COMMENTARY · 28th February 2016
Eight years, four months and a number of days I donít feel like doing the math on, I was given an opportunity to write for the Kitimat Daily by Merv Ritchie, a reporter whom Iíd met the previous summer at a film festival in Terrace.
At the time, Kitimat was not as important as it is today, and finding a job was much more difficult. At the time, I was considering moving to Prince George, but the Daily gave me something I could put on a resume. There was also the promise, that if I could build it up, it could be a full time job and give me the opportunity to create a life in my home town.
I started getting paid after about three years of building up the website. However, it was not a large amount of money, and it was a result of a Council Motion, made by former Councillor Randy Halyk, who noticed the District was funding one media, while there were several others in town.
As time progressed, I became more and more interested in the larger story which was growing around me. The community at the time was going through a dysfunctional period, and most of it was being blamed on the Council of the day. I wanted to see how the story ended.
Councils changed but the story remained the same. Everyone had a different vision for the community, but couldnít agree on how to make the community thrive. Covering Council Meetings, in 2007-2008, with Wozney as Mayor, or from 2008-2009 with Monaghan, it was common place to see a delegation complaining about Council decisions. These presentations became less common when Monaghan called for peace.
Hindsight tells me I should have left at the same time Merv did, mid 2013. However, the story was not finished unfolding. In addition, when I mentioned to someone that I was considering leaving the Daily and looking for work elsewhere in town, I was told: ĎNo one in Kitimat would hire you after what you wrote about the Mayor.í She was referring to former Mayor Joanne Monaghan.
It was these words that made me stay. I felt I could make the site work, but at the same time, it felt like a ball and chain holding me back from better things. In the end, I was never able determine an advertising rate I was comfortable with, or build up the self-confidence I needed to be able to sell advertising.
In February of 2015, I met with Merv Ritchie again in Terrace over lunch. During the meal, I explained I was going to announce I was leaving the site on April 1st of that year, and post an article like the one you are reading on June 31st, which was to be my final day on the Daily.
The story I was watching finished unfolding by July 1st, 2015. Rio Tinto had modernized the Smelter. Three LNGís were poised to take up residence in the valley and Enbridge was barely a blip on the radar.
Due to lifeís little roadblocks, the date got pushed back from July 1st to January 1st. I had come as far as this website could take me. Iíd grown over the years, learned from my mistakes and was ready to find a new adventure.
Then it got pushed again because it wouldnít be fair to the community if all of the reporters announced they were leaving their jobs at the same time. Donít get me wrong, it would be hilarious, but not fair to the community.
Because I was staying, I made myself two promises. 1: I would not cover the budget at all with the exception of the community presentations to Council. 2: I wouldnít cover everything nor would I try to, just the important stuff.
So to answer the questions which have been piling up:
Why Are You Leaving?
The story above can be the romanticized version of events. It boils down to: Iím burnt out. Iíve grown weary of the small town politics of Kitimat, and recently, it has been taking me days to write articles which used to take hours.
I also have to start thinking of my future with a little more certainty. Iím not getting younger and if I donít settle into a career where I can actually make money, Iím going to be stuck well into my retirement years.
While the Kitimat Daily can be profitable, I have never felt comfortable selling ads. How can you put a value on your work, when people have made you feel worthless for a large portion of your life? Second guessing yourself is habit forming.
In addition, I have to remain competitive with other forms of advertising in the community. I donít think I can compete with the Love Kitimat initiative, which is put on by the District of Kitimat, where a small business can pay $100 and get a permanent website and a professional photo shoot. How can I make a wage I can live off of while this is out there?
Due to a number of different factors, I can count the number of times Iíve traveled past Hazelton on Vacation in the last 8 years using only my fingers. Most of the trips were to Alberta, there were three trips to Prince George and one to the Sunshine Coast. For the last three years, there has been no one who can cover for me while Iím away, so most of my trips are scheduled around gaps in my Calendar.
