In my book case there sit thirty two books about Tsar Nicholas II and his reign as the Emperor of All Russia. I haven’t read all of them, but I have read most of them. Something a lot of people may not know about me is that when I was in university I had a real fascination with the ill-fated final Tsar, and I studied his reign exclusively as I worked on a history BA. Although each of the books covers the same topics, none of them are quite the same. Some are about Nicholas and his wife, Tsarina Alexandra, and their family. Some are about the War, while others are about the Revolution. There are books focusing on their children, the legendary Rasputin, and others focusing on the mysterious Anastasia, both before and potentially after her death. Some books are filled with letters, other books are filled with diary entries and the most beautiful books filled with official and personal photos that peer into the private life of the Romanovs. There are text books, reference books and children’s books. Some are obviously better than others. Robert K. Massie’s book Nicholas and Alexandra is the best, while I, Anastasia, about the life of Anna Anderson, is a muddled mess and the rantings of a mad woman.
So why do I need thirty two books about the reign of Tsar Nicholas II? Well, each book has its own angle on the story, and each is written in the voice of the individual author. Each offers its own unique focus of knowledge, and when you put all the books together you begin to get a bigger picture of the entire story. But mainly, the story is so involved and so huge that it takes more than just one writer or one book to fully tell the story of the Tsar, his family and the world they lived in. There are enough stories to tell, and the more storytellers that tell it, the more legendary the Romanvos become.
When I look back at my early days as a writer, in which I was trying to become an entertainment journalist, I didn’t understand the concept that there are enough stories to tell or that multiple writers could tell it. Partially it was my youth and inexperience, partially my ego, and, as revealed later on in therapy sessions, partially reactions to childhood trauma. But the truth is, I didn’t always play nicely. I could be territorial, confrontational and once I laid my sights on a story or interview, I could be savage if I felt anybody was getting in my way..
I was also incredibly jealous of larger media, especially certain on-air personalities from CTV, who I felt weren’t doing work that was insightful or well researched as I felt mine was. I was trying to be Tom Snyder, and they seemed to be asking fluff questions. I saw them as competitors to be conquered or undermined and, honestly, if certain individuals walked into a room I was working in I’d be sitting in the corner hissing like an angry cat. While I was getting my own incredible opportunities, I wasn’t’ going anywhere and I wasn’t making any friends.
While this behavior could take me so far in a big city market, where people really didn’t know, or care, who I was, when you put it in the context of a small city, it was far more noticeable. My bad attitude continued as I clashed, both professionally and personally, with local media “competitors.” Looking back at some of my bad behavior from the distant past, today I feel embarrassed of some of my actions and attitudes, and, yes, I admit that I really could be a bully. This is something I am deeply ashamed of and take full ownership of.
But one of the wonderful things about life is that we all grow, and we all have chances to learn from our mistakes and our past bad behavior. Sometimes it’s just a matter of listening to the wisdom of someone you respect that has been playing the same game you have for much longer.
Which is where Gordon Gibb comes in. Gord Gibb is a well-respected radio personality in Peterborough, Ontario broadcasting out of 100.5 KRUZ-FM. Listening to Gord throughout the 90’s while I worked at the local convenience store, and later on at a comic book shop, was my musical education and, when I met him later in life, I can tell you he is one of the true gentlemen in the business.
In 2015, during a conversation with Gord about one of his side projects, I made a snide comment about another local media company. This didn’t sit well with Gord, and he took it upon himself to share some of his wisdom from his years of media experience. What Gord told me changed the way I looked at many things and changed the way I do things for the better.
What Gord explained to me is that there is enough story to go around for every media company in a city no matter how big or small it is. Each individual media company is going to take that story and spin it their own way. Each writer is going to take the element of the story they find the most interesting, and they are going to weave a narrative that is going to appeal to their own audience.
And when it comes to audiences, there are different types that are going to gravitate to their individual media company of choice. Some people read The New Yorker and some people read Buzz Feed, but rarely will the Buzz Feed people be reading The New Yorker and vice versa. So you’re not really competing for readers, because the people reading your work possibly aren’t looking at the competitor. As a writer your job is to tell the story your way in the best way you can.
In the end, there is enough story to go around – to Buzz Feed, The New Yorker, The Toronto Sun, CHEX News, The Peterborough Examiner, CBC, City Pulse, CTV, samtweedle.com and so and so forth and far beyond. Because the more times the story is told, the further it goes and the more people that will know it. It strengthens the story and, potentially, strengthens your community.
I have no expectations or desires to ever have an exclusive on a story, nor do I need to be the first person to tell it. In fact, I don’t care if I’m the second, third or even fourth person to tell it. All I want is the chance to tell the story, and do my best to tell it in a way that is honest, intelligent and reflects my style of storytelling. To tell the kind of story that my readers have come to expect from me for nearly twenty years as a writer. I also don’t want people I write about to stop telling their story after I have it. That’s ridiculous. The more media that covers your story, the stronger that story gets.
When I see people from other media groups at an event I’m covering, I don’t want to think of them as competitors. I want to think of them as contemporaries. I am not in competition with anyone. Sure, I might not always like the way they do things, but I want to respect the value of their voice in our community as much as I hope they’ll respect mine. I want to give them the space and the opportunity to tell the same story in their individual way. There is enough story to be told by all of us. In fact, there are enough stories that we might fill up thirty two books worth.
Thank you Gord for the wisdom. I might not have understood it at the time you shared it with me, but its help shape my philosophy at samtweedle.com and have helped mold a kinder and more tolerant version of me.
I have some really great stories coming to this space. I hope you’ll keep watching, keep reading and keep sharing what you like. Thank you to everyone for the exciting first three weeks and for all your love, encouragement and support.
Let’s tell some stories together,