I’ve had so many people here in the North Island ask me for my thoughts on the issues between Dr. Alex Nataros and Island Health.
Out of respect for both sides, I’ve kept my opinions to myself and just reported the facts and nothing but the facts. To me, that’s what good quality journalism is all about. Since I started working at the paper back in 2015, I’ve always strived to report both sides of every issue, mainly because I feel it helps the community come to their own decisions about what’s going on locally in our region.
I personally don’t consider myself an activist journalist. I’m just a regular guy who likes to dig for a story fairly and accurately. The way I measure if I’ve done a good job and can be proud of my work is when both sides of a story are laid out plainly for everyone to see.
So while I won’t be writing about any juicy gossip in this week’s edition of Tyson’s Thoughts, I will be telling the story of how Dr. Nataros became a columnist for the Gazette back in December. I know Alex pretty well at this point, he’s a straight shooter and a firm believer in the freedom of the press and has a bit of a background in media, so I don’t think he’ll mind me telling this story here.
It was a fairly quiet day back in early December when Natasha, the publisher here at the Gazette, came over to my desk and said there was someone up front who wanted to meet me.
I got out of my chair, walked up to the front area, and was warmly greeted by Alex, who said he was the new doctor in town. I was a little surprised that a doctor had dropped into my office, as health-care workers from my experience tend to be a little media shy in nature, so I asked him if he wanted to do an interview with me that would introduce him to the community. Alex said thanks but no thanks, he’d rather write columns for the Gazette. Now, for the record, I’m a pretty easy going editor. For the most part, when someone says they want to freelance for the Gazette, I always tell them “great when do you want to start?”
Alex asked the usual questions, column topics, word count, etc., and I asked him if he wanted to write once a month or bi-weekly, mainly because I know how busy doctors are, especially here in the North Island where our health-care system is severely compromised at the moment.
Alex said he could write weekly no problem, but we agreed on bi-weekly just to give him a bit of a break inbetween columns. He said he wanted to write about community issues (rock climbing wall, health tips, new year’s resolutions), and was straight up with me from the start he didn’t want to write about health-care politics. I agreed that anything political would need to be covered as a news story (I did give him a bit of leeway when he wrote about B.C. needing physician assistants and also how we should build one centralized hospital here in the North Island, but other than that Alex kept himself on point).
I gave him my email and I didn’t think he’d be sending me anything till next week at the earliest. No more than a few hours later, Alex sent me a brief paragraph on a flu shot clinic in town, and then his very first column arrived shortly after that.
Alex is a good writer and his work needs very little editing. When his first column went up online his writing also proved to be quite popular, attracting lots of attention on the Gazette’s social media pages.
To put it mildly, things exploded over the next few months, and now whenever you google Alex’s name tons of coverage from just about every single media outlet across Canada will pop up. He’s also active on social media. His Twitter and Facebook contain personal annecdotes about life in general, but he also posts commentary on health-care stories that don’t mention/include him.
I guess you could say at this point Alex is a legit local celebrity (don’t forget therapy dog Pearl), which to me is a pretty cool phenomenon, and one that I never expected would happen when I first met him, but I can say I do feel a little proud that I can take a bit of the credit for his meteoric rise like a phoenix from the ashes of our currently compromised health-care system.
Port Hardy’s own Dr. Alex Nataros… Has a good ring to it.
Tyson Whitney is an award-winning journalist who was born and raised in Port Hardy. His family has lived in Port Hardy for more than 40 years. He graduated with a degree in writing from Vancouver Island University in 2008. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org