From TAGS to riches

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In April 1993, I agreed to spend an afternoon writing a story for the now defunct Humber Log newspaper in Corner Brook.

Twenty years and thousands of stories later, I'm still with the company, although at a different paper and under a different owner.

It's been a wild ride, a lot wilder than I ever imagined reporting in Newfoundland and Labrador would be.

You see, after graduating from journalism school earlier that month, my career goal was to work for The Sports Network in Toronto. I thought that would be cool and exciting, and it no doubt would have been.

But I don't regret staying in my home province one bit. In fact, I consider it an honour and that I've been fortunate.

I've tried synchronized swimming, "sparred" with a national boxing champ, wrestled the late Sailor White, played hockey in the Middle East, and strutted up and down Kenmount Road dressed as Barney.

I've walked the trenches of Beaumont Hamel, pulled lobster traps in the Bay of Islands and been in a country when Canadians were warned of potential terrorism threats there.

I've been there when politicians were elected premier, when they've called it quits, and when they should have made better decisions.

I've watched our athletes beat the odds nationally, our musicians win Junos, and our actors make movies.

And I've been there when fishermen were told they couldn't fish, when natural disasters, like Igor, waged destruction, and when tragedies struck. The crash of Cougar flight 491 is by far the most difficult thing I've ever covered. The day of the crash was emotionally draining and remembering the helicopter's wreckage coming through The Narrows still makes me shiver.

One of the biggest things I've seen and reported on during the past 20 years is the change that's taken place across this smiling land.

I started work less than a year after the cod moratorium was announced. We were reeling from that, and packages and TAGS were all the talk.

The transition away from the founding fish was prolonged and painful. People sensed little opportunity and were moving away by the truck load.

But the tide slowly turned.

We towed a massive, Newfoundland-made oil rig out of Bull Arm and Hibernia became more than political rhetoric.

Deals were reached on Voisey's Bay and other oil fields.

And then came former premier Danny Williams' Atlantic Accord victory and our oil-powered economic evolution to "have" status.

That's something few thought possible in 1993. I remember interviewing an economist in the late '90s and being told we'd never be a have province.

But it's happened and I've been fortunate enough to be a reporter as our TAGS to riches story unfolded.

It's been a bumpy road and all is still not smooth, but the ride has been fascinating to cover and watch.

This month's work anniversary and last week's tough provincial budget have me wondering what the next 20 years will bring.

No one knows, of course.

I just hope I'm lucky enough to be around and to help cover whatever unfolds.

Email Steve Bartlett at sbartlett@thetelegram.com. Follow his tweets at @TelegramSteve,

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  • Jamie Roche
    April 03, 2013 - 11:40

    Congrats Steve on 20 yrs of great work making local stories about the province and it's great people relevant. Here's hoping for 20 more like the last.