Volume 95, Issue 17

Friday, September 28, 2001
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About the Gazette


Gazette Alumni speak

A story behind the stories

History in print

The UBC prank: breaking and entering

Champagne with an old friend

From Pam to Parliament Hill and beyond

Tories, snow and free beer

An anti-country club

Getting sauced

From Pam to Parliament Hill and beyond

Paul Wells

Then: A&E and News Editor 1985-1989

Now: Parliamentary columnist at The National Post

I owe my career in journalism to student thrift and unrequited lust.

I was a freshman living at Westminster College in 1985 when I heard you could get into a concert for free if you reviewed it for The Gazette.

This seemed to me an almost unimaginably clever scam. Dizzy Gillespie was coming to Alumni Hall and I did not want to spend $17, so I mustered up my courage and announced my existence to the paper's ancient and terrifying editors.

They were unimpressed, but sent me to the concert. As a bonus, I was allowed to review an LP (it's how old people spell CD; ask your parents). That review produced my first byline: "By Pam Wells."

The whole sordid business would certainly have ended there if I had not paid keen attention to the entertainment editor who handed me the LP. She was a vision such as I had never witnessed in Sarnia and I resolved to capture her heart, or contiguous anatomy, with my typing fingers.

Of course, this project bore no fruit whatsoever, but it kept me writing through the humiliation of the Pam Wells thing. Today, she has a husband and kids. I have other editors – foul and slithering creatures who at least get the byline right.

For most of my time at Western, I was a foul and slithering editor myself. The bunch of us basically taught one another journalism.

I used to type for half the night. My entertainment co-editor would literally pull each yellow sheet from the typewriter (it's how old people spell computer; ask your parents), edit the copy, slam it into the page. Occasionally, he would sigh theatrically and offer advice. For a month, he routinely cut the last paragraph from everything I wrote. "If you can't figure out how to end a piece," he announced at last, "you probably already have."

His name was Jeff Brooke and today he helps put out The Globe and Mail.

Our Editor-in-Chief would poke his head out of the front office and complain that our odd division of labour was no way to run a paper. His name was Graeme Hamilton and as I write, he is in Manhattan covering the World Trade Center madness for The National Post.

Later, a sad-eyed funny guy joined us. We taught him what we knew and drank his beer.

He went on to become Editor-in-Chief of The Gazette. His name was Mike Martin and he had become a fine professional reporter by the time cystic fibrosis killed him. Our old Gazette gang reconvened in Toronto for a wake none of us will ever forget.

Each September, when I run into the Shinerama students, I empty my pockets.

Today, many of us are still journalists. We do nothing materially different from the tricks we taught one another over Swiss Chalet chicken or, on the nights I lost the vote, pizza. I carried my laminated Gazette press pass in my wallet for a decade, to Oka and Parliament and the 1995 referendum in Quebec.

I put it away when I realized I could barely recognize the kid in the photo. Must be Pam Wells.

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Copyright The Gazette 2001