'Good people, I missed my introduction' - Denny Scott editorial
Ten years, one month and five days ago, my bespectacled photo first appeared in the box to the right as I took over this space for the late, great Eric Dowd.
That’s right folks, you’ve been reading my meandering take on life in Huron County for just over a decade now. That means that this will be around my 507th column if my math is correct and, not to borrow from my editor Shawn too heavily when he wrote a similar piece for his 10-year anniversary last February, that’s a lot of ink spilled.
I never set out to be a columnist, I kind of fell into the role when Dowd, a nationally-renowned Queen’s Park correspondent, passed away due to cancer in late 2010. There was a large space to fill, both in terms of real estate and ensuring I was writing something worthwhile, and, as anyone who has talked to me for more than a minute knows, I’ve got stories to tell as a means to relate to other people.
That said, I kind of missed my chance to introduce myself to Citizen readers when I penned my first column for the Jan. 13, 2011 edition of The Citizen. At the time, every larger settlement we covered that had a school (Brussels, Blyth and Belgrave) was on the verge of losing their schools and I felt, as someone who had gone through that as a student, I should try and soften that blow.
In my mind then, as now, it was an important issue to tackle. Yes, the loss of the schools was devastating when it happened, with people spelling doom and gloom for all the communities. I think, on the whole, we’ve done a good job of bouncing back. Heck, just try to find a reasonably-priced house in Blyth right now. You can’t. Obviously the lack of a school isn’t stopping people from buying here (though it has impacted the demographics).
Regardless, at the time, I felt that I could do some good by saying that, when my high school closed, it represented some great opportunities for me that culminated in me becoming a journalist. I wanted to make sure that my first outing as a columnist was one that helped the most people possible.
To borrow from Huron County’s ongoing love affair with the idea of “lenses”, that lens – the hope that I can do the most good for the most amount of people – may not be how I live my life day-to-day, but it is how I try to approach every day at work.
From hauling decades-old machinery out of the basement of The Citizen’s long-time home to debates about whether a story needed to be written, my question always was, how can we help the most people?
Sometimes it’s easy to see what does the best for the most people, other times it’s a little more muddy. Regardless, I always try.
My belief that I was in the right place to always answer yes to that question, however, was affirmed shortly after I started at The Citizen. In the weeks following my hiring, I was asking both my editor Shawn and our former publisher Keith Roulston about a story.
I don’t remember the story, to be honest. All I remember asking is should we be doing the story. I didn’t know much about the news landscape yet and I wanted to make sure that the story wasn’t just for the sake of making an interesting headline. I wanted to make sure there was value in it before I tackled it.
After the discussion, Keith told me he was glad to hear me ask those kinds of questions and, in hearing that, I knew I had found the right place to work.
It was months later when I sat in front of a blank screen to write my first column and I had to ask myself those same questions. Is what I’m saying worth the space or am I just writing to have something pithy in the headline? Will this serve a purpose?
To answer those questions I decided to tackle not only something personal to me, but something that would become personal to every student, parent and teacher in the coming months. Looking back, I feel I could have written it better (as 10 years of experience will colour anything you’ve done before), but I don’t think I could’ve made a better decision.
In making that decision, however, I missed my chance to introduce myself, which I had a good chuckle at because of the headline above, which is a quote from the medieval jousting movie A Knight’s Tale.
In the flick, Paul Bettany plays poet Geoffrey Chaucer. While Bettany’s take on the author of The Canterbury Tales was a unique one, it was special to me because the movie was among the first gifts my girlfriend-turned-wife Ashleigh bought for me.
Bettany’s Chaucer, near the end of the movie, realizes he has forgotten to introduce his lord for the final jousting competition. Throughout the film, his introductions are, to paraphrase himself, the epitome of gilding the lily. The final introduction, however, is one of simplicity and not cheapened “with heavy-handed words”. In writing this I realize that, no matter what I could’ve written to introduce myself, it likely would not have been as important as staying true to that lens and tackling an important issue. Maybe I did introduce myself by sticking to my beliefs and showing who I am. That’s more important than knowing how many siblings I have.