Finally, this website is obsolete. It was created in a time when Social Media and Video Streaming sites were still pretty new. I have often expressed a desire to be able to imbed video into my articles, but this never became a reality. In addition, several functions of the website have been impossible to access since around 2012 or 2013 when the server it was hosted on was hacked.
What Are Your Plans?
I plan to go back to school. It is a very simple plan and I have a lot of interests and hobbies which I think would make excellent careers. In the meantime, I have several novels which I started writing and I hope to finish them. I also hope to get back into shape. This might not seem like much of a planÖ But itís a start.
What is Going to Happen to the Website?
Kitimat is an incredibly politically charged town, and while the temptation is out there to find someone to take my place, and pass the torch... this website is obsolete by about 8 years. I would not feel comfortable saddling a new person with our baggage or our obstaclesÖ and I wouldnít wish this job on my worst enemy.
There is a gap that someone with the right attitude can fill though. There is still a lot happening in Kitimat, despite current events, and people still want to know whatís going on. Merv once said Kitimat was a great place for a reporter to learn the trade, small enough that they can make a mistake, but there is never a dull moment.
Iím looking to archive the website somewhere in the community, so it would be available for people who wish to read about Kitimatís history. At this time, I am still working out the details and this will probably go into March.
I will continue to approve comments and events into March.
Are you Going to Apply for ĎXí Job? (I Hear there is an Opening)
No. I need to get away from this lifestyle and find a career I can enjoy.
What are Your Predictions for Kitimat?
It is no secret that projects which crop up promising employment come and, more often, fade into the background before disappearing. There have been plans for a number of industries which have never come to pass for one reason or another.
While I strongly hope for an LNG future in Kitimat, delays in the projects, changes in the LNG Market and constant reminders that Canada is losing a race to develop LNG exports, leave me with doubts these projects will ever come to pass. We cannot keep waiting forever on a promise which may never come.
If I were to propose a alternative, it would not be to dump all of our eggs in one basket, but to try to develop small, local industries, by thinking outside the box, looking at what Kitimat has to offer and finding the right people to market the town to.
There are many people out there to thank, but there are a few who need to be singled out.
Eight years ago Merv, you gave me the opportunity to stay in Kitimat and write for the Kitimat Daily. You were always there when I needed someone to talk to about the current events and any problems I was having. When Merv left, running the website truly became a one man show act. I wish him well in his retirement from the Terrace Daily and this website would never have been possible without him.
If it wasnít for Danny, this website would not have grown into what it is today. It was at a film festival in Terrace where we first met Merv and I was already considering contacting him about some sort of internship at the Terrace Daily when Danny found the Kitimat Daily. We worked together for a month or two before he went back to his own work, but Danny was always able to keep an ear on Kitimatís pulse, and knew more about what was going on in this town than anyone else I knew. How? The Magician never revealed his secrets.
My parents Geoff and Fayellen McFarlane:
Writing out of my parents basement has helped keep my costs low, which Iím not ashamed to admit. I would not have been able to work on this website for as long as I have without your support.
Former Councillor Randy Halyk:
If I didnít start earning some money from this endeavour, I wouldnít have been able to stick with it as long as I did, and it was Halyk who noticed we werenít in the Statement of Accounts which Council receives every Month.
Former Mayor Joanne Monaghan:
The two of us have had our differences, but this never stopped her from letting me know about something which was coming up.
Our Sponsors Over the Years:
Weíve tried a number of different mediums over the years, print newspaper, flyers, comics and much more. We wouldnít have been able to do this without you.
Iíd also like to thank: Mayor Phil Germuth, Former Mayor Rick Wozney, CAO Warren Waycheshen, Former Municipal Manager Trafford Hall, the other members of Kitimatís City Council and their Administration over the last 8 years, my Saturday RPG Group, Gerry Hummel, Bill Franklin, The Kitimat Public Library, The Kitimat Museum and Archives, Kitimat RCMP, Kitimat Fire Department and anyone I may have missed.
