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Niagara Falls
Sunday, December 3, 2023
14 months, hundreds of stories and one heartfelt farewell
Somer Slobodian, The Lake Report's agricultural reporter for the last year, says goodbye to the paper. EVAN LOREE

It’s not every day I’m at a loss for words — but here I am. 

I thought writing a goodbye letter would be easy – that the words would just flow naturally.

But it’s proved to be harder than anticipated — because it’s hard to say goodbye to something that’s been such a huge part of my life for so long. 

How do I even begin to describe my 14 months here in under 700 words?

How do I begin to describe the people I met, the connections I’ve made, my accomplishments and how wonderful the team is at The Lake Report?

Simply put — I can’t. I’d take up the whole paper and no one wants that. But I can do my best to keep it short and sweet. 

Five years ago I didn’t expect to be in journalism. I was a travel agent, after all, but since the pandemic had other plans for my travel career I decided to go back to school for, you guessed it, journalism.

I loved writing and telling stories, so it seemed like the right thing to do.

As journalism students, we were told our first jobs as reporters would be headline writing, press rewrites and odd jobs here and there. That we’d be on the bottom of the food chain crawling our way up one crime story at a time.

I wasn’t looking forward to that kind of grind. 

This was not the case at The Lake Report. 

I am not exaggerating when I say that this has been the best possible experience a new reporter could have. 

I never imagined that my first job in journalism would provide me the chance to write an in-depth investigation into the rules and regulations surrounding laundry facilities at bunkhouses for seasonal agricultural workers.

It turned out the feds had different rules than the province and it left some employers with enough wiggle room to leave their workers with minimal laundry facilities – a single tub in one bunkhouse.

The story later won a national award and also prompted many agricultural employers to invest in proper laundry facilities for their workers. 

I never expected to have close to 300 impactful stories fresh out of J-school but I’m not going to lie: this job is hard, the hardest job I’ve ever had. 

But, my goodness, is it rewarding.

Not only have I made some really meaningful connections with folks around town — but I’ve learned so much from each and every person I’ve talked to. 

I know more about municipal politics, tender fruit, invasive species and NOTL’s deep-rooted history than I did a year and a half ago. 

I’ve had the opportunity to meet some amazing individuals who trusted me to tell their stories — like Narvil Davis, a seasonal farmworker at Tregunno Farms, who opened up about his life in Jamaica, his life in NOTL and why he’s been coming to work in Canada for the last nine years.  

Or Wanda and Terry Nord, the Niagara Parkway residents who share their love of Christmas with the community through their magical light show every year. 

I feel lucky to have had my editors Richard Harley and Kevin MacLean in my corner, guiding me since day one. I wouldn’t be the journalist I am today without either of them. 

They took a chance on a fresh college grad who still had a lot to learn about the journalism world and who had a lot to learn about Niagara-on-the-Lake. 

I also couldn’t have done it without a few other gems. Like my work mom, Megan Vanderlee, whose bubbly personality and warm greeting every morning always put a smile on my face. Or our newest editor, Zahraa Hmood, who has been a wonderful new addition to The Lake Report.

Or my incredibly talented co-workers, Julia Sacco and Evan Loree.

Loree, whose dedication, storytelling and intelligence is something I look up to and admire.

Sacco, whose personality, drive and writing abilities are not only inspiring but one of a kind.

And my dear friend and Lake Report columnist Ross Robinson — who would come in with Popsicles and in turn take our food, but always leave us laughing.

I read a quote by Steve Jobs that said, “Great things in business are never done by one person; they’re done by a team of people,” and I think that sums up The Lake Report family quite nicely. 

We’re a small team here, but together we’ve become the most decorated community newspaper in the country. And the best, in my opinion, in Niagara. 

We’re a big paper in a small town. 

That happened because of hard work and dedication from those here now and those who worked here over the years. To say that I’m now a part of that is an honour.

I’m sad to be saying goodbye. After all, I am going to miss drinking an unhealthy amount of iced coffee every day from Willow Cakes and Pastries.

But as someone who is adventurous at heart, I decided to follow my gut and return to the travel industry, to follow my dreams of seeing the world and one day go trekking with mountain gorillas in Uganda. 

I’ll be fulfilled if I can travel the world, inspire people, discover new cultures and document it all through writing and photography. 

Maybe you’ll see my name in Canadian Geographic one day or Travel + Leisure magazine. 

But if you do, please remember I couldn’t have gotten there without The Lake Report. 

Don’t worry, I’ll still be around NOTL now and again. You might even see my name in the paper. You can’t get rid of me that easily.

I didn’t write this in less than 700 words — but like my editors would say, “use as many words as it takes to tell the story.”

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