Commentary – Cut from the same cloth

Chris Clegg

I always liked to tease my Lethbridge Community College instructor Georgie Fooks (may she rest in peace!) by reminding her the best advice she ever gave was during the first day of classes, then it when downhill afterwards.

“The first thing you told us,” I reminded her, “was that no matter what you write, someone is going to love it and somebody is going to hate it. If you can’t deal with it, there are two doors leading out of this room. You can leave now!”

And I went to college for two years!

None of the wide-eyed aspiring journalists left the room that day but I never forgot what Fooks said. Odd thing is, many students took this as rather intimidating. It was not. Fooks was merely trying to send her “little darlings” as she liked to call us, a message about the stark reality of what we were getting ourselves into.

I decided to enter the Communications Arts program at Lethbridge to major in radio, before switching to print. I knew former Fairview Post editor Dennis Hegland very well. I already knew that people’s opinions on editors was based mostly on what they wrote last week. Dad reading the paper each week was proof of that. One week a hero, next week the village idiot. I knew what I was getting into. There were no surprises.

Politicians should realize this when entering the public realm. Like journalists, no matter what journalists write or decision politicians make, someone is going to love it, someone is going to hate it. It is a simple fact of life and what we have both chosen to do.

Yet – and this is a very big yet – many complain. Many can’t handle the criticism and leave quickly, or blame everyone else for their troubles. Really? You made your bed! Sleep in it!

Is the job of a journalist or politician difficult? Why let a journalist decide? You can decide!

Besides, every job has its benefits and drawbacks. No job is all a bed of roses. For a majority of the general public, no one wants to hear you tell them how lousy their job is. Many have it far worse.

Back to journalists and politicians. We both make decisions made each day. We both deal with the public. We both gather the best information we can and proceed. It is not always easy, but compared to being in a 10-foot hole fixing a water line at -40 C I can take it. There are millions of other examples anyone in any job can cite.

There is one big difference between journalists and politicians. Theoretically, journalists have gone to school to receive training on how to properly do their job. Politicians, meanwhile, need no training. I am not suggesting every potential candidate has to pass a course before running for office but I am suggesting it is ironic that no training is required for such an important job. The decision is left to the voters about who is best suited for the job, and that’s OK.

The rest of the first day of college class, I don’t remember what Fooks taught. I just like to tease her about that first statement she made to us and how true it was.

The first time I told Fooks this she smiled and had a quick reply.

“Well, it’s true,” she said.

And for the record, Fooks (and other instructor Richard Burke) also taught us a lot of other important stuff. The approximate 100 national and provincial awards since my arrival at South Peace News in 1988 does not make me perfect, but it perhaps suggests I am not the village idiot every day.

I thank Fooks and Burke for their wise guidance and instruction.

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