It’s hard to say how my love for writing was born.
I remember finding blank newsprint at a newspaper stand when I was just a kid and writing my own ‘news stories,’ winning an essay contest in the Nanaimo Daily News in the fifth grade and getting my first gig writing travel stories for Nanaimo’s Mind’s Eye youth newspaper at 14 years old.
But I can say for certain that my passion for journalism was born in this city and so it feels fitting this is also where I end my career to start a new one.
For more than a decade I’ve written for newspapers across B.C. and Alberta.
It’s meant late nights and early mornings, many hours unpaid, and ever-changing demands on how to deliver news. Sometimes it feels like I’m a one-woman band when I’m at a press conference and have to tweet, shoot video, take photos, record the interview and ask questions near simultaneously.
But I never went into this career because I thought it was easy. I’ve had a one-track mind since I was 14 to become a journalist because I love to write and because there’s this fire inside to tell stories, to inform, to hold people to account and find answers.
It’s been an adventure, a chance to learn new things and meet interesting people.
I helped plaster a dinosaur bone near Tumbler Ridge, B.C. while interviewing paleontologists; hopped in combines to interview farmers and went dog sledding across a snow-covered field, where the only noise was the sound of the dogs’ heaving breathing, their paws in snow and the occasional praise from their master. I have written about a pipeline bombing in the Dawson Creek area, about the lack of rules and protection for university students living in hotels, citizen scientists trying to reforest kelp on the ocean floor and the challenges for youths in politics.
Every community has left a mark. I’ve learned the importance of being a good neighbour, of becoming part of a community instead of only an observer of it and to always look for the positives in life.
I was excited to have the opportunity in 2011 to come back and report in Nanaimo and Lantzville, where I grew up. I started with the Nanaimo Daily News before moving to the Nanaimo News Bulletin in 2013 to cover city hall, health and later, education.
I’ve enjoyed meeting so many inspiring people, of all ages, in this community but one of those I’ll never forget is Serge Vaillancourt, who allowed me to follow him on his journey with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis for several months to bring more awareness to the disease. He always tried to find the silver lining, no matter what new struggle he faced.
I will greatly miss the team at the Nanaimo Bulletin as I leave to become a constituency assistant for MLA Michelle Stilwell. The reporters here inspire me daily with their dedication, passion to inform and hard work.
Thank you to everyone in Nanaimo who trusted me to tell their stories, slipped me story tips, challenged me to dig deeper and offered words of encouragement.
I’ll miss you too.
It's my last day at the #Nanaimo News Bulletin and the end of more than 10 yrs as a journalist. I'm going to miss this job and the great team I work with, but I'm excited to start as a constituency assistant for MLA Michelle Stilwell next week. pic.twitter.com/LPQo5eqsDG
— Tamara Cunningham (@tamaracunning) July 11, 2018