Finally getting back to normal - Denny Scott editorial
Last week, having visited a few more stops in my week than had become the norm during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, I finally felt like I was doing the job I loved again.
I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy my job during the pandemic (heck, I enjoyed not needing to use the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) at the very least), but it wasn’t what I signed on for when I first applied to be an intern at The Goderich Signal-Star almost a decade and a half ago. I love going to events, taking pictures and seeing them in print. (And, as important as council meetings are, their coverage doesn’t usually bring the smiles that a photo of a child or grandchild usually brings).
Last week was like the break of spring after a year full of Januarys.
That’s an inside joke: January is always the leanest month, photo and copy wise, in The Citizen’s calendar, made all the more noticeable by the fact that the last few weeks of December are among the busiest in the year.
While a slow month might sound like exactly what we’d need after putting together the Christmas issue, the biggest of the year, slower times are actually more difficult for us because it means stretching our borders and digging harder to find stories. And that’s what the pandemic was like, from April of 2020 to mid-2021.
Photos were few and far between. Events and stories were hard to come by and the bi-weekly practice was to wring every single word out of municipal council meetings we could. Local Business Improvement Area (BIA) meetings and Huron County Council meetings looked less like story opportunities and more like life rafts to help us put important, local news in front of people.
In short (and I’ve said this numerous times to many people), the course of the pandemic has resulted in The Citizen’s editorial department working harder, but producing less copy than ever before.
Even after those tough months, however, things weren’t back to normal. There were still few events and fewer photos, meaning we were still digging for news pretty hard. I lost track of the amount of times I said, “Well, we’re not desperate for news or photos… but we’re close.” But it wasn’t as bad as that first year of the pandemic.
Last week, however, was busy and, for the first time in years, I felt like I could relax after we put last week’s issue of The Citizen together.
Before the pandemic, my stress levels followed a pretty typical pattern: Tuesday afternoon, after the newspaper is laid out for that week, I’d head home, make myself a decent lunch and put my feet up, letting go of some of the knots in my shoulders. From there, stress would gradually build until the next Monday, deadline day, when everything needed to be done. Through the pandemic, however, there wasn’t really that chance to decompress because, once an issue was put together, exactly how we’d fill the next one weighed heavy on me. Those Tuesday afternoon unwinding periods just stopped happening.
Last week, however, I was busy. There were community events, interviews to conduct for the Blyth Rutabaga Festival special section, interviews to arrange for the Blyth Festival special section and, possibly my favourite part of the week, two different school events to photograph.
First, Hullett Central Public School returned to the track and field pits and tracks, which always makes for some great pictures. Second, students at North Woods Elementary School filled out their ballots in a student mock election the same day that Ontarians went to the polls. (Coverage of the former was in last week’s issue of The Citizen while the latter is in this very issue).
I spent hours in my car - windows down, music up - driving from photo to photo, event to event, and, as I write this on Monday, I’m set to do the same for council meetings this week.
Add on to that the number of events our weekend photographer John Stephenson covered over the weekend and, knock on wood, it looks like we’re returning not just to some sense of normalcy but to a sense of being busy again.
That might be one of the greatest changes we’ve seen in a long time. We might actually be seeing the end of this thing, provided the Monkeypox outbreak doesn’t take its place, and we can finally unclench those shoulder and back muscles a little and look forward to some normalcy. If that isn’t something to celebrate (by relaxing with a cold drink in a comfortable deck chair), I don’t know what is.