Odd Thoughts: Ancient reports duly noted

How times have changed in the newspaper game.

Rummaging through some old stuff, I happened across some notebooks from my first year as a reporter at The Advance.

Really old stuff – 1977 – and a bit of a window into my newspaperman’s soul.

Some reporters like to keep everything chronological, from one notepad to the next in succession. I kept several pads going at the same time, each containing similar story assignments – one pad for special events interviews, another for police and court, another for “Crap and Other Assorted Goodies.”

I titled all those pads, often adding revealing subtitles, from the straightforward “Municipal Council (and other matters political)” to the disdainful “So Say the People (and other such inconsequential items).”

All reporters at The Advance had to walk through the mire of So Say the People.

It was a feature that appeared on the editorial page. We wandered through Langley City’s downtown and interviewed whomever we bumped into about whatever topic we managed to scrounge up for the upcoming edition.

And the topics we had to work with ran from the banal to… even more banal. Now that Langley City has closed its dump, how do you feel about taking your garbage to the Jackman Landfill in Aldergrove? Do you prefer street names or numbers for Langley? Have you noticed any changes in prices since the Anti-Inflation Board’s wage and price controls were lifted?

My favourite answer to that last one was, “Just beer. Beer’s gone up a lot. I noticed that.”

Most people answered whatever question, no matter how complex, with “Yeah, sure,” or “No,” or an “I don’t know” that was usually aggressive enough to move us along. Quickly.

So the beer guy’s relative verbosity was a breath of fresh air. Even if it did reek of alcohol.

We went out in teams of two: one to snap head shots of the impromptu interviewees, the other to interview and take notes (tape recorders were, at best, bulky, off-putting devices back then).

The one with the camera had the easy job: stand back with a long lens and let the guy with the notepad take the heat.

As reporters, we all hated So Say the People. That was back in the day when real reporters thought reporting facts and truth was more important than collecting opinions of people who’d never bothered to actually think about the opinions they had.

My! How times have changed!

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