Editorial: Thanks for the memories, Agassiz Harrison

Editor Nina Grossman says good bye to a communuity that reminded her why she became a writer

I feel like I just got to Agassiz, settled into the tiny Observer office on Pioneer Avenue and started my first full-time reporting job.

And in a way, I did.

I came to the Observer in September, 2017 – bright eyed and bushy tailed, ready to soak in every experience, story and character that came my way.

Editor Nina Grossman is heading to Victoria in the new year.

Things didn’t always go smoothly. Mistakes were made and corrections were issued – each one coming with it’s own lesson (some harder to learn than others).

But for the most part – despite seeing new reporters come in and out of town – locals weren’t just forgiving of my inexperience, they were welcoming. The kind words, support and encouragement that came from community leaders, officials and strangers gave me the tools I needed to power through the tough days – even the days where I wasn’t sure if I was cut out for the newspaper world.

That’s why I’m torn about what I’m going to tell you next: In January I’m starting a new position as a Black Press reporter in Victoria, B.C.

At first, it didn’t hit me how hard it would be to go, but as I prepared the year-end edition of the Observer, I was struck by just how many amazing stories came out of this tiny region, from Harrison to Agassiz, Sts’ailes to Hemlock Valley and Seabird Island to Kilby, I had so many great stories to pick from.

Whether I was writing about community activists fighting to stop a quarry or the bravery of a Seabird Island author, willing to share her heartbreaks and joys with the world, I was constantly inspired by the people I covered.

I rarely look at Mount Cheam without being reminded of writing about Marc-André Leclerc, who died climbing in Alaska. Writing about Leclerc’s life taught me how important it is to live, rather than to simply be alive.

When the boat of Sam Douglas was found, I wrote about the incredible history of the former Stó:lo grand chief’s activism and role in securing First Nations fishing rights in Canada.

Meeting Callie Blackmore, a soft-spoken, kind-hearted 26-year-old who is suddenly able to start planning her future after recovering from heart failure, taught me how precious my health is, and that of the people I love.

I wrote countless other stories of the resilience, advocacy and compassion of the people from this area. Stories that are now, forever a part of local history.

I hope readers took away some of the lessons that I did.

But these lessons did more than teach me about life. They reminded me why I became a writer. Why I went to journalism school, entered an unstable industry and moved to a tiny B.C. town:

Because writing another person’s story is a privilege.

No matter what challenges I face in this career, my time at the Agassiz Harrison Observer will stay with me as a constant reminder that I chose this job because there are stories that need to be told, and I am privileged to be the one to tell them.

Leaving this job and the wonderful people I’ve met here isn’t going to be easy. This community is the first place that has felt like home to me for a long time. But there’s no denying the excitement I feel about turning a page on the next chapter of my career, and my life.

Still, Agassiz Harrison will always hold a place in my heart.

Thank you all. Wishing you a joyous holiday season.

–Nina Grossman

Please join myself and the Observer’s new editor, Grace Kennedy, for a ‘Meet the Editor’ open house on Friday Dec. 28 from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. We will have refreshments and snacks.

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