Regina Leader-Post journalist, and University of Regina alumni, Austin Davis recently caught up with the Carillon as he was travelling to La Loche to cover the recent school-shooting tragedy in that community.
What’s going through your mind on the road to La Loche?
Safety first. We’ve got to get there safe to be any good. That’s the first rule of travelling and doing journalism. In terms of the story, I’ve never been to La Loche before. Like everyone else in the province, across the country and even internationally, I was heartbroken to hear the news about the tragedy that happened at their school. It’s weird to say that I’m looking forward to it, but I’ve got an opportunity here to tell the story of these people, so I take that very seriously. It’s an honour on one hand. But I know the reason why I’m going up there isn’t good.
Is this kind of assignment essentially why you decided to become a journalist in the first place?
Yes and no. If I was able to tell happy stories for the rest of my life, exclusively, I don’t know anybody who wouldn’t want to do that. But that’s just not the reality. That’s part of the news. Part of why I got into this gig is because I’m fascinated by people and the human condition and to help people respond to things — how they react to both the good and the bad. On one hand, yeah, this is the kind of opportunity you get if you do it long enough. But covering tragedies isn’t why I got into the business (laughs).
Does the approach and mindset change if you’re en route to covering a “happy” event?
I think it has to, or you’d come off as tone-deaf. I’m not a stranger to death and talking to people after they’ve experienced great loss in their lives. I’m not out of my element there. It’s weird to say I’m comfortable with death, but I’m not uncomfortable with it. I think my mentality does change. This community has been affected by something nobody should have to go through. It’s awful. If you went into it the same way that you went into a happy story, I don’t think it would be a very strong piece.
Aside from journalism, is there anything else you’d rather be doing for a living?
Ed, if I was good enough to be paid to rap for a living, that’s what I’d be doing. But I’m not. I love talking with strangers and I love writing stories. This is great, man. This is a dream — especially reporting the news in my hometown. I don’t think there’s anything else I’d rather be doing.
Is working for the Regina Leader-Post a dream job for you, or is this a stepping stone to something bigger and greater?
It’s tough to predict the future. Everything I’ve done, including going to journalism school, has been with the hope that I would be able to work with the Leader-Post, so this is a dream. Do I know if there’s a next step? No. It’s kind of weird to think like that when the industry looks to be collapsing around us. I love the Leader-Post. They’ve give me a great opportunity. Like I said, it’s my hometown newspaper. It’s a dream job. Is it the last stop? I don’t know.
Are you concerned about the future of your industry?
The outlook isn’t pretty, man. It definitely isn’t pretty. Yes, I’m concerned. But standing there, watching the storm clouds as they start to gather doesn’t really help your cause at all. You can’t panic. You do what this job demands, and there’s still a need for it. It makes me think of directors who made their living off black-and-white films and silent films and what they thought as talkies and colour started to come. Change can look like death sometimes, but I don’t think that’s exclusive.
Is it just a matter of doing your job as well as you can while you can, or are you learning additional skills or planning anything different for the future?
I’ve always been a big believer — and this comes from journalism school, as well — that the more tools you have in your toolbox, the better off you’ll be. And that’s regardless of your profession. In journalism, yeah, I’m a print journalist. But I was also trained in video and regularly try to practise that. I’m a little rusty on my radio skills since journalism school at the U of R. But the more you can do, the better off you’ll be, especially as you try to engage people and share their stories. The more ways you’re able to tell a story, the more likely you’ll be able to connect with people … Newspaper are important. People need newspapers. But you have to remind them. All you can do is do the best job you can, if that includes experimenting, then I think that’s good.