When I walk into the contentious SD8 facilities planning meeting on July 5 — which will be the culmination of a multi-year process and easily the biggest story of the year — I will be meeting my editor Greg Nesteroff on the battlefield for the first time, as he will be stepping into the news director role at Juice FM a few days before that.
“That will be the first time we meet as competitors,” Greg told me this week, while I trudged dejected through the office, in denial that he’s actually leaving.
The moment he took over the editor position last February was a turning point for this paper, and heralded an era of fastidious fact-checking, quirky historical columns and fiery editorials that took local heavies to task.
Last year when local police officer Drew Turner was put on trial for assaulting a young woman—an act that had three of his fellow officers testifying against him—it was Greg who got a bee in his bonnet while working on my coworker Bill’s coverage of the trial.
He wrote a fiery, impassioned editorial calling for Turner’s resignation titled “Disgraced cop must go”, and it’s easily one of the finest pieces of journalism I’ve ever read, and one of the bravest too.
And it’s even more extraordinary when you consider the source: a teetotaling Doukhobor nerd without an aggressive or malicious bone in his body. I don’t think I’ve ever heard him raise his voice.
Greg already has an unassailable reputation in town, and I think he’ll do a great job taking over from Glenn Hicks, but that didn’t stop me for haranguing him and complaining when he dropped the news of his departure to our office. Since I’ve worked here he’s been my main champion and support, sometimes through gruelling and stressful assignments, and I’ve come to routinely rely on his expertise.
One of my favourite memories involving Greg came about two years ago, when our publisher told us about a peculiar phone call she’d received—Greg had called to inform her the newly released phone book had a number of copy-editing errors, something he gleaned while scouring through it in his free time.
Another legacy Greg leaves is an exhaustively maintained private list of the photo credits and bylines earned by various employees at the Star since 2010, which he updates and distributes each week. He’s currently got the top spot, having cracked 2000, and not long ago I passed former editor Bob Hall to take second place.
Now that he’s gone, though, who’s going to keep track of this stuff?
Greg Nesteroff wrote one of the best sports stories you’ve never read.
My work days are often interrupted by impromptu sports history talk with Greg, and it was during one of these chats that boxing came up. He emailed me a story he wrote called “The Slocan Champ” about Vic Foley, who won the national championship in 1924.
When I read it I was shocked. A 12-page piece already laid out in magazine style with pictures and three pages of citations. The writing was exquisite and the research was thorough. It was a love letter to a time and place in West Kootenay history, a story Greg had clearly put his heart and soul into.
It was also unpublished.
A story that could easily run in, for example, The Walrus, and it never even saw print in the Star. I was agog, but that story sums up who Greg Nesteroff is more than anything. He’s a consummate journalist who does most of his work out of the spotlight.
I’ve only worked at the Star since December, but Greg is the best editor I’ve ever worked for. I’d fallen out of love with my craft prior to meeting Greg. After years of professional disappointments I’d lost faith in journalism as a career. Greg restored that faith. He’s given me the creative freedom to chase the kind of stories I never would have been able to do previously. He doesn’t say no to story ideas and in return I’ve taken care not to squander his trust.
That, I think, has resulted in some very important stories being told that likely would never have been reported in other publications.
The best editors are invisible. They work to make their writers better, but they also act as the public face for their publication. It’s in this that Greg excels. I’ve often marvelled at how much tact Greg shows with upset readers, the patience he has for visitors who arrive for an impromptu chat while Greg is putting together a paper on deadline. But whereas for some those moments would be a chore, Greg revels in it. He loves the history of this place and cares about its future.
It was a telling moment when Greg told the staff he was leaving and no one rushed to congratulate him. He’s the best of us, and his contributions to the community shouldn’t stay invisible any longer.
Although I first met him in 2000, my first real interaction as a journalist with Greg Nesteroff was in 2005 when as radio newsmen we covered Corky Evans’ election victory party, Greg for BK radio, I for KBS. There is a Fred Rosenberg photo out there somewhere of Greg interviewing Corky that night, with me in the background.
Since then Greg and I have circled around each other in Nelson, each working for various media outlets, Greg with his signature old-fashioned personal style, like a reporter out of the 1940s. I quickly came to think of him as one of the very best reporters Nelson has ever seen. And we have the added bonus of his devotion to local history and his dedication to sharing it with us.
We worked together for the first time when I started with the Star in early 2015. At the same time, Greg became the editor. This marked a high point in my career because the team of Greg, me, Will Johnson and Tyler Harper is one of the best I have ever worked in. Under Greg’s leadership this group has a level of mutual respect and comfort that most people hope for in a work team but rarely find.
Greg is one of the most focussed workers I have ever seen, but at the same time he will break that focus at a second’s notice to get into a friendly discussion about some ironic quirk in the news that day, a historical fact from the 1890s, a tricky word definition, an obscure punctuation rule, a story angle that we might have missed, or a whole new story that we overlooked. Greg does not overlook things. He’s on it, all the time. And I’m not just talking about the news of the day, but the news of the past century or more.
Speaking of which: Nelson people who remember the first half of the twentieth century love Greg.
“I’m very popular with the octogenarian set,” he said once said after yet another very elderly gent hung around in the office for a while discussing the details of life in Nelson in the 1930s. They may be taking up his valuable time on a deadline day, but Greg is gracious with them and is interested in their every word.
But as our leader in the newsroom, Greg is in 2016 and then some. He has high standards but he’s humble about it. He’s a stickler for detail but at the same time allows us lots of freedom to pursue our own ideas. That balance had made working with him a pleasure, and I’m going to miss him.