Thoughts on Calgary

It’s time for a longer post than I’ve been producing lately.

Today being Sunday, on Friday and yesterday I was in Calgary for the AWNA (Alberta Weekly Newspapers Assoc.) Symposium. For those unfamiliar with the concept, it was basically a newspaper conference for weekly newspapers in Alberta.

I spent the majority of the two days (more like 23 hours) in various workshops and lectures about the art of reporting and photographing. Well, more accurately, those were the sessions I took.

To be honest, I don’t actually think I got anything out of the sessions I attended. For court reporting, a lot of what was discussed was more valuable for reporters in larger centres that have court every day. Here in Barrhead we have court twice a week. While the lessons are still useful, they’re a bit less so simply because as a circuit court there are a lot more changes in the staff, Crown and judges on a biweekly basis than is seen at Queen’s Bench in Edmonton or Calgary.

The interviewing session I attended? It was pretty much a repeat of the things I learned from Dave McKie at Carleton. And there’s a simple reason why that’s the case — the man who ran the interviewing course is the same man who provided the information Dave McKie used in his lectures on interviewing. So I didn’t learn anything new. That being said, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with refreshers.

The lead-writing lecture was pretty much the same at the interviewing one. And it’s the same reason — rehashing stuff from my classes with Dave McKie because it was the same ‘lesson plan.’ But once again, it’s never bad to get a refresher on things. Sometimes we all need to have things drilled into our heads again.

The photo courses were what I was looking forward to the most. Having never taking photography at Carleton – something I do regret now – I thought the chance to be taught by a professional photog would be a good idea.

And while I did pick up a few things to help my photography – mainly techniques about location, props and non-standard angles – the real tips in terms of ways to manage bad lighting or deal with less-than-willing subjects just didn’t materialize. Now, I’m not blaming anyone here. I should have expected going in that what I was to be part of would be a cursory overview of the topic and nothing like a post-secondary photo course. And that is what it was.

Of course, it wasn’t a total loss. Taking a look at the photos the lecturer showed us gave me ideas of what I can try. I want to get better at photography, so anything I can pick up is better than nothing.

Now, for all the learning I did – or didn’t do, as the case may be – the best part of the Symposium was the catching up and bonding I did with my peers. Rather, with two of my peers — a fellow 2009 Carleton J-School grad and my replacement in Westlock (who herself is leaving the position shortly).

I hadn’t seen Tanya since graduation, I think, and it was good to catch up with her and to see someone out here I could talk to about things relating to Carleton and be able to the names and not “a guy/girl I went to J-School with” or “one of my J-School profs.”

As for Megan (or ‘the Megan’ in a tweet I made (I really need to copy edit my tweets)), with her leaving my old job (I claim ownership over that job as long as Doug is still there), it was nice to catch up and chat before she leaves for other pastures. Plus, having lived together for just under a month, we talked about the old living situation — the one that wasn’t at all comfortable for all three of us. And just like she did a while ago when big news about her broke, she once again validated my opinions on the whole situation.

Overall, it was a good 23 hours in Calgary. Friends, colleagues and an atmosphere somewhat like J-School — there’s not much more I could have asked for.

The drive there and back, however? That’s a different story. I’m not a fan of long drives.

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