I concluded that I’m going to miss this town just over a week ago, while standing in the basement of the Rod and Gun Club.
I had gone down to the club on a Thursday night with the intention of taking some photos of the new ladies’ shooting group — and within 20 minutes a half-dozen strangers were teaching me how to load and fire a six-shooter.
(Long story short: I’m not a crack shot. But the game of cops and robbers I was playing in my head was tremendous.)
The experience is pretty much everything I’ve grown to appreciate about Nelson in the last 14 months.
While we grumble at public hearings and open houses about whether the city can stand new growth and needs more people, once you wash up on the shores of Kootenay Lake you’re part of the team.
That my Thursday night was also kind of surreal seems to be par for the course.
Working for a newspaper tends to throw you into the centre of whatever action there is, but I suspect Nelson is the only town where a typical week could include cheering on a Junior B hockey team, a group of competitive jump ropers and members of Canada’s largest roller derby league, while tracking the progress of a locally written opera and a student-produced feature film.
Where else could I end up shooting a handgun for work one day and the next write about an experimental theatre project for women struggling with addiction?
But as strange (in a good way, I promise) as life in this city can be, leaving feels stranger still.
In a little over a week I’ll be heading slightly north and slightly east, to take over the editor’s position at the Invermere Valley Echo. While I would be lying if I claimed to be anything but incredibly excited, I really can’t wrap my head around the fact that I’m leaving the Star.
When I started here in the spring of 2010, the paper came out once a week, and competed with two other publications. I took nearly every photo, wrote most of the stories and was, most days, the only editorial person working in our Hall Street office — which typically contained only two other employees.
When not writing I answered phones and learned to work the debit machine in case someone needed to pay for an ad while everyone else was out.
Three months later, everything changed.
Our major competitor closed, and I met my soon-to-be-editor Bob Hall for only the second time, standing on the roof of the Nelson Daily News during a farewell party.
The Star I’m leaving has an editorial staff of three, comes out twice a week and is Nelson’s paper of record. It’s hard to imagine more of a 180 in such a short time, for a paper that’s not quite three years old.
I can’t take the credit. A lot of it goes to Bob for introducing us to subheadings and snappy headlines, and teaching me what a penalty kill was just in time for Leafs season. A good deal also goes to my colleague Greg Nesteroff, who will tell me when I’ve spelled Procter wrong for the 100th time and first introduced the concept of the big, highly illustrated Friday (or Wednesday) feature.
Then there’s the rest of the team — our stellar women in sales and circulation who make sure the papers get out and (more selfishly) we all get paid.
It’s an amazing, awesome team, and leaving them may be the hardest part of this move.
But it’s satisfying to know that I’m leaving the paper in good shape and good hands. I’m pretty sure I’ll look back on these 14 months, this transition and growth as one of the most interesting, challenging, only occasionally terrifying times of my life.
The first commandment of journalism is that it’s all about the people. In community news, it’s even more so.
I think one of the most important things a community paper can do is introduce you to your neighbours, whether it’s the famous novelist down the block, the student in the local jazz band or concerned citizen bent on raising awareness of the latest local issue.
In a town like Nelson, that’s been a privilege.
Andrea Klassen was a reporter with the Star.