The more things change…


As I was going through some papers in preparation for the move to our new office on Dover Street, I came across a copy of a column I’d written more than 20 years ago.

It was shortly after I’d been named managing editor at the Chatham Daily News following the far-too-early death of my friend, mentor and boss, Steve Zak.

It was entitled, “What we stand for,” and it was a manifesto of sorts stating what I believed a newspaper should strive to be, complete with a photo of me in what I think was a tweed jacket (I must have been trying to look distinguished beyond my years).

Steve left me with an outstanding staff, including editors Bill Saunders (later to become a managing editor in his own right); Bill Reddick; sports editor Mike Bennett (a New York sports fanatic who’s beyond redemption); Rod Hilts; and Mr. Entertainment, Randy Coote.

We had a talented group of reporters, including Cheryl Belzner, who won the journalistic equivalent of Most Valuable Player and Rookie of the Year in the Western Ontario Newspaper Awards; Bill Currie, a non-sportswriter who won a sports writing award and a non-business writer who won a business writing award.

Other members of the crew included Bob Boughner (then only in his mid 70s); Yvonne Bendo, who always had an inside track in health care, fire and police matters; and the late Andy Johnston, sportswriter extraordinaire.

We were fortunate to have talented photographers around that time, such as Dan Janisse (now with the Windsor Star), Cathie Coward (now with the Hamilton Spectator), Tory James (University of Windsor) and Rick Madonik, who went on to the Toronto Star.

As I read, “What we stand for,” I was struck by what has changed since then (my now-fully gray facial hair) and what hasn’t (my idealism).

It’s undisputable that I wasn’t as smart as I thought I was.  I’ve learned a lot. Life will do that, if you let it.

What hasn’t changed is my belief in our community and the people in it. That’s been reinforced lately as I’ve met so many people who’ve opened their minds and hearts to what we’re trying to accomplish with this newspaper

It’s been a great career so far, not that there haven’t been some “interesting” times.

I’ve been accused (and that is the proper way to phrase it) of being a member of every political party.

Rex Crawford once called me a socialist; I’ve had a couple of door slammers with Jerry Pickard; I launched a “fax Brian goodbye” campaign to help former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney find the door on his way out; and then-MPP Randy Hope’s chief of staff once threatened to have him boycott my paper unless we let him choose a “friendly” reporter to speak with him. That was a short meeting.

Locally, longtime Chatham Mayor Bill Erickson (another person taken too soon) was fond of calling me a “dumb-ass editor” who said I wanted to run the city.

At the height of the first crow infestation when the mayor’s posse was blasting its way across the city, His Worship’s anger at the paper prompted a tongue-in-cheek campaign hinting that I was going to run for mayor to give Chatham “something to crow about.”

I still miss him, sometimes.

There’s nothing wrong with passion in politics and I’m proud of the fact that I’ve shaken hands many times with all of those above (with the exception of Mr. Mulroney who doesn’t get down in these parts very often).

This is a new chapter for me and for a talented group of people who’ve joined co-owner Bruce Corcoran and myself in establishing The Chatham Voice.

With Karen Callies, Tracey Weaver-Curran and Trish Weese (when she’s finished maternity leave next month), we have dedicated, experienced sales staff.

Fatima Pisquem will be handling our classifieds and circulation, and Mary Beth Corcoran will be that friendly voice that answers the phone and handles our office duties. Yes, we believe in having people answer the phone whenever possible.

We’re really excited about having Michelle Owchar taking the lead on our graphics department. She’s immensely talented and brings an indispensible local touch to our advertising.

We have some of the community’s finest writers and photographers contributing to The Voice, people who will be making this a truly local publication. Aaron Hall, Sarah Schofield, April Colby, Mike Bennett, Blair Andrews, Laurie McKenzie and Katrina Squazzin will be providing content in the coming issues.

Give us a read, tell us what you think, and stay involved in our community.




  1. Wonderful article Jim, I had to chuckle as I remembered some of those moments. I had a happy tear as I pictured Mom sitting and smiling at the kitchen table as she read your articles asking me "Did you see what your brother wrote?". Happy memories and I am sure she is smiling down on you.


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