Having spent the last 43 (of 53) years of my life behind a camera (which evolved into video camera for a while), I enjoyed telling my stories through photos.
A few years ago a good friend introduced me to Community News Commons…hmmm…“looks interesting” I thought. She explained that the writers were citizen journalists (community people writing about their community) and that she had written some stories for them and submitted some photos that they published.
The photo part really piqued my interest. I signed up and contacted Noah Erenberg, the convener/ editor of this really cool news source.
I have written a fair amount of poetry since the late ’90’s but never really considered writing stories before.
The first story I wrote was a review of the former Sonic Youth member Lee Renaldo’s concert at the Union Sound Hall (closed down since). It was published after Noah made some edits on Feb. 6, 2014.
Now, I’m the kind of guy who likes to keep busy and check out different things, my favourite being concerts, but also theatre, art, and social justice issues.
It happened to be Festival du Voyaguer time and Noah asked if myself and my friend would like to write a few stories about the Festival as well as send in some photos. Well, that really got the ballpoint rolling. During that week I submitted five stories about the festival and a couple reviews of the New Music Festival (whoever says there’s nothing to do in this city isn’t looking hard enough). Now I was hooked and suddenly everything that I did or came across was a potential story.
But wait, I had obligated myself to assist The Walking Monk on his fourth walk across Canada. We had about two months to get to the west coast from Alberta, as he would just travel the summer months.
I told Noah that I guess I won’t be writing anything for a while seeing how I won’t be in the community. He said why not, you’re part of the community and it would be nice if you could share some of your experiences. I ended up writing a story abut the Monk before the journey as well as submitting many photos for Photo of the Day as I traveled across this beautiful country of ours.
Shortly after I got back to Winnipeg, I was involved in a pretty serious car accident. I immersed myself in writing as almost a therapeutic kind of thing…something to take my mind off of the accident.
I even went as far as writing a few stories about safe driving after seeing a couple more accidents in the city. Zen Buddhists say that when you have troubles on your mind that you should write it down on paper to get it out of your mind, and then burn it…it’s gone now.
One of the nice things about CNC is that they would have journalism classes in the spring and fall (and they were free). Featuring seasoned journalists and media facilitators, the sessions were very helpful.
As time went on I started collaborating with a few of the writers by contributing photos to their stories.
Another wonderful thing about CNC is that over the last year or so we started having monthly writers meetings where we would discuss upcoming stories. There was always such a wonderful vibe in that room during those meetings of like minded folks. Like minded but very diverse…unity in diversity kind of thing. Very inspirational.
As a result of catching the writing bug, I have written for a few publications over the last few years including the Uniter (reviewing CD’s and events as well as being the Fashion Streeter photographer), Ukrainian Winnipeg Magazine and as of earlier this year I was hired by Canstar’s The Times as a Community Correspondent.
But as they say, all good things must come to end. Unfortunately, Community News Commons is closing.
I find it rather ironic that the same day John Lennon was shot down, Dec. 8, 1980, is the same day that CNC is shutting down. Having developed friendships with many of the citizen journalists, quite a few of us are still reeling from the shock (although CNC had started out as a three year trial thing which was extended).
My thoughts now are to just be thankful for having been a part of this amazing entity called CNC.
It has been a wonderful experience having written about so many different topics and I owe it all to Noah Erenberg. His very professional attitude and friendly demeanor has made me the writer that I am today. Heck, I met two astronauts in the process and countless musicians (not to mention the many interesting folks who I’ve written about).
The day of our last meeting I wrote a little poem that I shared with the group:
THE CNC POEM
The Community News Commons…. what a great idea
Community writers sharing stories… for everyone to see
Friendships and collaborations… made along the way
Such a diverse group… we had oh so much to say
(started crying here as I wrote the poem)
What a great experience… that THIS writer’s had
Sharing happy stories unlike the mainstream’s bad
The monthly writer’s meetings are something I’ll surely miss
So much inspiration in the room… kinda close to bliss
(crying still… so sad)
The man who made it happen was Noah Erenberg
Convener and editor… so good with shaping words
I’m truly am so grateful… to have met this man
He helped me realize… whatever you want, you can
Wishing all the best to Noah on his new position at The Winnipeg Foundation. As well, all the best to all of my Community News Commons colleagues.
John Lennon sang the line “The dream is over” but as far as I’m concerned… the dream has just begun……