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In Our Words: On COVID-19, burnout and how to fix what’s broken

Hi. See this paper here? I wrote most of the stuff in it. Nice to meet you. While some of you know me, who I am and what I’m about, I’m sure a lot of people don’t. Let me reintroduce myself. I was raised in Flin Flon. I went to McIsaac and Hapnot.
burnout

Hi. See this paper here? I wrote most of the stuff in it. Nice to meet you.

While some of you know me, who I am and what I’m about, I’m sure a lot of people don’t.

Let me reintroduce myself.

I was raised in Flin Flon. I went to McIsaac and Hapnot. I still know a lot of the long-term staff on a first-name basis, which still feels weird to me. I played at the Whitney Forum and on the bunks, I ran amok around Willowvale as a kid and I wouldn’t trade that for anything. I have a love-hate relationship with Flin Flon – who doesn’t, at times - but those days are all love.

When I got my degree in journalism, I moved back home to take care of my family. My father was ill and my mother was tired of looking after him alone while I was away. If I didn’t come back home, it’s possible I’d be at some big daily in a city somewhere – I hope I can do that someday – but I felt I had to come home and help.

It’s what I always want to do. I want to help. I want to make things better. I may have regrets over what could have been, but I have no regrets at all about coming home to help my family. I would do it again.

That’s what got me into journalism. I feel that people are at their best when they know exactly what’s going on in the world – no theories, no spin, no bull. That’s what I want to do every single day when I work. It’s one of the most important things in my life.

Since COVID-19 broke out, I’ve been doing that almost every day. There’s new information coming out about the disease, the efforts to combat it, how to avoid it, trying to separate fact from fiction.

I want to make sure people in Flin Flon get all the information they can about what’s going on and that it’s from credible sources. I’m not getting info from the local coffee corner – I know that’s unreliable. I go right to the source.

This isn’t easy. I’m lucky enough that I’ve been able to work from home – all I need is a laptop, cellphone, camera, internet and two feet and I’m good – but the downside of that is that you’re never away from work. I’ve worked on stories at literally every hour of the day. There are no shifts – you’re always on clock. I’ve let my job dictate the schedule of my whole life. I’m not sleeping much. I typed this column at 9 p.m. last Wednesday. Why? I don’t know.

I’m trying my best but it’s feeling like just too much. I’ve put so much time into my job and developing information, writing stories, research, going to community events, doing my best to provide accurate, timely reporting. I feel like who I am as a person has faded into the background and who I am at work has engulfed whatever’s left. I have a hard time talking about things that aren’t about work because during COVID-19, especially during the last month or so, there hasn’t been anything else.

There’s been a lot of reading Facebook comments, which is never good for your mental health. There’s been a lot of insults and when you take what you do as seriously as I do, they always feel personal. I don’t take myself very seriously, but I do take my work seriously. Criticism – especially when it isn’t constructive – is hard. The media isn’t the virus – the media is people like me, and we’re overwhelmed.

I’m exhausted. I’ve been at this paper for more than four years and have been through a lot here - I've never felt like this before.

I’m trying my best. I’m always trying to learn, sending off more calls and emails than I can count and share what I can. I need to dial it back a notch.

I’m putting my foot in my mouth, missing words, typing things that don’t always make sense. I noticed it last week when I put a column I wrote a few weeks ago up online - I put a short line in there that was interpreted as a shot against intellectually disabled people. That was absolutely not how that line was supposed to come off and I’m sorry if that’s how it did. It has never been and never will be my intention to use my platform here to punch down. Punch up? Sure - all week long. But mocking people with no chance to defend themselves? I will never do that.

I have opinions and I use page 4, every week, as a way to share them. I do not let my own views cloud my news writing. For instance, last week’s column was about the northern travel restrictions and how I’m afraid they won’t work. That doesn’t mean I’ll stop writing about them or that I’ll present them as useless – the facts are more important than my own opinion. If they work well, I’ll gladly take that L. I’d rather see things be better up here than for me to be right.

I’m going back to the office again. The editorial content in this newspaper is going to be produced out of an actual office, not out of a recliner in the living room - it’s comfy, don’t get me wrong, but the approach I’m on is not good. Maybe I can actually relax in the chair again.

Hopefully, being in a place devoted solely to work and keeping to a schedule will snap me out of this funk. Hopefully, the paper will be even better than it is now. We’ll see. I don’t have a crystal ball – I can’t predict the future.

I’m putting a limit on myself for when I work and how many hours I put in during the week. I’m sleeping six hours a night if it freaking kills me.

We’re not trying to scare you into buying newspapers. That’s never been why we do our jobs. We’re here to inform. People have to know about the bad things, too – and there’s been no shortage of them lately. I’m sick of it too, but I can’t and won’t lie to you. I’m not that creative.

No illusions – this isn’t the journalist talking to you. It’s me. I’m scrambled.

I want to help.

I’ll let you know how it goes.