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Editorial: Moving on, but not going too far

It’s time someone else who sees this industry, this newspaper, this community, and this job differently sits in this chair.
The Prince George Citizen is starting a new chapter in its long history.

No regerts.

Some people get that as a tattoo, believe it or not. I don’t understand why someone would want a spelling mistake permanently etched onto their skin but I get the idea.

No point in dwelling on the past because it can’t be changed. Even the mistakes – no, especially the mistakes – are the fuel for change and improvement. You must be facing forward to work on getting better. That isn’t happening if you’re mired in looking back over your shoulder coulda, shoulda, woulda, regret.

In that spirit, I have no regrets about my career in journalism and particularly the last 12 years of it – 11 years, 11 months, to be precise – as editor of the Prince George Citizen.

But it’s time for me to move on.

In the Citizen’s 108-year history, I am the second-longest serving editor in the paper’s history and that’s not necessarily a good thing. The crass old phrase that politicians are like diapers in that both need to be changed regularly and for the exact same reason should apply to newspaper editors, too.

It’s time someone else who sees this industry, this newspaper, this community, and this job differently sits in this chair. I can’t wait to see what he or she does – the story choices and the editorial stances - and I will be enthusiastically cheering for them from the sidelines.

Now’s a good time to leave.

Glacier Media was the owner of the Citizen for all but the last six weeks of my time as Citizen editor and they were not good owners. They weren’t terrible, either, but Prince George was certainly never the priority of a publicly-traded company based in Vancouver with assets across North America. With that in mind, I’m quite certain that if the Stolzs hadn’t bought the paper when they did, Glacier was ready to shut the Citizen down.

The only chance the Citizen had to not only survive but thrive was to be acquired by local owners, people with skin in the Prince George game, devoted to this community and willing to invest their hard-earned dollars in a risky but rewarding business.

Cameron and Terresa Stolz would have made far more money, far faster, and with far fewer headaches putting their resources elsewhere. They chose the Citizen because they believe in Prince George and they believe this city needs local journalism.

I believe they’re the right people at the right time for the Citizen. And I believe they’ll be just fine without me.

Over the past six weeks, they have jumped into the business with both feet and have been continuously reminded that the water is Ness Lake in January, not July. That has not deterred either of them from their vision to restore the Citizen as a strong, financially sustainable, locally owned, community focused, independent Prince George news outlet. That revitalization will happen even better with a new editor with new ideas and new perspectives.

I’m not going far.

Monday will be my first day as executive director of the Prince George Chamber of Commerce, where I hope to bring my own new ideas and new perspectives to revitalize an organization that has been around as long as both the Citizen and the City of Prince George.

In my new role, I get to devote myself to advocating for local businesses and the interests of Prince George.

Wearing my hat as a member of the Prince George Heritage Commission, I’ll continue to write the Throwback Thursday column of local history pulled from the Citizen archives.

Thank you for the privilege of serving as the Citizen’s editor.

I didn’t always love the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune that came with the responsibility, but I always loved the challenge of the work. I especially valued talking to the readers who disagreed with me because – most of the time - they just wanted me and the Citizen to do better.

Time to turn the page, both for me and for the Citizen.

Can’t wait to discover what we’ll find there.

Neil Godbout is the outgoing editor of the Citizen and the incoming executive director of the Prince George Chamber of Commerce