Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Carved in stone: The limitation of cemeteries as public history sites

Our digital public history class recently had a guest speaker who discussed dark history tourism – things like ghost tours and torture museums. I had previously not thought much about dark history at all, because the macabre has never been of particular interest to me, so I was surprised to learn from our guest that cemeteries are dark history sites. It immediately made sense, though – if you’re in a cemetery, you’re literally surrounded by the remains of dead people. And a cemetery is a great place to search for and find local history.

Greenwood Cemetery in Owen Sound, ON. Photo by the City of Owen Sound.
Continue reading

Locked out: A hometown visit spoiled

My wife and I returned to my home area, Grey and Bruce counties, on Thanksgiving weekend earlier this month. Part of the visit involved a trip into Owen Sound, my birthplace and the largest community in either county. I’m proud of being from Owen Sound and I like to come home for various reasons every few weeks.

We had our grandson, Briar, with us. Briar is five years old and, like me, he was born in Owen Sound, but he has not lived there since shortly after his first birthday. Because he does not remember living in Owen Sound, his father and I make a point of sharing our knowledge and our memories with him.

On this particular occasion, I wanted to share a lesson in public history, but I was the one who ended up learning something. (Not a good thing.)

Briar Jackson, age 5, at the sign marking the entrance to his birthplace
Continue reading

Here’s an opportunity – how badly do you want it?

How does a hockey play reflect something that invariably happens in our personal and professional lives?

I write about varsity sports at the University of Guelph. For the past week-and-a-half, I’ve been thinking about something that I saw during a hockey game at the Gryphon Centre.

It was November 25, and I was covering the Guelph Gryphons as they played the visiting Nipissing Lakers. Midway through the second period, with the Gryphons already leading 1-0, Guelph forward Tryg Strand took a pass from teammate Marc Stevens just inside the Nipissing zone. Here’s a video of what happened next:

Continue reading

Why am I doing this?

I’m a second-year university student. I’m also about to turn 47 years old.

There have been plenty of times over the past year-and-a-half when I’ve felt down, and asked myself why I’m doing what I’m doing. Why have I returned to school again? Why am I working toward a bachelor’s degree at my age, while trying to juggle work and family responsibilities? And it always comes back to not having been happy with my life, and realizing and accepting that I would need to make some tough choices and work hard if I wanted things to change for the better.

That means I need a lot of positive self-talk and self-motivation as I work toward a goal that is still far enough away that it remains a somewhat abstract concept. And I’ll be honest, it can be really difficult to get motivated to do all of the things that I’ve piled onto my plate. But I get them done, because that’s what I expect of myself, and that’s what my family expects of me as a provider and role model. There is a cost, though. I don’t have much of a life anymore outside of school and work. And I often feel very much alone, like when everyone else is sleeping and I’m working into the wee hours of the morning. That’s when the doubts start to creep in. That’s when I ask myself the big question – “Why am I doing this?”

Continue reading

September 14

Twenty years ago today, I got married for the first time. It was 5 p.m. on September 14, 1996. I was 26 years old and had one child, a 2 ½-year-old boy. I was working at a dream career in my hometown of Owen Sound, Ontario. I don’t remember thinking anything specific about the future, but I know I felt very optimistic and positive despite the rain that poured down that day. How could I not?

Nine years ago today, I was recently separated and was the full-time single father of three boys, aged 13, 10, and 8. There was little to feel optimistic and positive about. My marriage had failed, and in fact had ended in spectacularly ugly fashion. My former dream career had turned into a nightmare. As it was the first anniversary without my wife, I spent this day feeling sorry for myself, feeling overwhelmed, and feeling very much alone and lost in the wilderness.

Five years ago today, I was lying on my living room couch with a broken vertebra in my back, a broken hand, bruised ribs, and a bruised knee – souvenirs from the car crash of the previous evening. I had been spreading myself too thin, working three jobs in order to make ends meet, and as a result I was neglecting some of my responsibilities as a sole-support parent. It all caught up with me late one night on a lonely back road between Meaford and Owen Sound. Five years ago today, I was beaten up, physically and emotionally. Being optimistic and positive was so far beyond me at that point. Again, I spent the day feeling overwhelmed and sorry for myself. I’m not sure I’ve ever felt lower than I did on this day.

Continue reading

Crossroads: I’m finally turning a corner

Also published on LinkedIn – check me out.

Every time I come to a crossroads, I always end up going straight.

I’ve finally realized that you can only keep going straight for so long before you run out of pavement.

So maybe it’s time for a change of direction.

I’ve been a journalist for 22 years. That’s half of my life. It was an accidental career at first, but I loved it right away. I hadn’t known what I wanted to do for a living when I answered an ad to work part-time in the sports department at the Owen Sound Sun Times newspaper, in my small Ontario hometown. Hey, I thought, why not? I loved sports and I loved writing. Much to my surprise, I got the job. It’s the last job I’ve ever gotten simply by applying for it, without knowing anyone on the inside.

Continue reading

The struggle for self-confidence

“The fundamental cause of trouble in the world today is that the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.” – Bertrand Russell

I love that quote and its variations. It reminds me of the struggle that goes on inside me, a battle I think I have been fighting all my life.

I’m plagued by self-doubt – not about my ability, but about whether or not I deserve to succeed in this world.

I take pride in whatever success I have enjoyed, and I love it when people express their pride in me. I’ve worked hard to be good at what I do, and I’ve never wanted anything to simply be handed to me.

But there’s always something that I continue to strive for and haven’t quite reached – a “better” job, which to me means more security, more freedom to be creative and, of course, more money.

I think I haven’t reached this because I’ve never learned how to convincingly say to the right people, “I’m awesome and you need me.”

Continue reading

The future of journalism

When I started out in journalism in 1992, the impact of 24/7 news was still relatively new.

It used to be that news was something you watched or listened to or read at certain times of the day. Your local TV newscast was on at 6 p.m., followed at 6:30 p.m. by a national newscast presented by one of the Big Three networks – ABC, CBS and NBC.

Radio news was hourly during the day. The local newspaper came in the evening. Later, you could watch Canadian national news at 10 on CBC or at 11 on CTV (I don’t remember when Global was scheduled because we never watched it). The local news followed at 11:30. Or you could watch Buffalo local news at 11 to see how North Tonawanda or Lackawanna or Cheektowaga continued to burn, house by house.

If you wanted news outside of these schedules, you were out of luck unless there was a special report that justified the news breaking into your favourite program. But nobody really sought out the news outside of those accepted times – after the local news, you went to bed and forgot about it until the next morning.

Continue reading