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I am very pleased today to interview a long-time friend and local business owner, Daniel Bushman. Most of my interviewees are fiction writers, but we’re going to change that up a bit today. Daniel and his wife, Kim, own and operate two local newspapers, so writing is what Dan does every day. Fast-paced, deadline-driven. Let’s see what he has to say about writing from a newspaper perspective…

JANICE: How long have you been writing and how did you come to it?

DANIEL: I have been writing on a consistent basis for almost nine years. After being a reporter in the radio world for a few years, my wife, Kim, and I decided to make a move back to small town Saskatchewan in August, 2008. We packed our bags and moved from Saskatoon to Watrous, where I am originally from. Back home, I began my new role as a reporter for The Watrous Manitou, a weekly newspaper out of Watrous, SK. Kim and I eventually purchased the paper in 2014 and then we bought the Lanigan Advisor in December, 2015. I continue to write articles, but with the added titles of publisher and editor.

JANICE: Who are some of the people who most influenced your decision to write?

DANIEL: That is a good question. My two strongest subjects in school were History and English so I suppose I always liked writing. My mom always said I had a knack for writing and I got it from my dad. My heart and mind were always set on doing radio broadcasting so I didn’t really think about writing until later on in my life. Actually, when I graduated from high school and attended college, writing lengthy term papers was something I didn’t enjoy doing. I think it was because I preferred spending time with friends, but coming to work now and being able to share people’s stories through words has been an enjoyable and often rewarding experience.

JANICE: I ask authors what their preferred genre is. How would you answer this question?

DANIEL: Being a reporter, I write a variety of articles ranging from hard news stories to sports, entertainment and feature type stories. I am a sports fan so when I get the chance to write about an athlete’s experience, I would say that would be my preferred genre. I also really enjoy listening to people’s stories and getting to know them through that, so feature type articles on people are also ones I enjoy writing.

JANICE: Why do you write?

DANIEL: I write because it’s my job 🙂 I will be honest though, it doesn’t feel like a job. I am always learning how to refine my craft, and every so often I get one of those “lightbulb” moments where I am able to pen a story that flows really nicely and I feel really good about it when I am done. I have been blessed to have won some awards for my stories at the Saskatchewan Weekly Newspapers Association‘s annual awards night where weekly papers and writers from across the province are recognized for their work.

JANICE: Congratulations, Daniel. For the readers’ interest, here is a list of the first place awards won for The Watrous Manitou:

  • 2012 best colour photo
  • 2013 best black and white photo
  • 2013 best post-secondary story
  • 2014 best tourism story
  • 2016 best Sask. arts or cultural story
  • 2016 best black and white photo

Some very prestigious awards, Daniel.

So tell me how and where you write. Are you a plotter or a pantser?

DANIEL: I write from my office in Watrous, plunking away on my keyboard. There are times where sitting on my couch with a hockey or football game on in the background would be nice but the office works just fine. I would be a pantser for the majority of my stories because every day brings different stories to my desk. For some of the articles though, like a feature article on a person, I would be more of a plotter, scheming of how to approach the story while gathering background facts. For the most part though, I just take what each day throws my way.

JANICE: Where do you get your ideas? What inspires you?

DANIEL: I get my ideas from what is taking place in and around our community. Sometimes story ideas come via email, phone or by word-of-mouth, but for the most part, it is me just keeping an eye on what is happening in our area or even watching social media. In recent years, I have found social media like Facebook and Twitter can be a help instead of a hindrance as people will post things or events that they are involved in, which leads me to contacting them to see if they are interested in sharing their story with the newspaper.

People inspire me. Being able to share their stories through our paper in Watrous and more recently our paper in Lanigan is something I enjoy. I really think that providing positive people stories in our papers not only provides inspiration for me but also for our readers as they learn about what positive impacts are being made by others.

JANICE: I’m always amazed at how you pick up on the many local happenings. How do you research and how do you know you can trust your sources?

DANIEL: I do a lot of my research online. I find a lot of relevant and factual information there that I use when compiling articles. I also use resources like history books for historical articles. I try to interview official people or those within an organization, like a chairperson, committee chair, mayor, government official or someone that is trusted or in a position to speak on behalf of a business, community or organization.

JANICE: What do you like most / least about writing?

DANIEL: The thing I like most about writing is being able to paint a picture with words. I like to tell people’s stories and try and weave an intricate web of details. I try my utmost to make my stories positive but of course in today’s day and age, sometimes stories don’t always have a positive spin to them. But I do what I can to make them positive.

The thing I least like about writing are the stories with conflict or negativity. I know that there are issues that are supposed to “sell papers,” but for me, I try to approach my line of work in a different light. I do my best to be positive through my writing, and when there are sensitive issues that arise, as they do on occasion in the news world, I take my time and look at them from every angle possible. Do I always get it right? No, but I try my best.

JANICE: What are some of the best methods of promoting your work?

DANIEL: I guess it would be through the newspaper each and every week. People continue to subscribe to our papers. I can’t express enough how grateful I am for that. I know that everyone has an opinion on what should be included and not included in a newspaper, but I try my best to insert a variety of articles and features each week. “Local” for me is integral, so my focus is always on having local content in the paper before expanding to provincial and national items. Because we are a weekly paper, a lot of that provincial and national news has come and gone by the time we publish so unless it has some local tie, I usually don’t include those types of articles. People want to know what is happening in their community not necessarily halfway across the globe, especially when that news has already been told days earlier.

