From the Field

Road Trip

Posted: Nov 21, 2012 2:48 PM ET Last Updated: Nov 21, 2012 2:48 PM ET
I've spent most of my life on the road but I rarely look in the rear view mirror. I'm always focussed on what's ahead, what story is lurking just around the next corner.
As I glance up at that mirror now I can barely see back to 1981. I can only glimpse the nineteen year old with the boxy old cassette recorder and bullet proof Electro-Voice microphone jumping into that van to begin this amazing journey.
I was filled with confidence and curiosity then. Well, maybe not enough confidence. The cigarette hanging out of the side of my mouth was an attempt to fit in with the veterans in the newsroom. We all smoked then, I never did ask why. It was just expected. I was hired. I started smoking.
My toolkit then included a razor blade and small aluminum plate for laying out tape and cutting and splicing it when it was time to edit back at the station.
I've carried a lot of equipment since then, most of it bigger, bulkier and heavier. I'm about to pick up my fourth generation TV camera and I file to radio and the web every day using an iPhone now. The same phone I will use to keep you posted on this blog. The tools have changed and will continue to change but the job hasn't. I am hunting down the same thing today that I set out to find 31 years ago. Story. You probably thought I would say journalism.

Don't get me wrong.  I wouldn't lend my name to a newsroom that didn't have a dragon-slayer like Paul Withers lurking in the shadows or a bean-counter like Jean Laroche stooped over a desk piled high with government documents. It's a tribute to those guys that they still do it in a fast changing and demanding news cycle.

While they keep that covered I can stay out here on the road hunting down fresh stories to feed to the insatiable monster that is daily news. This is your chance to come along for the ride.

A couple of survival tips first:
Bring clothes for all weather conditions. The more severe the weather the longer we will be out in it. People race to their computers and TVs to see shots of terrible weather; we'll be out getting those shots. Pack a lunch. We never get time to stop for food. And never, ever, say you want to finish up early because you have plans. The shift will run late by at least two hours and it will be your fault. I won't be happy about that.

Plan to carry gear, lots of it, over all kinds of terrain. You won't get used to it and it won't get any lighter. Just haul it. Set your alarm clock for 4AM. Yes there are two 4 o'clock s in a news day. We hit the road just after five and head where every the next story is. Most days we don't know where that is until we hit the road. News happens everywhere.

Also -- and this is important:  Not all of these stories are good, some are very painful to see and tell. Brace for that. Quite often, most of the time, people will not want us around when we first arrive.I  can't say you won't get kicked, punched or spit on. It happens.  Sometimes though, on the great days, people welcome us and can't wait to share their stories. Hold on to those days.

On these road trips your best tool isn't a new TV camera or iPhone. It's empathy and you can't fake it. You need to feel comfortable sitting in a crack dealer's kitchen even though he doesn't want you there. You need to reach out to him because the police just shot his pit bull and at that moment he's not a criminal or someone who should be run out of town. He's a guy who just lost his dog. When you do that he'll share his story. He'll even tear up when you tell him the cop with the gun also has a dog and is sick over shooting one. I know that because I sat there and he did.

Now, maybe you don't want to get up so early and race around the province very day. That's okay. I'll keep doing it and you can come along by following this blog.
I'll try to post bits and pieces from the field everyday. It won't be an extension of my news reporting. Follow me on Twitter, check CBC Radio and TV or CBC.CA/NS for that. I'll keep pouring the news stories into those. What I'll try to give you here is a bit of the other stuff. Things observed, people met along the way. The stuff that never ends up in the news but that often makes for good story telling. Most of it will come at you in small pieces in the live blog box on this page.
The boss and I think I should also do some long form writing for you in this section. Stuff like this entry. Of course she and I also know we won't let that get in the way of the next story.
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About the Author

Phonse Jessome has been chasing stories down the main streets and back roads of Nova Scotia since the spring of 1981. So far he is showing no signs of giving up the chase.

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