Published in the Fredericton Daily Gleaner, Monday, June 18, 2012
I have wished many people well in my career, and have been wished well by many. At the CBC and here at NBCC, I’ve said hello and goodbye more times than I would like to count. People have said ‘so long’ when I’ve moved jobs or locations, and I’ve said ‘see you soon’ to many who have retired or changed jobs.
The difficult farewells happen when someone becomes more of a friend than a co-worker.
It will be hard to say goodbye to Andy Leblanc.
Two years ago Andy was hired to teach television journalism at NBCC Woodstock.
Andy is a powerhouse of knowledge and has an abundance of drive. He’s a lifelong journalist, honing his skills as a young ATV reporter in New Brunswick. Back then Andy was passionate about politics and had a head full of questions and hair. (Sorry Andy, I couldn’t resist!) He went on to manage locations for CTV, and came back to his native New Brunswick a few years ago to allow his wife to pursue her career dreams.
He was only with us two years, but what a two years it was.
We pushed students to strive for excellence and found more platforms for their work. Andy recreated our website. The students worked hard making www.jschoolnbcc.ca a place where local people came for breaking news they couldn’t get elsewhere. We operated like a newsroom; students created multimedia series, we took trips to Fredericton and Juniper, students produced weekly television shows, covered breaking news, mastered social media, and they shared the news they collected with regional papers and television and radio stations. We tried to mimic the industry as much as possible in our classrooms. I know we succeeded, and provided the best education possible for our young journalists.
Once a reporter, always a reporter – it’s a saying I’ve heard many times from colleagues who have left the business to pursue other avenues. Just because we’re standing in front of a classroom doesn’t mean we’re no longer journalists.
While I worked at starting a magazine, Andy continued to build his “ultra-local” concept. His vision would provide an avenue for small communities to share local news. On more than a few evenings Andy was doing what our students were doing – covering events in his community and publishing stories to his local website. Andy also became president of RTDNA, a national organization representing Canadian Broadcasters, while he was with us. I think we both related to our students better because we were still ‘doing it’ – still chasing, and writing, and working in journalism.
Andy will leave NBCC this month to become the news director for CTV Atlantic.
I will miss him more than he realizes.
We have the same ‘got-to-know’ character flaw that turned us on to reporting in the first place. We love our craft. We respectfully argued about politics and law, we discussed the latest news and current events, and we debated how stories were approached and covered. We both viewed the world differently but similar when it came to the public’s right to know.
We were good for each other – in the teaching sense. His constant drive and work ethic inspired me and made me push my students a little harder. I, in turn, was able to (sometimes) get him to slow things down a bit, getting him to see the need to give students a little more breathing room; reminding him that television was not the only medium they needed to master.
Many (all) students considered him tough (“a hard-ass”), but they also respected him. They understood his ultimate goal was to their advantage – he wanted to see them succeed beyond his classroom.
Working with Andy made me feel like my old, reporter-self again. I have beautiful co-workers at the college, but no one who loves news like I do. For the last few years there were few I could debate politics and news coverage with on the same level as I could with Andy.
Andy was a breath of fresh, overachieving, journalistic air.
In the end I am thankful for his new position at CTV. Our journalism program was cancelled last month and Andy’s lack of seniority would have probably meant a pink slip in June of 2013, just as the last NBCC journalism grads cross the stage.
I can’t talk about the loss of my program just yet. The feelings are still too raw. But I am glad that Andy’s talent will not be lost or misplaced. We can still debate news coverage over the phone, and I will continue to tease him about the hair he used to have via email and Twitter.
While it won’t be the same as having him in our NBCC newsroom, it will make the departure of my co-worker and dear friend a little easier to manage.
Theresa Blackburn is a wife, mother and New Brunswick Community College instructor who lives and writes in Woodstock. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or join her group, Big Fat Life, on Facebook. You can also follow her on Twitter @MY_BIG_FAT_LIFE