Inkslinging on the West Coast

July 25, 2012

Hello Corner Brook!

You might be seeing my name associated with CornerBrooker.com in the coming weeks. Allow me to briefly introduce myself, my connection to journalism and my perspective on the newsprint industry.

I’m from Carbonear, and lived in the Northwest Territories and Lloydminster, Alberta for a combined total of about five years.

Now that I’m finished my first year of Environmental Technology at College of the North Atlantic, I’ve been observing the Corner Brook mill. If you’ve been following the news, its situation has gotten tense in recent weeks. Due to the world shifting to digital online content, newsprint is no longer in high demand. I witnessed this trend from a different angle when I worked with printing presses in Alberta.

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Meridian Booster’s web press cooling down after a long career of printing newspapers (2009).

I spent a good chunk of my time out West working in a print shop. I also wrote columns for the local newspaper, the Lloydminster Meridian Booster. The idea behind my “Newfoundland Inkslinger” column series was to educate Albertans about Newfoundland, and give Newfoundlanders a sense of grounding. The column was published in the Lloydminster Meridian Booster once a month, and simultaneously self-published in my online blog www.newfoundland-inkslinger.com. I felt this was the pinnacle of my newspaper career. I had worked with other newspapers in Alberta, the Northwest Territories and Newfoundland since I received my diploma in journalism from College of the North Atlantic Stephenville Campus in 2004. I was a MUN student briefly before that, and I wrote for the Muse. The day I walked in the Muse office just happened to be September 11, 2001. My newspaper career spans close to a decade.

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The company I worked for began downsizing in 2009 and the newspaper lost its web press. Over 20 people were laid off. I helped print the final Meridian Booster before the Edmonton presses took over. I was one of the few unaffected as I worked in the commercial sheet fed print shop in the same building.

Many other newspaper chains across the globe faced the same situation. After some soul-searching, and a growing sense of unease about my future, I decided to pack it in and return home to Newfoundland. My final column appeared in the newspaper on the same day I left in January 2010.

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Rolls of paper ready to be transferred from Lloydminster to Edmonton (2009).

Just before I left, I applied to College of the North Atlantic to become a student once again. I decided that it was time to upgrade myself. My math and science skills had always been weaker than my writing skills, and I thought I should get more adaptable in a turbulent economy.

I graduated from the CNA Comprehensive Arts and Science program in 2011 with honours and a President’s Medal of Excellence, and was accepted into the Environmental Technology program in Corner Brook. My math level has shot up from basic to Calculus. The driving force to adapt was strong, pushing me to succeed.

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The Corner Brook Mill is in the midst of tough times, particularly in the last few months.

As I revise this piece, I’m sitting on the Harbour Grounds deck in view of the mill. One of my favourite sounds is the sound of a press thrumming like the beat of a heart. Walking by via the Stream Trail, I noticed that the mill has a similar sound, the “Hum of the Humber.” After I recently discovered how to access Three Bear Mountain Trail, I gazed down at the mill and listened quietly to its heartbeat intermixing with other city sounds. The daily blasts of the whistle add punctuation to Corner Brook’s soundscape.

As I begin my second year of environmental technology, I’m happy to join the CornerBrooker.com team and contribute my experience.

Cheers!

Ian Hutchings

ian_inkslinger@newfoundland-inkslinger.com

Twitter: island_trotter