Home > Journalists in the news > The first B.C. Reporter book club-ish post (UPDATED)

The first B.C. Reporter book club-ish post (UPDATED)

April 14, 2011

I’ve finally got a copy Mark Leiren-Young‘s Never Shoot a Stampede Queen, a memoir about Mark’s time as a rookie reporter for the Williams Lake Tribune in 1985-6.

The book won the 2009 Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour, which is the single biggest prize out there for a writer who aspires to be funny. I know several other local journalists offered their take on the book when it was first released, but this blog wasn’t around back then and anyways, I only heard about it a couple months ago.

So, I’m 77 pages and can’t offer too much of a comment on it yet. But the book does touch on several characters that are sure to be familiar to an, ummm, “more experienced” generation of community reporters. I might as well take a swing at trying to ID one of them right away.

One figure whose already popped up is the publisher, named Stan. At the start of the book, Mark explains that “some real people are now what the lawyers like to call ‘composite characters’–in the hopes that my friends in the Cariboo will still talk to me after they read this, and to avoid giving my publisher’s lawyer a heart attack.”

Now I’m not sure about the life history of David Black, but from what I can surmise, it seems likely that he is one large component, but not all, of “Stan.” (If Black’s got an alibi for this, please, please, please leave a comment. I don’t want to go through this whole book thinking Stan is Black when that’s not the case.)

[UPDATE:  Someone has since left a comments suggesting (I think) that Bob Grainger may in fact be Stan. Given that I have no reason to believe otherwise, and that Grainger was the Cariboo Press GM in 1984 as shown here, I think it’s probably more likely than the proceeding speculation. By the way, whatever happened to Grainger? I can find no online trace of him online after 2008, including no retirement notice.]

Here’s why I think [thought] this:

Black, of course, built his chain around the Williams Lake Tribune, which he bought in 1979.  Stan, meanwhile, told Mark “he’d helped take over a few Ma and Pa operations and that’s how is chain now included almost two dozen newspapers.”

The quote that follows also sounds like it’s straight out of Black’s playbook.

“‘I don’t know anything about journalism,’ [Stan] boasted, ‘but I know how to make a profit.'”

Elsewhere, Stan hopes his new reporter isn’t too proud to write business profiles and reminds him that “advertising pays the freight around here.”

That sounds like Black’s philosophy, although it’s a pretty tin-eared way to greet a reporter who you want to stick around for any length of time.

The only things that make me think that Stan isn’t Black, are Mark’s physical descriptions of him.

Stan, for example, “was as big as he sounded on the phone” with a bushy moustache that belonged in the Old West. He also sounds like an older guy in his mid-50s, rather than his mid-30s, as Black would have been at the time. Today at least, Black’s not a very physically imposing guy.

Seventy-seven pages in, though, that’s about the only thing that has me believing that Stan isn’t David Black. I will report back later.

In the meantime, the book is an entertaining read, albeit one obviously written for a general, rather than journalist, audience. That’s not a bad thing, it just means that some of the funny tales Mark writes about are occurrences that repetition has caused at least this reporter to look at as routine, rather than out of the ordinary.

But while the book makes one want to head to the computer and pound out the last several years of humorous anecdotes accrued on the job, there’s probably not much point in trying. Mark’s way with language and a quip is such that even if you manage to do as well as him, you won’t be breaking much ground.

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This blog had more visitors in March than any previous months. It’s still a one-person show, though, so any help would be great. It’s easy, quick and the pay is shite. E-mail bclocalreporter (at) gmail (dot) com.

Have I made an error? It wouldn’t be the first time. Leave a comment and I’ll shamefully update the post.

We’re making inroads into our census of B.C. community newspapers, but there are still a lot of blanks in the Journo-lust Spreadsheet. How many journalists work at your paper? How often do you come out? Who’s your publisher? Participation is free! The benefits unlimited! The exclamation points boundless!

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  1. Veteran Black Pressie
    April 14, 2011 at 3:12 pm

    Ever met Bob Grainger?

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