By Ursula Maxwell-Lewis
In September 2007, Jennifer Lang, the new editor of the Cloverdale Reporter, introduced herself to readers by writing: “If my years as a reporter have taught me anything, it’s that everyone has a story to tell.
“Cloverdale, I can’t wait to hear yours.”
Last month Jennifer passed away after a short, courageous battle with cancer.
She was 50 years old.
She wrote award-winning work for community papers such as The Terrace Times, The Terrace Standard and the Cloverdale Reporter. She filed thousands of stories, and covered the great and the good — and sometimes the not so good.
Armed with a BA in history from the University of British Columbia and a Journalism Diploma from Langara College, Jennifer reported on high-profile stories, covering everything from the six-year trial of serial killer Robert Pickton to the Nisga’a treaty and the Skeena Cellulose crisis.
She interviewed five sitting premiers, a prime minister, local MPs, MLAs, and the occasional celebrity. It was all in a day’s work as she travelled British Columbia.
Rod Link, her former editor and publisher at The Terrace Standard, shared memories as they came flooding back. He remembered that it was in Terrace where Jennifer and Jeff Nagel first met.
Because the two reporters worked for competing newspapers, their relationship was “hush-hush.”
“I recall not being surprised when it became public,” said Link. “Two young, smart, vibrant people would not be without each other for long in a small town like Terrace.”
“Cliché, I know,” said Link, “but dedicated, smart, aware, caring and complete dedication to the craft of journalism all apply.
“Upon spying her car for the first time, some kind of Japanese model, two-door coupe-style, and low to the ground, I thought that vehicle won’t last long up here, not even a winter, and it would soon head back south along with its owner,” he said.
“Boy, was I glad to be wrong,” said Link.
Jeff Nagel reflected on those years, too.
“Jen arrived in Terrace in late 1994 / early 1995 to work for The Terrace Times, a rival to The Standard. We met soon after covering city council for our rival papers, and were soon looking more at each other than the council table or the agendas.”
Their preoccupation didn’t go unnoticed by observant councilors, and their rivalry to “scoop” stories for their respective papers added spice to the romance.
“Probably gave the two papers’ editors premature grey hair,” reports Nagel.
When The Times folded, Lang moved to The Standard.
When the couple left Terrace in the spring of 2005, Lang received many gifts and much praise.
“One of those gifts to both us, was a carved canoe paddle from the Nisga’a Nation, in appreciation for our fair coverage throughout the years of negotiation of the Nisga’a treaty,” said Nagel, with the postscript that this was even though the owner of The Standard had taken an editorial position against the treaty.
After moving to Surrey, Lang and Nagel continued working with Black Press as news reporters.
I remember first meeting Lang at my Cloverdale Reporter retirement afternoon hosted by Black Press. From the outset I knew Jen appreciated my community vision for the paper, and our mutual respect and friendship flourished, as did the Reporter.
She threw herself wholeheartedly into investigating and profiling a variety of community causes.
Anne Sharkey, past president of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch No. 6, remembers Jennifer attending branch publicity meetings and suggesting a series of stories profiling veterans.
“We began going through memorabilia. Jennifer took some photographs, and I suggested members she might like to interview. The successful Cloverdale Reporter Remembrance Day edition was the result. This will be her legacy as we work on the upcoming November issue. She always went the extra mile for our veterans. She will be sadly missed.”
Graphic designer Marla Poirier, who worked with Jennifer on the Reporter, remembers that “Jen made time for everyone.”
“On publication days there would be a deluge of people coming in to thank her for her story, or just coming by to say ‘hello.’ Even when swamped with work, she made time for them. She loved Cloverdale, and it showed.”
For myself, I will simply say this: I shall miss Jennifer Lang. Tremendously. It was my privilege and pleasure to work with her. I shall miss our lunches, laughs and mutual interests in life, arts, and politics. “Goodbye” stems from the 16th century phrase, God be with you. So be it, my friend.
Ursula Maxwell-Lewis is the founder and former publisher and managing editor of The Cloverdale Reporter