“Where is Sault Ste. Marie again?”
That was the question I asked my Dad before I went to apply for this position last August. I was unsure of my decision to come here, it was a long way from “home”, but it was the best decision of my life.
After 365 days, 816 stories, 8,500+ photos, 244,000 words and 22,000 km’s criss-crossing this beautiful city and district, I am now able to tell people where we are, how to get here and a little bit about how to navigate our one-way streets.
The heart of this place, where I have gone from renting to buying a home, is good. There are good people in this city everywhere, you just have to look past some of the issues. My dad advised me recently “Don’t let the bad you cover, cover up the good you have in this city. There is a lot of good here.” A sentiment with which I agree.
What have I learned in the past year?
When people told me this whole city is connected, I didn’t believe it at first. When I would ask incredulous questions about things which would be basic knowledge in Southern Ontario, the running joke at the office was “Welcome to the Sault… We do things differently here.”
Our community has many challenges.
I’ve cried with parents who have lost their loved ones to substance abuse. Been the silent observer when firefighters pulled a victim out of a fire. I’ve covered a police service who, despite having its hands tied, does multiple things to try and fix the problems. I’ve watched paramedics try, unsuccessfully, to bring someone back to life and conversely, I have also witnessed them achieve that goal.
We were even able to have a kid meet his heroes, when the Snowbirds came to town.
I do this job to be your voice. Municipal stories including the $350,000 for a vacant lot, closing of a beloved campground, a replacement arena and ever a ballooning budget on the downtown plaza consume my time so that the public may see what some may not want them to.
I remember one of the first emergency services stories I attended was on Wallace Terrace. I was met by an onlooker who asked what I was doing, and when I explained, they promptly told me, “we don’t need Southern Ontario reporting here. It won’t work.”
I’ve become part of an amazing team at Superior Media, who has become family to me. They all have the same vision and passion to be your eyes and your voice in the community. My Girlfriend who had never left Mid-Western Ontario, loves how close to nature we are here, even though we still both find the distance to family and other places staggering.
I’ve had my life threatened, become friends with complete strangers, met amazing people and learned to love the uniqueness that is Sault Ste. Marie.
Someone asked me the other day, when considering moving here from Southern Ontario, if I would do it again knowing everything I know about our city.
I told them absolutely. Every place has its problems, and every place has its highlights. What we may lose in having severe crime, we gain in having the beauty of our wilderness, right inside our city limits.
I always tell them, even though it may not seem that way, we are still “Algoma’s Friendliest City.”
Just stop and ask for directions sometime (or lots of times, as it was with me, if we had met when I first got here). Observe how many people nod or say good morning during a walk on the Hub Trail, or how fast some neighbours are to fill you in when you move into a neighbourhood and you will see the evidence supporting that title.
I look forward to bringing your stories to the public and the stories that matter to you for years to come.
Through all the issues, early morning calls, and ups and downs that come with being a community-based multi-media reporter in Sault Ste. Marie, if I had a chance to answer the question “Where is Sault Ste. Marie?” to anyone that asked me, I’m proud to say…