Finally, Our Many Readers:
There would be no reason to do this job if someone was not reading it. Thank you for the last eight years. Theyíve been special, but itís time for me to move onÖ
See you next timeÖ
Thank you and best wishes in your future endeavors
Comment by Corinne Scott on 20th March 2016
A huge thank you Walter for all your hard work, the many, many hours and dedication to your job! You've done an amazing job and it's been a joy to see the 'growth' you've achieved over the years. Your coverage of events has been amazing and truly appreciated by the Kitimat General Hospital Foundation. You've been reporting on our activities since our inception six years ago and have done an excellent job ensuring that the public were aware of the Foundation.
I know people from across Canada 'go to' the Kitimat Daily to keep apprised of our community, and I have had many favourable comments passed on to me of people appreciating the breadth of your coverage.
At times there has been a lot of ups and downs for you, many bone and mind weary nights trying to cover the politics of the community, and my friend, you've done an excellent job!
I truly don't know anyone else that would have been as dedicated as you've been.
I wish you happiness and success in your future, and hope you stay in touch within the community.
Comment by Eleanor on 4th March 2016
On behalf of the Kitimat Dynamics Gymnastics Club, thank you for coming to our events and putting articles out for the community. Wishing you all the best!
Good job, Walter
Comment by John Hurst on 1st March 2016
I remember you from your high school days. You put in a lot of work here and produced a great read. Good luck to you!
Farewell and wishes for the best in the future.
Comment by Margaret Warcup on 1st March 2016
Thank you for all the coverage you have done for the Child Development Centre and the Kitimat Community Foundation. Wishes for the best on your next adventure,
All the best walter
Comment by Randy Halyk on 29th February 2016
Thanks for all you did for Kitimat. While I was in town I relied on you reporting to keep me in the loop you have a knack of being able to report the facts without bias and when the need arises comment in such a way as to shine a light on the issue. So I know Danny is you friend and felt he may have helped but it sounds like he has been more involed with your writings than I thought. Say hi to him for me. My first impression of you when I arived was admitted skeptical but very shortly I realized how hard you work you are literally everywhere and know about ever meeting even those of obscure clubs and associations. I applaud your dedication to the truth and Kitimat and I know wherever you end up folks there will be the better for it. All the best my friend
Comment by CC on 29th February 2016
Well done Walter. You have worked hard and always contributed. We need more people like you. I miss Merv and his writing very much - and now will miss yours just as much. I can't believe we have not only lost an amazing voice like Merv and now you. Our loss. May your future be bright and all your dreams come true. Thank you for all you have done for the community and allowing those spread out far and away to take part and still keep up with "home news".
Comment by CEM on 29th February 2016
Kitimat Daily and all your hard work will be greatly missed unbeknown to us all how much work and obstacles you had to grind through.
Good Luck on your future endeavours.
Good Luck Walter
Comment by Gerry Hummel on 28th February 2016
Good Luck Walter, have really appreciated your effort over the years, sad that this great venue is leaving and shutting down! A venue which gave people an opportunity to express their feelings on Kitimat topics! And thanks so much for sharing and showcasing my art! But mostly Walter thanks for your friendship, I knew you were a special person the first moment I ever met you, I'm sure this friendship will last wherever your journey takes you even if it is eventually back to Kitimat! Above and beyond the call of duty you really tried my friend! You will definitely be missed ... thanks again my friend!
Sorry to see you go.
Comment by Tim on 28th February 2016
Congratulations on your new plans for a better future Walter! The Kitimat daily has been a daily read for me and one of the high lights of my day. Thank you for your time, I will miss you and all your hard work and dedication. You know me as Roguemc and PG.
Thanks and all the best
Comment by Helen on 28th February 2016
Thank you Walter for the past 8 years - your contribution in letting Kitimatians know what was going on was a breath of fresh air - no matter what the situation - the Daily provided instant coverage - please know that I for one will truly miss your reporting - good luck and best wishes for your future.