They say the non-musical arts are for blues musicians who cannot sing and that is true.
All my life from the time I was born in a small Saskatchewan city to my experiences in Washington State, Washington, D.C. and a mid-sized community in the Canadian province of Alberta, I have struggled with the notion of my own capability. Whether filing a story, editing a video or taking a photo, second-guessing was never far behind.
“You should be a doctor or a lawyer,” one relative told me.
“You are not a reporter,” said another.
My experiences failing in the television side of the news business after and before some of these blunt words nearly sent me over the edge. If I was not able to do what I went to school for in a place I never fit into well, what was my purpose? What was the thing in life that I could tout as my unique trait that I did better than most beings off the street?
I pondered politics, law enforcement like others I am related to, and then, after a while and a process of securing a student loan I later had to go into a consumer proposal on, I opted for print publishing. I essentially traded one grinding, brutal and bone crushing industry for another, but, given how I loathed broadcasting, other options were scant.
The early days were a learning curve – one where I may have worn a bit of a silly shirt and received some grief as a result – and the middle portion was a wild two-man ride that also nearly broke me.
What followed after getting my degree in this new discipline in 2017 was a beginning in the Midwest. I could have done better and likely let some of my early peers down in retrospect, jumped to freelancing after, had a humiliating firing and, then, a new break.
I was welcomed to the Stony Plain Reporter and Spruce Grove Examiner offices in the Tri-Region of Alberta. My new peers were both named Josh, and, over time, I settled into a place I never thought I would be after I set off to America upon high school’s end in 2011.
The early days were a learning curve – one where I may have worn a bit of a silly shirt and received some grief as a result – and the middle portion was a wild two-man ride that also nearly broke me. But, I kept at it and, finally, hit a jackpot Friday, June 19, 2020.
The Alberta Weekly Newspapers Association held its awards for stories in 2019. They were online, cycled through a number of categories and, at the Excellence in Healthy Communities Journalism award, my name was called in the tip-top spot over all others.
“The winner is Evan J. Pretzer for ‘Dying to live‘,” the announcer said.
With my computer microphone muted I was able to let out a hoot and a holler and an exuberant and expletive saying popularized by actor Aaron Paul on a now-concluded television show. I had done it, the first award of my adult career had finally come in.
The money from the prize was good, the comments from those who know me have been nice, but nothing can come close to the feeling of knowing that what I do is not a waste.
So often, media is subjective and it is easy to feel bad about what you put out in the world. Knowing that I can do something that matters is a feeling I never want to go away and something that I should have seen in myself years ago when I began this journey.
I feel proud, thankful to professors, editors, fellow reporters, friends and, most of all, my better half for supporting me and feel like the best is yet to come. For those who are struggling, brighter days do arrive, but, like winning the slots, you never know when.
Evan J. Pretzer – Journalist
Saturday, June 20, 2020.