There were many stars that had to align for me to land my first full-fledged reporting job at the Whistler Question. At the time, I was cutting my teeth at a news website in Medellin, Colombia, performing my journalistic rite of passage as an unpaid intern. Because this kind of early-career experience doesn't exactly pay the bills, five months into what was supposed to be a six-week co-op, I was flat-out broke. And not the exaggerated, I-can-make-this-stretch-until-my-next-paycheque kind of broke, either. I'm talking dirt poor. I was down to one meal a day, subsisting off the generosity of friends and the few pesos I managed to earn teaching English for an hour or two a week.
It was enough reason to kick this journalism thing into high gear, and actually, you know, get paid for my services. So I applied to any old journalism job I could find. To mining magazines and yachting monthlies. To publications as far away as Thailand and India that one could be excused for thinking were elaborate fronts for some untoward criminal enterprise. And I got rejected. Then I got rejected some more. Over and over again.
So when I learned of a reporter gig opening up at Whistler's longest-running newspaper, I didn't exactly have high hopes. I had virtually no newsroom experience, few references, and about 6,500 kilometres between me and Whistler.
And then, by some miracle, the reporter originally hired for the job backed out at the last minute, and, thanks to a few good words from Question sports reporter and college buddy, Eric MacKenzie (shout out to EMac!), I became the paper's newest crack newsman.
To say I was thrown into the deep end right off the bat would be a vast understatement. After two long days of travel from South America, I hopped off the Greyhound and went straight to the office, luggage and all, to copy edit. Soon after, I covered my first municipal council meeting, unable to make heads or tails of the intricacies of local government. I felt like a chicken running around with a notepad and his head cut off. But slowly, I learned the ropes, thanks in no small part to the unyielding support of my superiors. Why an award-winning newspaper with four decades of history behind it would give a cub reporter like myself such a long leash is beyond me. I pitched stories about haunted pizzerias and sasquatch porn, and for some reason I still don't understand, my editors said, go for it. I was given permission to fail, something I did regularly and spectacularly, a luxury not always afforded to journalists in a shrinking industry with fewer resources at the ready than ever before.
That's what I will remember most from my short time at the Question. The long hours and late-night writing sessions, two reporters and an editor crammed into a third-floor office above Marketplace. The specific sense of camaraderie that only emerges after you've seen someone at their most stressed, deadline bearing down, the fear of your crosstown rival beating you to the scoop closing in. (This is where 2012 Brandon would angrily shake his fist at a copy of Pique Newsmagazine.)
My memories of the Question only stretch back so far. I can't speak to the heady days of its origins, when publisher Paul Burrows would pump issues out of his A-frame on Matterhorn Drive. But I like to think there are a few common traits connecting the Question's founder to the scores of employees who have made their way through the newsroom over the past 41 years: a dogged work ethic, a natural curiosity, and a deep fondness for the people that call Whistler home. It's why we sit through four-hour council meetings. It's why we work on holidays, away from friends and family. It's why we grind day in and day out for little pay and no guarantee of job security. And it's why we've devoted ourselves to sharing the stories that reflect the ineffable character of this community.
After the news broke last week that the Question will be publishing its final edition this month, it was difficult to put into words just what it means for the resort. Surely, it's a devastating loss for the public. And for the Questionables who left their mark on this publication, that loss hits even closer to home.