So, You Want to Be a Writer?

Well, was that a blink of light at the end of our two-year tunnel of discontent – or a snowdrop proudly poking its head above our South Island snowline only to find winter in Canada’s Camelot can still provide a knockout punch for flowers that bloom presumptuously.

I apologize for my weak attempt to be humorous about our continuing vicissitudes, mainly with COVID-19 and its various shape-shifting threats. But, I was genuinely delighted a couple of days ago to read that “in the spirit of supporting a healthy democracy with a thriving journalistic community Janet Austin, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia, with support of the Government House Foundation and in partnership with the Jack Webster Foundation, is pleased to announce the launch of the Lieutenant Governor’s BC Journalism Fellowship.” 

I think the “thriving journalistic community” is a bit of a stretch that can only be justified if the proliferation of online publications is the measuring stick. The numbers may give the appearance of thriving, but the quality of the content all too often falls far below the standards most daily newspapers use to strive for routinely.

To be clear – I am hoping my presumed “snowdrop” survives any surprise frosts.

To be fair to whoever penned the Lieutenant Governors’ press release, they did note that the annual $25,000 fellowships would be available for at least three years to “encourage and enable journalists to go above and beyond their typical level of coverage so that some of the under-reported, but crucial, challenges of today receive the deep, complex storytelling deserved by the citizens of BC.”

Sounds a bit like one of my old editors’ oft-repeated edicts “get it first and get it fast, but FIRST get it right.” And, one that still lingers with me: “If in doubt – leave it out,” a piece of advice to which so many of today’s editors give little or no thought when they let reporters slide editorial comment into what should be just the facts.

The fellowship will be available to “a journalist, or team of journalists, in various stages of their careers (emerging, returning or experienced).” Would-be applicants can get details at:

Before applying, applicants would do well to familiarize themselves with L-G Austin’s thoughts on the need for quality journalism: “One of the greatest challenges faced in our society is the fragility of democracy in the 21st century. Across our communities, we see increased polarization as we encounter trials on a magnitude never experienced (while) all the news outlets we rely on to maintain an informed citizenry are eroding and under-resourced.”

My advice to any young journalist applying: Remember, you will never write anything you couldn’t have written better, and make sure you have a good, tough editor.


  1. I suppose, as with any gift, it’s the thought that counts. As someone who toiled for many years in newsrooms with annual budgets reaching multiple millions I view this $25,000 contribution as purely symbolic.

    Yet, I agree the decline of newspapers has been a blow to democracy. Replacing thoughtful writers and their responsible editors with yapping hyenas on social media hasn’t helped democracy or much else.

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