30th Anniversary: Former reporter recalls the early days of paper

Jennifer Blyth started work at the Saanich News in 1990, later serving as the paper's editor

This feature from 1995 highlights the staff of the Saanich News

This feature from 1995 highlights the staff of the Saanich News

My first interview for the Saanich News – my first “professional” interview ever, in fact – was with Terry Morrison of the Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary. It was 1990, and Terry was most gracious in face of my inexperienced, 21-year-old’s nerves. The sanctuary remains one of my favourite places to this day.

One of my first news stories? Protests over the proposed draining of Heal Lake for expansion of the Hartland Landfill. I remember initial proposals for the McKenzie interchange, residents worried about the loss of Rainbow Park, sometimes lengthy council meetings, fantastic arts stories from the Claremont secondary theatre and UVic’s Phoenix Theatre, and many more stories of Saanich, my hometown.

When I started as a junior reporter, I was studying creative writing at the University of Victoria and publisher Reg Cowie was good enough to give a young, idealistic writer a chance. Editor George Lee and I started around the same time, soon joined by reporter Bill Kennedy.

One of my favourite instructional stories I share to this day with young reporters involves Lee and the rather challengingly named West Coast marine creature, the geoduck. Now, I tell the newbies, if you don’t know how to spell geoduck – pronounced gooey-duck – it’s next to impossible to look it up in the dictionary. Being 1990, this was also long before Google, Bing or any other “search engine.”

So I took a guess.

And as you might guess, I guessed wrong.

The message from Lee – yelled from the adjacent office – was that if I needed to know something and couldn’t find it through the usual channels, to call the local librarian to find out. He was right, and I tell novice reporters today, if you don’t know, ask.

Research has indeed changed since those early days of the Saanich News, as has photography, ad design, and many other aspects of the Saanich community and the newspaper. What hasn’t changed is the paper’s continuing commitment to sharing the people, places, stories and businesses with its readers.

My early work at the Saanich News led to a journalism scholarship to college in Vancouver. Returning with my newly minted journalism certificate in hand, I soon joined our sister paper, the Goldstream News Gazette, later returning to the Saanich News as an editor in the mid-1990s. Seventeen years in a home office followed, writing and editing for various Black Press publications as my two babies grew into young men.

Today, we’re still in Saanich, our home just a few blocks from where I grew up in Gordon Head, and I am back in the editor’s chair of another Black Press paper, the Oak Bay News.

From those early days in Saanich, the community news business, it seems, has stuck.

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Island Health has confirmed the first long term care facility outbreak in Greater Victoria at Veterans Memorial Lodge in Saanich. (Google Maps)
Island Health records first long-term care COVID outbreak in Greater Victoria

Veterans Memorial Lodge in Saanich confirms one positive staff member

Itty, a Siamese cat, has been missing since a house fire in Victoria’s Fernwood neighbourhood on Friday, Nov. 27. Her owner says she has white fur with blonde and grey markings. (Facebook/ROAM)
Cat goes missing after house fire in Fernwood neighbourhood

‘Itty’ has white fur, blonde and grey markings and blue eyes

The Saanich Fire Department Station #2 C-Battalion members (left to right) firefighter Clayton Tilon, firefighter Bonnie Fiala, firefighter Zay Hamilton, Capt. Dawrin Schellenberg and firefighter Charlie Rivers show off their BC Emergency Health Servicecs Vital Link Award. (Photo courtesy Darwin Schellenberg)
Saanich firefighters receive Vital Link Award from paramedics for life-saving CPR

Award issued to C-Battalion, civilian for help saving cardiac arrest patient in June

An aerial view over Oak Bay. (Black Press Media File Photo)
An aerial view over Oak Bay and the Marina. Oak Bay residents pay the highest taxes on Vancouver Island. Don Denton/Black Press
Oak Bay secondary suites study considers units old and new

Secondary suites draft report due in new year

(Dave Landine/Facebook)
VIDEO: Dashcam captures head-on crash between snowplow and truck on northern B.C. highway

Driver posted to social media that he walked away largely unscathed

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

A B.C. Ambulance Service paramedic wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 moves a stretcher outside an ambulance at Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, November 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Top doctor urges Canadians to limit gatherings as ‘deeply concerning’ outbreaks continue

Canada’s active cases currently stand at 63,835, compared to 53,907 a week prior

A Canadian Pacific freight train travels around Morant’s Curve near Lake Louise, Alta., on Monday, Dec. 1, 2014. A study looking at 646 wildlife deaths along the railway tracks in Banff and Yoho national parks in Alberta and British Columbia has found that train speed is one of the biggest factors. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Study finds train speed a top factor in wildlife deaths in Banff, Yoho national parks

Research concludes effective mitigation could address train speed and ability of wildlife to see trains

A airport worker is pictured at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C. Wednesday, March 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Canada extends COVID restrictions for non-U.S. travellers until Jan. 21 amid second wave

This ban is separate from the one restricting non-essential U.S. travel

Menno Place. (Google Street View image.)
B.C. care home looks to hire residents’ family members amid COVID-19-related staff shortage

Family would get paid as temporary workers, while having chance to see loved ones while wearing PPE

A man walks by a COVID-19 test pod at the Vancouver airport in this undated handout photo. A study has launched to investigate the safest and most efficient way to rapidly test for COVID-19 in people taking off from the Vancouver airport. The airport authority says the study that got underway Friday at WestJet’s domestic check-in area is the first of its kind in Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Vancouver Airport Authority *MANDATORY CREDIT*
COVID-19 rapid test study launches at Vancouver airport for departing passengers

Airport authority says that a positive rapid test result does not constitute a medical diagnosis for COVID-19

A small crash in the water south of Courtenay Saturday afternoon. Two men had to be rescued, but reports indicate there were no serious injuries. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Small plane crash in Comox Valley waters Saturday afternoon

Two rescued from plane that had flipped in water; no serious injuries reported

A photo from 2017, of Nuchatlaht First Nation members outside court after filing a land title case in B.C. ( Submitted photo/Nuchatlaht First Nation).
Vancouver Island First Nation calls on B.C. to honour UNDRIP in historic title case

Nuchatlaht First Nation says Crown counsel continues to stall the case using the ‘distasteful’ argument that the Nation ‘abandoned’ their land

Most Read