Trials and tribulations of covering politics

As today is my last one at the Penticton Western News I would like to thank editor Dan Ebenal and publisher Mark Walker for the opportunity to work here as well as everybody who has taken the time to read my work.

Bruce Walkinshaw

Bruce Walkinshaw

As today is my last one at the Penticton Western News I would like to thank editor Dan Ebenal and publisher Mark Walker for the opportunity to work here as well as everybody who has taken the time to read my work.

For the most part I have covered politics for the paper, concentrating on the City Hall beat. It has been occasionally exciting, often fun and always an honour to cover a beat that, whether people care about it or not, has such a significant impact on the day-to-day lives of the city’s residents, business owners and visitors.

At the risk of sounding like a blowhard, or perhaps exposing myself as one, I believe that reporting on government is an extremely important vocation and an intrinsic element of a functioning democracy, or in Canada’s case: a functioning parliamentary system. Where there is no free press in a position to scrutinize the government, there is no democratic government.

And so government must remain committed to protecting and facilitating the press’ ability to scrutinize its institutions, operations and policies. The public must continue to assimilate the press’ work, each adjusting their beliefs, opinions and actions accordingly as a tree falling in the forest with no one to hear it, makes about as much noise as a well-crafted illuminative story on government that no one reads, watches or listens to. And lastly, the press must strive to be — and appear to be — as objective, fair and reasonable as possible as journalism has no utilitarian value if the public believes the press’ work to be rhetoric instead of reporting.

After working here, I think it is fair to say that for the most part all the three entities in this community have held up their ends of the bargain. I have come to know, learn from and work beside some great journalists here and I can tell you unequivocally that this community is being served by a number of intelligent, honest, hardworking and altruistic people in its press core.

I also think you, the residents of the South Okanagan, have a very robust relationship with your own democratic process. Indeed, though I have worked for papers where the distribution was considerably larger than this one, I have never worked in a community where as many people have read and responded to my reports with emails, letters to the editors or one-to-one conversations. And the amount of civic participation in the shaping of this city and its surrounding area is outstanding.

Finally, I think it should be said that the vast majority of civil servants and politicians who serve this community on a federal, provincial and municipal level have also kept their end of the bargain. Covering politics in the South Okanagan has been made considerably easier by timely, accurate and forthright access to information, opinion and answers provided to me by those I have covered — yes, including politicians.

Indeed, I have covered, conversed and, in some instances, gotten to know personally many politicians from all ends of the spectrum. And the vast majority of them are honest, hardworking people who could probably make more money in the private sector working less hours and suffering less of a negative effect on their personal lives but who chose to run for office because they believe in serving their community. I am not saying there are no corrupt, greedy, power-hungry, self-interested, unreasonable or mean spirited political leaders out there, I am just saying that there are no more of them in office than there are in other occupations or industries. If we are going to continuously and exponentially villainize politicians every time we disagree with them, then eventually the only people who are going to be willing to subject themselves to that kind of treatment are people who are corrupt, greedy, power-hungry and all the rest of the things people call them.

As for my future plans: I will be going back to my hometown of Vancouver to attend UBC in September while freelancing. I have a degree in English Literature, however, my undergrad marks were not what they could or should have been. So, I will work to upgrade them with the hopes of either getting a Masters in Journalism or perhaps attending law school.

My roommate and friend (Western News sports editor) Emanuel Sequeira joked with me the other day, asking if I was going to forget all about Penticton once I move back to Vancouver, suggesting that he wouldn’t hear from me anymore.

“Forget about Penticton? Are you crazy?” I responded. “Look around you. It’s beautiful here. You are going to be having me eating your food, drinking your booze and sleeping on your couch for years to come.”

Thank you Penticton and see you soon.

Bruce Walkinshaw’s booming voice will be missed at the Penticton Western News.