Russ Francis leaves Monday Magazine
Posted 06 September 2007 - 10:22 PM
“Now boys, shake hands and play nice.” Russ Francis faces off with former city manager Don Roughley (left), whose name appeared frequently in Francis’ columns over the years
By RUSS FRANCIS
Sep 05 2007
Taking leave of 13 years of Mondays
It’s moving-on time. This is my last column for Monday Magazine, where I started as a freelancer, working from Vancouver, back in 1994. The following year, I joined the staff.
The best way to sum up my experience at Monday over the last 13 years is to recall words of the irascible late American reporter Izzy Stone, who once told a group of students that he had so much fun he ought to be arrested.
At Monday, a big reason for that powerfully positive experience is the staff, who have helped turn what could have been a merely rewarding professional position into one that has been at times pleasant, supportive, amusing—and downright inspiring.
Some might regard editors as little more than managers, deciding on the disposition of stories, photographs, artwork and other material intended for publication, while keeping an eye on the business side of things. However, in the case of Monday, they have been—and are—far more than that. For some of my columns, story ideas and even the columns’ best lines have been suggested by inspired editors, even though they got no byline in return for their input.
During the last 13 years at Monday, I have been privileged to work with the very best editors in the country. One simply could not ask for better people to have looking over one’s shoulder than Sid Tafler, James MacKinnon, Ross Crockford, Alisa Gordaneer and John Threlfall. All remain friends.
In addition, there are the other staff, who have been such a pleasure to work with. Cleaners, receptionists, distribution staff, ad sales people, layout workers, designers, artists, photographers, writers, accountants, hilarious—and highly competent—tech guys, and publishers, among others, have all made for an experience that was immensely enriching, not to mention enjoyable.
Some of them even managed to tolerate my jokes—or, at least, pretended to tolerate them. Though they are briefly mentioned on the Monday masthead, I’ve often thought that, because of their contribution to the paper, they all ought to get their names on every story and column, beside that of the person nominally responsible for researching and writing the story.
Of course, none of this would matter very much in practical terms were it not for the advertisers—Monday’s sole source of revenue. No matter how much some readers might not like the idea, Monday simply would not exist without the advertisers. Many firms have been loyal supporters of Monday over the years, even when they don’t agree with everything in it.
In turn, the reason advertisers back Monday is largely because of its readers. It would not make much business sense to put money into a publication that people didn’t read.
So ultimately, the target of all of my appreciation for the experience of the last 13 years ought really to be the readers. Thanks!
Some of the very best people, in various parts of the broader public service, have passed on since I took on this role more than a decade ago.
Liberal MLA Fred Gingell, the longtime chairman of the legislature’s public accounts committee, was especially impressive, as much for his personal qualities as he was for his tireless work on behalf of the public. Despite Gingell’s political affiliation, in some ways he reminded me of a benign version of gadfly H.L. Mencken, who loved stirring up things that needed to be stirred up. Yet though he was irreverent, Gingell cared about the little people. For instance, no matter how entrenched he was in a debate, Gingell always took the time to thank the legislature pages when they refilled his water glass in the house, something that few other MLAs bothered to do at the time.
Two years ago, outspoken anti-poverty activist Bill Burrill died after an extremely brief illness, leaving a gap that will never be properly filled. I was honoured to be able to share some of Burrill’s last few hours on the planet, discussions that he seemed to enjoy, too. There aren’t many who combine Burrill’s irreverence and humour with his level of selfless activism.
More recently, while I was away earlier this year, longtime B.C. public servant John Webb passed away. Blessed with a powerful sense of humour, Webb was devoted to the public interest. Recently a Metchosin councillor as well, Webb was particularly energetic in his last provincial role as director for community and external initiatives with the province’s chief information office, where he helped promote high-speed internet connections in rural areas. The public was very fortunate to have someone of Webb’s dedication and abilities working for it.
Picking highlights isn’t an easy task. But one can’t quickly forget the brown paper envelopes swiftly handed out the windows of City of Victoria trucks, swinging by the Monday parking lot.
At a meeting of Victoria city councillors in the mid-1990s, I remember activist Joe Richards attempting to hand then-councillor David McLean the latest copy of Monday, while McLean vigorously resisted, his face suggesting he was terrified that touching the paper would infect him with some incurable exotic disease.
In the mid to late 1990s, the sheer buffoonery of the $100-million-plus “free” arena promised by the California guys—and the city’s blind acquiescence in the deal—also stands out. I was never able to understand how the mayor and seven of the eight apparently intelligent city councillors could be so gullible as to sign a deal with a developer who at the time was still in bankruptcy protection from creditors.
Then there was the time, with the help of other writers, Monday managed to demonstrate that a city attempt to force a councillor out of office by a B.C. Supreme Court action was unfounded. Shortly after the article was published, the city dropped the suit, and the article won Monday its first Webster award.
At the provincial level, where the numbers are all so much larger, there was no shortage of stories, thanks in part to the powerful tool provided by B.C.’s information access law and the dedicated staff in the office of the information and privacy commissioner.
As well, there are the countless employees, especially those in provincial and municipal governments, who trusted me sufficiently to provide tips, documents and other forms of information. One of my greatest regrets is that for the last three years, I have been unable to return all reasonable calls and messages, due to lack of time and space. Consequently, I undoubtedly missed some important stories. But the tips were certainly appreciated.
I’ve never liked the term “journalist.” As someone once said, a journalist is an unemployed reporter, trying to sound more important than they really are.
The job of reporters is—to use the hackneyed old saying—to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted.
It’s been a privilege to attempt that in one of the finest environments imaginable. ?
Posted 07 September 2007 - 04:41 PM
Posted 07 September 2007 - 06:38 PM
Posted 07 September 2007 - 07:57 PM
Oooooh, that's a good one, Galvanized! Bull's-eye, hole-in-one, 10 outta 10!!
Maybe he needs a new watering can? A lot of retired people like to garden.
Posted 07 September 2007 - 09:00 PM
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