Willie Jose January’21

A Bluffs Monitor Reporter in the 90s

By Willie Jose

When I look around Scarborough today, its surroundings are just like in the early 90s, the tail end of the country’s recession, with not many economic activities; we could see a few people in malls, even people’s social movements were not visible, but it looks much worse off now because people are afraid to go out, fearing that they might get the dreaded virus.

With today’s pandemic caused by the covid-19, the same atmosphere is prevailing, just like in the 90s

Experiencing this kind of atmosphere, I can’t help myself but look back on the early days of our first arrival as new immigrants in 1994. I was ready to take any jobs the came my way—forget about my journalism background, preparing to use my other skills for my family’s survival.

A month after our arrival, I got hired at IMB’s Celestica, and while I was working there, I was on the lookout for a writing career.

While browsing Bluffs Monitor, I chanced upon an Ad needing a reporter, so I immediately sent my resume to Lee Graves, the editor and publisher of the paper.

When I joined Lee’s paper, it was a period of transition. From the old use of a manual typewriter to the personal computer (PC), and IBM’s PS1 was my first computer, and I used it just for typing my stories, and after writing it, I would send it to Lee through the Fax machine. The online internet was not yet famous at that time. There were some occasions when I had to hand over to Lee, the hard copy of my article in her Scarborough’s home. Being a newly arrived immigrant, I didn’t have a car, so I had to commute when covering an event.

I remember when applying for the reporter post, and after reading my resume and knowing that I had spent most of my life in journalism, Ms. Lee asked me: what I’m doing at IBM (Celestica)?

I responded, “Well, I have four children to feed.”

My survival instinct was also with me. A few weeks before Lee’s interview, I had gone to Toronto’s Star and Toronto Sun, applying for three positions: proofreader, reporter and copy editor. And the editor at the Star was surprised that I could do all these three jobs, and my simple answer was, ” I’ve risen from the ranks in the newspaper, so that’s the reason why I’m well-equipped to do writing.”

I learned that early in Canada, there is such a thing as a job’s specialization.

The editor told me that ” You came at the wrong time, it’s recession now and we have been trimming down people.”

Maybe, the editor, having some feeling a sense of brotherhood with me, he graciously took me around the paper’s editorial department, showing me around those computers, signalling the start of their paper’s shift to computerization.