Monday, 12 November 2012

Remebrance Day assignment sold me on journalism

In my very short time in the journalism world I have written hundreds of articles for J class, The Projector, and other publications in the city, but the Crecomm Remembrance Day assignment still sticks in my head as the best experience I ever had telling a story.

It was in the fall of 2011 I started to wonder if my dreams of being a journalist were going down the toilet. The only reason I joined Crecomm was to be a journalist, but the first few months of journalism class were not kind to me. Three autofails by October and I started to panic. Looking back now I realize I was probably overreacting but at the time it was devastating.

Then the Remembrance Day assignment came along and we were told to talk to someone who had been affected by war. The problem was, the only person I wanted to talk about was my Grandad who had passed away at the age of 92 two years before I joined Crecomm. I became extremely close with Grandad after my Grandma passed away in 2001, as I took on the responsibility of driving him once a week for groceries, which would usually be followed by us going out for lunch.

Chief Petty Officer William Baxter
As we became closer Grandad started to open up to me about his experiences in the Navy during the Second World War. He was an engineer down in the boiler room that sailed with an envoy across the Atlantic Supply Route. He would tell me of his envoy being attacked but only being able to hear but not see what was going on. It's truly a fear I can not imagine. He also told me if guys were drowning in the water they couldn't stop to help them. They had to keep moving or they might be hit too.

HMCS Algoma: The ship my Grandad sailed on during the Second World War

I knew I could write the story just based on what I had heard from Grandad but that is not the way the assignment worked. I also knew my Dad knew a lot of what Grandad had been through so I asked Duncan and he told me talking to my Dad would be OK.

What followed was my Dad opening up to me in a way I have never seen before. I thought I was just going to get an account of what my Dad had heard but instead I got my Dad telling me what Grandad had been through and how it personally affected him and his Mom. It turns out war didn't just affect the person who had been though it but all the people around him as well.

The other great part of the assignment was going to HMCS Chippawa to cover the Remembrance Day Ceremony. I had gone to Chippawa every Sunday when I was a kid with my Grandparents, as the original building had a swimming pool where me and my siblings would take swimming lessons.

The Chippawa I remembered was a building that had been torn down and I had never even been in the new building, but it still brought back memories if only because of the name.

The old HMCS Chippawa building was demolished in 1998
The new HMCS Chippawa building
The Remembrance Day assignment was the first time I felt what it was like to get emotionally invested in a story and made me finally realize there was no doubt I wanted to be a journalist.
RIP Grandad