JANICE: Interesting. I hadn’t thought of that. What are your favorite / most effective social media?

DANIEL: I find people like Facebook so I try and run our Facebook pages as news feeds. We have a website for both papers (www.twmnews.com and www.laniganadvisor.com) where I do similar things and include an online subscription-based paper but it would be Facebook and Twitter – both those sites can reach a larger audience at the press of a button.

JANICE: How do you balance professional time with personal time?

DANIEL: Family is extremely important to my wife and m. We have two kids turning six and three in May, with another one on the way in July and so we are kept busy. Owning two papers has also kept us really busy and since I am the only reporter/photographer/editor/publisher for both, even more so. Since we are relatively new owners (three years with Watrous and just over one with Lanigan) that balance has been tilted more towards the newspapers at times. With weekly deadlines it can make it tough to be home when I’d like, and I will be the first to admit I don’t like being away from my kids and my wife. Kim has been a tremendous person in how patient and loving she’s been as we get things rolling forward with our two businesses. Right from the beginning we felt God’s calling to use the papers as a ministry opportunity and we are certainly trying to do that. Owning your own business can be challenging, like spending more time at the office than at home at times, but it can also be rewarding, being able to be at our kids sporting events, programs and other activities.

JANICE: Do you have any time for recreational reading? What are you currently reading? Do you prefer digital or print?

DANIEL: With a lot of my time spent at the newspapers, I have currently been reading my stories – proofing them after I type them. I have to say that one of my greatest fears is publishing two papers only to have spelling and grammar mistakes in them. We proofread a story probably three or four times, but there is always that one mistake that can fall through the cracks. I am not perfect, neither is my writing or grammar, but I just try to do the best I can. I enjoy reading biographies and autobiographies and have a stack of them on my desk at home waiting to be read. I just haven’t quite got there yet. As far as digital or print, I am old-school and enjoy physically picking up a book or newspaper and reading it that way.

JANICE: What are some of your favourite things? What makes you unique?

DANIEL: Some of my favourite things would be my family first and foremost. I love sports and being outside taking pictures of nature and wildlife. Some of my most enjoyable times outdoors are with a camera. I guess I would be unique in the fact that I own two weekly newspapers and purchased them in my early 30s. Many people say newspapers are dying but there will always be a need for news, especially local news. I love what I am able to do, and try and do it differently than some of the other papers that are just out to create headlines no matter the issue. I try to be sensitive towards my subject and take a compassionate view of each story I write. So perhaps while a news reporter can be tough and ruthless, I try to go against the grain.

JANICE: What keeps you going in your writing career?

DANIEL: Being able to put food on the table 🙂 In all seriousness though I do this job because I enjoy it. I don’t think I could do something different, at least not right now. Being in the media world has brought me some pretty cool experiences, and God has truly blessed us during our time at the paper in Watrous. We try to take his leading each day and hope that we are making the right decision in whatever we do.

JANICE: How is your faith reflected in your writing?

DANIEL: When we were first approached about buying the newspaper in Watrous, we really felt that it was a ministry opportunity. When I write stories, I try and take a positive and compassionate approach. When more sensitive or sticky stories come up, I rely on my faith to know what to do or how to write it. Sometimes I don’t include a very sensitive article that would otherwise be in a paper elsewhere. Yes, there are “newsworthy” stories but there are also people affected by those stories, so it is a real fine line for me at times as to what to do. I have lost a lot of hours of sleep when some of these instances come up but I trust that God will help me come to the right decision.

JANICE: What are some things you have learned from your own writing?

DANIEL: One thing I learned right off the bat, coming from radio to print, was that I had to write more. In radio we are taught to have a short introduction, get to the audio clip, then get out of the story. In print, there is no audio as such so the stories have to be lengthier to help paint a picture. My first week as a newspaper reporter my stories were only a few paragraphs long. I didn’t know how I would ever be able to write longer pieces. Now almost nine years later, sometimes I find myself typing and typing and typing until it becomes more like a novel than a news story.

JANICE: What is your ultimate writing goal?

DANIEL: I’m not sure if I have an ultimate writing goal other than to produce enough stories each week to print two newspapers. I thought it would be cool to one day attempt to write a book, but I don’t know that I would have the patience to do it. I like to sit down and type a story until it’s done. Stopping and starting would be tougher for me but then again I have lived with deadlines since my radio days, so if I had more time to think and plot it might be different.

JANICE: Do you have any advice for beginning writer…

DANIEL: If you love writing, give it a try and let your imagination take you for a ride. Don’t be afraid of failure. I still learn new things every day and if something doesn’t sound right or fit, grab another cup of coffee or eat a piece of candy and give your brain a bit of a break. Sometimes I will be writing late at night and just can’t go on. Then the next morning I come in and think, how did I ever come up with that? That is awful. Then a few minutes later a new lead is written, much better than the one I had painstakingly come up with the night before.

Thank you for the opportunity to let me share a bit about my story and journey.

JANICE: Thanks so much, Daniel, for sharing your story with us. We wish you all the best with your newspapers and your daily writing.

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