Good morning Oak Bay. I’d like to introduce myself as the new editor of the newspaper I hope you will welcome into your home.
I arrive in your midst after following a trail for close to a quarter-century that led to newspapers scattered across the province. I left the beaches of Kitsilano that I had grown up up on to arrive literally at the end of the road.
For three years I called Kitimat home, a town of about 10,000 literally built by Alcan on B.C.’s north coast at the end of Highway 37. More than once I awoke to knee-deep snow hemming in my car. But with the help of well-equipped neighbours and a town rich with the tax dollars from an aluminum smelter, pulp mill and petro-chemical plant to purchase the best snow-clearing equipment I’ve ever laid eyes on, I never recall being overly delayed.
But the mere sight of roads lined with massive snow drifts accompanied by the -30 C winds that blew up the Douglas Channel in January had me packing my bags for the sunshine and vineyards of the Okanagan Valley.
I started at the Vernon Morning Star as a sports reporter and weekend photographer. That was before that digital age that had me spending Saturday mornings in the dark room developing photos from previous night’s hockey game. The air was always filled with suspense – well that and the vinegar smell that seemed to stick with you throughout the day – watching the print slowly develop to see if you actually had anything. Digital cameras and Photoshop are probably the biggest game changers I’ve seen to the industry in my career.
It was in Vernon where I learned probably 90 per cent of what I know today. At the hands of publisher Don Kendall and managing editor Glenn Mitchell, I learned that a newspaper can only be successful by responding to the needs of the community it serves. But it was from Mitchell’s brother, Kevin, that the most valuable lesson came. The longtime Morning Star sports editor’s demand for perfection remain with me to this day.
I moved from the sports arena to council chambers and the courthouse, covering crime in Vernon during one of the bloodiest times in the city’s history. After 13 years in Vernon I headed to the other end of Okanagan Lake in Penticton where I took over as editor of the Western News.
My seven years in the Peach City brought me a host of lifelong friends too numerous to mention. If there’s one piece of wisdom I hope has stuck with the reporters I worked with, it was to embrace your ignorance – to never walk away from an assignment without asking a question for fear of appearing stupid. It’s some advice I plan to adopt myself as a new arrival on an island that had been an unknown to me save for a few weekend visits.
While the Okanagan is a wonderful place to raise a family, children grow up, and mine moved on to Vancouver. My son Keith now works in Vancouver and my daughter Veronika is attending UBC. So I packed up and headed back to the coast. I spent close to a year at the Tri-City News, a paper serving the communities of Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam and Port Moody. The majority of my time there was spent covering sports and Port Moody council and community issues.
After a year in the Lower Mainland I found I actually saw more of my kids when they were trapped with me for days at a time far from their friends and lure of the city nightlife. And what better method of trapping unsuspecting kids than the B.C. ferry system.
So I now find myself in your midst in probably the most beautiful area I’ve had the fortune to work. My wife Tracey will join me next month, along with our dog Marley and cat Kai (although I call him Monkey Boy).
So that’s my story. I hope you will share yours with me and I look forward to sharing those stories through the pages of the Oak Bay News.
Dan Ebenal is the editor of the Oak Bay News and probably the guy you’ll see trying to find his way around his new community.