COLUMN: Getting to know Abbotsford

It’s official. I’m no longer acting; I am indeed the editor of the Abbotsford News.

COLUMN: Getting to know Abbotsford

It’s official. I’m no longer acting; I am indeed the editor of the Abbotsford News.

Please, contain yourself… and hold your applause until you’ve finished reading this column.

While I’ve occupied the editor’s chair since the start of the year, the “acting” prefix to my editor’s title needed to remain while the company finalized a new role for my predecessor, Andrew Holota.

For those not in the business, and I assume that’s 99.9 per cent of our readers, replacing Andrew was never going to be easy. His are big shoes to fill. In fact, they are more like canoes.

Thankfully, Andrew isn’t leaving the company. He’s now editorial director for Black Press BC. An uber-editor, if you will.

After nearly 30 years in the ink trade, few things manage to surprise me anymore. But hey, Abbotsford, you’ve pulled a rabbit out of the hat a few times since I’ve been here.

It’s the phone calls that have astounded me the most, like the one I received back in February from an elderly woman who wanted to complain about the treatment her husband was getting at the hospital.

Her husband’s scrotum was swelling. Imagine your grandmother telling you about your grandfather’s scrotum. I was beginning to feel queasy.

While I appreciated her eye for detail in recounting her husband’s worsening state, she could have ended before asking me, very pointedly, “Have you ever seen a scrotum explode?”

How does one answer such a question? Now I have that image added to the weird flotsam and jetsam already orbiting around my brain pan.

Some just call to check with me if their opinions are correct. I’m flattered. I have one gentleman who calls every couple of months and asks questions about the provincial political scene and then proceeds to answer himself without me getting a word in edgewise. I’m not sure what that is all about, but he’s ever so grateful for my non-verbalized validation.

Religion, often the third rail of newspapers, is something I’m also acutely sensitive to and often a source of many calls. I was an editor in Chilliwack for some 17 years and while Abbotsford is the buckle of the Bible Belt, the ’Whack is the final notch in that belt and woe be the editor who veers too far into heathenville.

I’ve had the Trump supporters call to let me know they don’t appreciate the Ingrid Rice cartoons lampooning the often-beleaguered POTUS. Trump holding his own head in his hands (“Hoisted by his own petard”) was particular offensive to some who didn’t quite get Ingrid’s brilliant satire.

The instant response from the series of calls was to boycott The News. The newspaper boycott has always baffled me. You’ve been receiving this incredible product, replete with coupons and advertisements saving you countless dollars each and every week, hand-delivered free to your doorstep for more than 100 years and suddenly a single cartoon has you forsaking The News for the rest of your natural-born life?

But such is the attachment many people have to their community newspaper – and thank the stars above they do. Readers feel they own the product, and, to a certain extent, that’s true.

And when people aren’t calling me, they’re dropping by the office, like the fellow from down the road who one day is being handcuffed by police and the next is showing me how hard he can shake my hand.

All in a day’s work, I guess. I value the calls (weird or not) and the visits, so don’t stop either. I’m just getting to know you Abbotsford.

Ken Goudswaard is, officially, the non-acting editor of the Abbotsford News.