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  • Writer's pictureNikki Mantell

Confessions from a child labourer

In 1998, Nikki Mantell took over as publisher from her father, Art. As we're feeling nostalgic with our special anniversary section dedicated to the 1990s, we thought we'd run this piece she wrote for our 30th anniversary edition.

People inevitably ask me if I went to journalism school. I always say, no, I lived journalism school.

Growing up in the business – specifically the Low Down – means that every day from age one on was about getting stories, writing stories, explaining your stories, backing up your stories. Dinner time conversations revolved around the Five Ws — and heaven help you if you strayed from the inverted pyramid or forgot a name.

Besides writing stories and taking photos from an early age, both Mantell offspring (read: child labour) learned the guts of the weekly newspaper business by working all the other roles such as office manager, delivery person, and label-sticker.

And I’m not afraid to admit to you now that my family used me.

In my early years, I was regularly photographed when deadlines loomed and an editorial space needed filling.

As a teenager at Philemon Wright High School, I made the error of getting caught drinking at a dance with a bunch of my girlfriends. No suspension punishment doled out by vice principal and Burnett Road neighbour Dave Fisher was to give an exposé on seedy Hull depanneurs that sold alcohol to minors to my father’s reporter.

Needless to say this did not help my social standing.

But it did help me understand the ins and outs of this profession.

One of the very important things I’ve learned about small communities and newspapers is this golden rule: keep it local.

When you turn the pages of this paper, and those of all our 50 editions that come out every year, you’ll notice that every work in them is about, or connected to, you and your community. No “canned crap” from some publicity company in Toronto, no cheap syndicated crossword to fill space. With the exception of Aislin’s cartoon and a Quebec City columnist (both of whom tackle Quebec politics that affect all of us,) our editorial content is all produced here, by a hard-working and dedicated staff.

I could rant on about media conglomerates, but it really comes down to this: we love writing about the Gatineau Hills too much. We’re not the National Post, and we sure want to keep it that way.


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