically incorrect sense of humour.

From where I sit after spending last month pounding out the copy, the crew at the Gazoo takes pride in the community and the product they produce. Publishing, sales, design and circulation; Christine, Shelley, Donna and Melissa have it covered. And I can say that with unwavering conviction and a clear conscience, because I wasn’t here long enough to infect them with my bad habits.

Editor’s note: We sincerely appreciate Rick’s efforts for the past month and who knows? You may find his byline back in the Gazette again this year.