A tribute to fellow columnists at the Cochrane Eagle

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, January 9, 2008

A small community newspaper is more than facts and statistics, zoning issues, and town council business. It is a statement of who we are as neighbours and global citizens; it is a voice for the joy of our shared journey.

To columnists, in particular, is granted the privilege of reflecting on that journey. It is for them to poke fun at our foibles and affirm the values that define us as human beings.

Here at the Cochrane Eagle I am proud to be part of a team of eight columnists, including Editor Ian Tennant and his father, Publisher Jack Tennant.

Ian took his master’s degree in journalism at the University of Texas at Austin, studies that allowed him to explore issues of media bias and its impact on trust and international relations.

His concerns for objectivity and balance are evident in the editorial pieces he occasionally squeezes in among his other duties. His leadership has served the paper well in its desire to build understanding and goodwill among the communities that make up our part of the Bow Valley west of Calgary.

Jack is a champion of goodwill. He’s had his share of rough times in life. Those times have inspired him to use journalism as a vehicle for reaching out to others in their struggles. (See my Aug. 1, 2001, column.)

His page-two column, “Wee Jackie,” arguably the most-read feature in the paper, has gone a long way in building understanding and respect among the people and groups that make up our corner of the world.

He is also an avid golfer who sometimes needs the services of local massage therapist Gaydon Willis to help his golf swing. A year and a half ago, he wrote of Gaydon’s fund-raising participation in the Weekend to End Breast Cancer 60 km walk.

Lo and behold if Gaydon herself, only days after that walk, wasn’t diagnosed with cancer.

From that point on Gaydon, too, became an Eagle columnist, sharing her battle with cancer with candour and humour.

“I’ve decided that no one can tell another person how long they are going to live,” she wrote in her first column. “If I start worrying about all the days I won’t have, I’ll miss all the days I’ve got. So I’m going to live my life and I will continue to have fun and laugh and love.”

Cochrane is “horsey, outdoorsy” country, a wonderful reality celebrated in the Eagle by columnists Pam Asheton and Kathleen Winfield.

Kathleen focuses on equestrian training and showmanship, including the care, wintering, and purchasing of horses (caveat emptor).

“I try and share some of my equine experiences and lessons I have learned from those experiences in the hope that others can benefit,” she says.

Pam, whose just-published book, Alberta Backcountry Equestrian One-Day Trail Guide, has been featured on CBC, writes from her admittedly “serious addiction to backcountry and high wild places.” Her love for the wild is not limited to horses, however. She began one recent column in near ecstasy:

“The creek to the back of the red wooden barn meanders through water meadows. It’s frozen right now, and magically criss-crossed with tracks of mysterious nighttime visitors . . . fox, badger, impudent ravens, even once a rare winter overnighter, a golden eagle.”

Speaking of eagles, two of my fellow columnists, Andy Marshall and Mary Lou Davis, fresh from stints on Cochrane town council, share the eagle’s keen ability for observation.

Andy, a veteran journalist who, as union head some years ago at a paper owned by recently-convicted Conrad Black, withstood Black’s contemptuous, personal public attack, to be ultimately vindicated.

Andy has turned his attention lately to writing about community events such as last fall’s Nakoda-Cochrane Pickin’ Party, a cross-cultural friendship jamboree of musicians and artists from throughout the Bow Valley, including the Stoney Nakoda First Nation at Morley.

Mary Lou, owner of Bentleys Books, offers “insight into the hows and whys” of town issues. Struggling to understand the town’s budgeting process? Read Mary Lou. Why voice your concerns at public hearings? Read Mary Lou.

When I stopped by her store the other day, I caught this delightful writer sporting a badge that read, “To save time, let’s just assume I know everything.” And you know, she probably does.

So there you have it, folks: the seven other columnists with whom I’m so honoured to be associated at the Eagle. A coffee-cup toast from me to them, and a bit of oft-repeated wisdom from our head columnist, Publisher Jack Tennant – just to keep us humble:

“Remember, the column that at breakfast is all the rage, by suppertime may well be lining the bottom of a birdcage.”

Our coffee companions can enjoy all of these columnists by going to http://cochraneeagle.com/ and clicking  on “Columns” at the top of the page.

© 2008 Warren Harbeck

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