This the 250th issue of the Harbour Spiel which, at 20 years old, is the longest running publication on the Sunshine Coast. It’s also five years ago that Myrtle Winchester approached me about taking the Harbour Spiel from her.
It caught me off guard and she didn’t give me a lot of time to think about it — or to get my first issue out — and it’s probably a good thing. If she had, I likely would have backed out. I understand now that overthinking is one of the many hazards of this job.
I encounter a minefield of sensitivities each month and I think it’s safe to say every issue has forced a few tough decisions that had to be made while under a cloud of mental fatigue. For the most part, I’m satisfied with the results and have very few regrets. So, I try not to take it too personally when I get accosted.
I keep a file in which I keep "favourite letters" or e-mails. It’s a habit I borrowed from another outfit I worked at that also printed words — it seems if you put words on paper, nasty people think you need their advice. This one came, fittingly, from a guy on Misery Mile last May:
"I live in Madeira Park... eliminate your editorial (groan) and idiot McClune’s garbage opinion on anything (does he pay you to publish his crap?) and you’d have a nice publication going for you."
Others just want to yell — every few months or so I arrive home on the evening after the Spiel comes out to some drunken voicemail telling me what I did wrong. And then there are the zealots who called up with all kinds of threats after April’s Stephen Harper "finger" graphic — from the fervour that stirred up, you’d have thought I published a caricature of Mohammed.
After 60 issues you’d expect it to be getting easier. But there hasn’t been one completed where I haven’t honestly confessed to my friend, the "idiot McClune" (who arrives from Comox to proof every issue) that, "I don’t think I can go through that again." Luckily that feeling only lasts until the day after the hangover wears off. In truth, I’m honoured to have the opportunity.
Along the way I’ve been helped by too many people to mention. First are undoubtedly the advertisers without whom there wouldn’t be a Harbour Spiel. I sincerely urge you to consider that the next time you’re shopping around because if there’s one crisis facing our community right now, it is the viability of our local economy.
Next are the regular contributors who ask for nothing yet submit unfailingly by deadline. Third is the support I get from folks who read it. The most gratifying part of the job for me is to hear how much people enjoy the Spiel. It’s what strengthens my resolve to continue publishing something that isn’t paralyzed by the all too common fear of offending someone.
I knew going into it that "you can’t please everybody," so I haven’t tried. Instead, I’ve tried to please myself and, in that, I know I’ve been succesful. Hopefully I can keep it up for another 60.