Haida Gwaii Observer Local Journalism Initiative reporter Karissa Gall is pictured on Wednesday, July 1, 2020 in Queen Charlotte/Daajing Giids. (Karissa Gall/Haida Gwaii Observer)

Editorial: Hello and haawa Haida Gwaii

An introduction to Local Journalism Initiative reporter Karissa Gall

The arrival of a Syrian refugee family to Haida Gwaii, the construction of crucial local infrastructure and much, much more have all been delayed due to COVID-19, least of all my overdue haircut and this introduction.

Still, I really should find a photogenic angle and officially say, “Hello.” My name is Karissa Gall – you may have seen the relatively long “Local Journalism Initiative reporter” byline on our website and papers over the past few months. I’m the new editor/reporter, here on the island for a contract thanks in part to funding from the federal government.

A little bit about me. I’m originally from southwestern Ontario, a medium-sized city surrounded by cornfields called Chatham. I’ve also lived in others parts of Ontario, in Alberta and B.C. for several years, as well as New York City, where I started my Master of Journalism degree and developed my capstone project, a WordPress plugin to automate a media guide for reporting on mental health. I’ve also lived in a couple of countries in Africa, volunteering at one of the national newspapers in Malawi, and as a communications specialist for Veterinarians Without Borders in Ghana and Kenya.

ALSO READ: ‘At least they’re safe:’ Arrival of new Syrian refugee family to Haida Gwaii delayed due to COVID-19

Immediately before accepting this contract I was the first “mobile multimedia journalist” for Black Press, travelling to more than 15 of our community news offices around the province at last count, all within about a year. Some of my favourite stories written during my time as the mobilist include a tour of the Indigenous-owned sustainable scallop farm in Prince Rupert and a feature on the man who lives in a shoe in Smithers.

I’ve learned that moving so much can be pretty all-consuming, but in my spare time I like to play tennis, listen to music, enjoy stand-up comedy and socialize. I also like to read, write, take photos and make videos, which brings to mind the phrase, “choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

These past few months have felt like work though, haven’t they? It has been difficult for so many of us and many have been impacted differently.

At times I’ve felt overcome with gratitude to the Haida Nation for being able to take up residence on this beautiful archipelago, where as yet there have been no confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus. Haawa.

At other times I’ve felt incredibly inadequate and lonely in my work-from-home-office in Daajing Giids – I moved here by myself – and longed to be with my immediate family out east.

ALSO READ: Daughter of man at B.C. care home hit by COVID-19 says loneliness is a big issue

All of you have helped me through. You who have answered my emails, taken my cold calls, shared your stories with me over the phone and agreed to meet in person when the time is right. Haawa.

Now for the obligatory (but very sincere) plug. With states of emergency, travel restrictions and pandemic “bubbles” still in effect, I need your story ideas and voices more than ever to do this paper justice. Please email me or write a letter to the editor. Whether you think it’s a big idea or small, COVID-related or not, I want to hear it.

With your help, I’ll be doing my best to keep an accurate record of community news, uphold and advocate for public accountability, and celebrate all that is unique and joyful about the islands.

Haawa so much. I hope to hear from you soon.

ALSO READ: Hearts in windows connect Haida Gwaii residents while social distancing, self-isolating

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