It made for long, longs days, which started out with an early-morning staff meeting and ended with us going home under cover of darkness. In the rush to get all of our stories done for layout the next day, our editor was laser-focused on one thing — putting out the best paper each and every week.
He was a true master of his craft, with attention to detail, a finely-tuned nose for news and a bite that was just as big as his bark. Dave didn’t shy away from controversy — in some ways he thrived in it.
At the expense of making his day much longer than it needed to be, Dave’s office door was always open. Whether it was a politician debating the editor on a story or editorial, a visit from a friend or a lengthy discussion with co-workers, one thing was always evident — Dave loved talking to people.
Talking to people about the news of the day — that was like Christmas to Mr. Husdal.
And even when Dave packed up and left Taber in 2002, after two separate stints at The Times, first as a reporter and then as an editor, he was always interested in what was going on back in Taber. We’d pick up the phone from time and time and hear Dave on the other end of the line, asking about an important town-council decision, insight into a local election or how the town was reacting to a big news story.
Even on the phone, from hundreds of kilometres away in Canmore, you could picture that twinkle in his eye as he spoke with passion about a story, especially a story which required a little investigative journalism, the kind that got Dave’s blood flowing as an editor.
That’s the kind of newspaper man Dave was. He worked hard and instilled that same work ethic into the reporters he employed. It was part of his mantra — work hard for me while you’re here, that’s all I ask. He also enjoyed calling us a bunch of widget makers, his preferred term for reporters, as he impressed upon us our job consisted of creating a product fit for public consumption, akin to a worker on an assembly line.
He also taught us from Day One the realities of the profession — not everyone is going to like you, people are going to lie to you, not every story is going to be easy and stepping out of your comfort zone is going to be required.
Dave loved the newspaper industry, and instilled that love of ink to those who worked with him. In fact, the newspaper fraternity is a close-knit bunch. For those of us who are still in the industry, who have survived cutbacks in the industry, found a way to cope with the long hours and the demands of being in the public eye, there’s a sense of pride attached to what we do. Very few understood that better than Dave.
Those in the newspaper industry certainly don’t do it for the money. In fact, many have jumped ship over the years for higher-paying jobs in public relations, advertising or other industries which our skills translate well into. Through all the adjustments, trials and tribulations of the newspaper business, a select few journalists have opted to stick it out and tell the stories which need to be told, and report all the news fit to read.
It’s an old mantra, perhaps a bit outdated in today’s modern media landscape, but it’s the kind of credo Dave lived by. Truly, he was one of a kind. He possessed an old-school work ethic and the kind of passion for newspapers you simply can’t teach.
He will be truly missed by those who knew him and for those of us who worked for him, we continue to use those lessons learned, try our best to emulate his work ethic and reinforce the creed journalism isn’t just a job — it’s a way of life.
Last Thursday, Dave Husdal, 48, was killed in a train collision in Canmore. A freelance journalist for the Banff Crag and Canyon, the former reporter and editor of The Taber Times, and former editor of papers in Canmore and Stettler, will be remembered Monday in Canmore at an 11:30 a.m. funeral service.
The newspaper industry has lost one of its own, a man who left no stone unturned in his quest for the truth, even if it wasn’t what everyone wanted to hear.
The stories he covered, the lessons he taught journalists like ourselves along the way and his love of people and telling a good story will be part of the legacy he leaves behind.