Proud mo­ments in the spot­light

The Beacon (Gander) - - Editorial - Bob Wake­ham Bob Wake­ham has spent more than 40 years as a jour­nal­ist in New­found­land and Labrador. He can be reached by email at bwake­

A cou­ple of decades ago — an eter­nity, a life­time it seems, es­pe­cially as the num­ber of birthdays un­der my belt en­ters the up­per 60s range — I would some­times find my­self in CBC board­rooms in Toronto glee­fully at­tempt­ing to ex­plain for my fel­low ex­ec­u­tive pro­duc­ers why it was that “Here and Now,” and doc­u­men­tary pro­grams like “Land and Sea,” “On Cam­era” and “Sound­ings” at­tracted such huge au­di­ences.

Not be­ing a mod­est type, I thor­oughly en­joyed shar­ing with the other re­gional pro­duc­ers — most of whom were re­spon­si­ble for pro­grams that may have been ed­i­to­ri­ally sound, but had view­er­ship on a par with a se­cu­rity video at Sobeys — my very bi­ased view that we, in New­found­land, were just so damn good at our jobs.

When I de­cided, though, that my self-ag­gran­diz­ing head had swollen to the size of a boul­der on the beach at Gan­der Lake, I con­ceded that one of the great ad­van­tages of be­ing a jour­nal­ist where I lived and worked was that New­found­lan­ders had an in­cred­i­bly in­sa­tiable ap­petite for news, sig­nif­i­cant or oth­er­wise, about them­selves. And that this my­opic parochial­ism had al­ways been there, at least as long as I had pa­trolled New­found­land news­rooms, and that it begged to be ex­ploited, day in and day out.

New­found­lan­der wins a mar­bles con­test in China? We’re all over it. New­found­lan­der robs a bank in Cal­gary? Our lead story.

We would some­times joke, in that black hu­mour way as­so­ci­ated with most news­rooms of my gen­er­a­tion, that if there was ever a plane crash some­where on the main­land that killed 100 peo­ple, we wouldn’t re­act with, “God, how tragic,” but with, “Any New­found­lan­ders on board?”

Un­abashedly lo­cal was our mantra: give the au­di­ence what it wants.

I thought about New­found­lan­ders’ near ob­ses­sion with navel-gaz­ing last week while watch­ing that cham­pi­onship Brier game last Sun­day night and, by co­in­ci­dence, rush­ing to read the re­views of the open­ing that same Sun­day night of the Broad­way play, “Come From Away,” that, as ev­ery­body and their dogs know by now, is a the­atri­cal take on the re­sponse of Gan­der res­i­dents to the “plane peo­ple” who landed in their com­mu­nity on 9/11.

First to the Brad Gushue love-in: I’ve never, ever been a curl­ing fan; the game was just too civ­i­lized for me, I guess, and many of us back in the day thought, per­haps in a nar­row-minded way, that the guys and girls with the brooms were mostly snobs, as were their fans, the op­po­site of our favourites, the “bleacher crea­tures” at the St. John’s sta­dium.

(A slice of comic re­lief here: I heard a great story a few weeks back about a fe­male fan in the bleacher crea­ture sec­tion at the sta­dium years ago who was forced to wan­der un­der the stands in search of an ear­ring that had fallen off when she had jumped en­thu­si­as­ti­cally to cel­e­brate a Caps goal; a fel­low bleacher crea­ture, half-shot, spot­ted the woman on all fours, and won­dered loudly: “What’s the mat­ter, my love, lost your gum?”)

Nev­er­the­less, there I was the other Sun­day, scream­ing like a ban­shee as the Gushue four­some squeezed out a vic­tory in a ten­sion-filled game, while the fans showed the rest of Canada that it’s not a sin to cheer when the “other” crowd from up along blows a shot, or to go half nuts when the “lo­cal” crowd does well (per­haps there was a scat­tered mem­ber of the bleacher crea­tures down at Mile One, hap­pily obliv­i­ous to the eti­quette of fan be­hav­iour at these events).

Like many non-curl­ing fans, I think, I didn’t un­der­stand much of the strat­egy of the game, the nu­ances of the shots. I knew the ob­ject of the ex­er­cise, and that was more than enough. Be­sides, it was a New­found­land team. Noth­ing else mat­tered. It could have been com­pe­ti­tion for the na­tional tid­dly­winks cham­pi­onship.

And Pre­mier Dwight Ball and the floun­der­ing Lib­er­als were the hap­pi­est of all, able to grab some pub­lic re­la­tions bonus points with a glad­hand­ing re­cep­tion at Con­fed­er­a­tion Build­ing, happy to dis­tract at­ten­tion, for at least an hour or so from that pa­thetic cap-in-hand fish­eries agree­ment with Ot­tawa — a “stole the shop” de­ba­cle, to pla­gia­rize Brian Peck­ford from a past era.

Then, there were the mostly im­pres­sive re­views for “Come From Away,” es­pe­cially from the New York Times which, we’re told, can make or break a play on Broad­way, and de­cide whether the pro­duc­tion is a flop or a pos­si­ble Tony win­ner with a chance of a long run in the city that never sleeps.

Be­ing a Gan­derite, I’m ob­vi­ously proud that my home­town was be­ing cel­e­brated in the Big Ap­ple, and, thus, by ex­ten­sion, the en­tire world.

I do wish there had been more New­found­lan­ders in­volved, es­pe­cially given the enor­mous tal­ent base here (al­though Petrina Brom­ley, the lone per­former from this place in “Come From Away,” did a mas­ter­ful job pro­mot­ing the play in in­ter­views from the U.S.)

But, hey, I’m quib­bling. It was a grand week to be a New­found­lan­der, lux­u­ri­at­ing in all this four-star public­ity.

And it was pig-out time for lo­cal jour­nal­ists.

Made me al­most wish I was back in the re­por­to­rial trenches.

I knew the ob­ject of the ex­er­cise, and that was more than enough. Be­sides, it was a New­found­land team. Noth­ing else mat­tered.

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