NEWSROOM MEMORIES: Bob Mackin, news reporter

Name: Bob Mackin

Position at the paper: News reporter

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Years at the North Shore News: 1990-2000

Current position: Publisher of thebreaker.news

A typical damp North Shore day in February 1990. A nervous, shy 19-year-old intern from Langara journalism walked into a funky office building at 1139 Lonsdale and climbed the creaky wooden stairs.

I grew up reading and delivering the North Shore News. Now I was becoming part of the team publishing the tabloid. A journey that lasted more than a decade, interrupted by stints in Maple Ridge and Richmond.

Barrett Fisher was leaving the editor’s chair to Tim Renshaw. One of his first decisions was to put me to work. Pages were still cut-and-paste and photographs developed in chemical-laden darkrooms. Bulky computer terminals began to displace typewriters.

I sat near founder/publisher Peter Speck’s office. A great storyteller in his own right who told me Greenpeace held some of its first meetings a few steps away; co-founder Bob Hunter, one of my favourite News columnists, gave me an interview right there one day, during a book tour.

Tim’s second-in-command was the late Michael Becker. His smile and laughter always kept the newsroom bright. They often sent me out to do the Commercial Avenues business feature and even Inquiring Reporter streeters.

Assignments ranged from Horseshoe Bay (the first BC Ferries Fastcat journey) to Deep Cove (Dan Culver, the late Everest climber). From Lonsdale Quay (the Old No. 5 Ferry that became the Seven Seas floating seafood restaurant) to the Peak of Grouse (2001 Mountain Bike World Championship).

I developed a habit of turning vacations into business trips, such as a 1999 jaunt to Ottawa to shadow local MPs John Reynolds and Ted White around Parliament Hill, and a visit to Toronto’s Royal Ontario Museum that included the opening reception of Bryan Adams’ photo exhibit with the North Shore rocker himself. His mum Jane was so delighted her world-famous son got noticed by the local newspaper that she wrote me a thank-you note. Adams cherished his privacy, but Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic described his West Vancouver home studio to me after coming north to mix the Seattle band’s posthumous live album.

Famous ex-North Vancouver mother Margaret Trudeau came to Mount Seymour one day with future prime minister Justin to promote avalanche safety, just over a year after another son, Michel, died snowboarding. Miraculously, another mother avoided tragedy after she dropped her daughter from the Capilano Suspension Bridge, a breaking news story that gained worldwide attention.

A Davis Cup tie came to the grass courts on Hollyburn, the biggest local event of Grant Connell’s career. Clint Smith’s hockey career was more than four decades over, but he felt like a kid again when I invited him to pose with the Stanley Cup at North Vancouver City fire hall. His name was on the replica from his time with the 1940 New York Rangers.

A community paper is only as good as the people in the community. Too many to name, but three pop out. The seemingly eternal North Vancouver City Mayor Jack Loucks. Visionary recreation director Gary Young, who asked Sport BC’s John Mills “how about an Olympics for Vancouver?” And the late paramedic Tim Jones, the tireless leader of local heroes North Shore Rescue.

Oh, and then there’s the retired Terry Peters and the tireless North Shore News photography team, and the North Shore Indians lacrosse team and its old-timers, like the late Squamish Nation elder Simon Baker. And how could I forget Nardwuar?  

I could go on forever, and that’s the point. Is there a better place in the world to begin a newspaper career, or a better paper to do so with?

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