Behind his gruff exterior, Jack’s one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet.
I first met Jack Danylchuk in the summer of 2004 at the Yellowknifer, my first reporting job. Looking around, I quickly realized he was the only journalist with any real experience, having spent years doing award-winning work at the Edmonton Journal. From his swivel chair in editor’s row, he’d bark at reporters for missing key details in their stories while offering his special brand of painfully honest guidance.
Most reporters bristled at his harsh and direct nature, but I ate it up because the man knew his stuff. Sometimes, I’d invite him to sit in my chair and edit a piece before submitting. If I was lucky, after giving my story a read, Jack would look up over the top of his glasses, nod and utter little more than “good,” before standing up to get back to work.
Then in March 2005, as many longtime Yellowknifers will remember, two firefighters died after falling through a roof. I was relatively clueless about how to cover it as this sort of breaking news rarely happened in YK. I called Jack from the scene, told him as much, and he patiently told me, step by step, how to gather the pieces needed to tell the most compelling and complete story. In the weeks that followed, I was thrust into an intense reporting vortex of obituaries and follow-up stories that left me mentally beaten. More than once, Jack saw gaping holes in my draft and made calls on my behalf before rewriting the entire thing without saying a word.
In the fall of 2005, I left the paper in a blaze of verbal glory I won’t get into here. But after watching me throw a pen and storm out of the newsroom, Jack followed me onto 50th street and invited me to lunch at the Gold Range Bistro where he offered a letter of reference, if I ever needed it, and we’ve been friends since.
About five years later, sitting with my wife Kate and I on an obscure Baja boardwalk patio bar named after two of my favourite things — Art & Beer — Jack said he felt Yellowknife’s creative community needed a place to put its ideas. This concept grew to become EDGE YK magazine, but not before Jack first named the publication EDGE (of the ‘Knife, of civilization and, depending on the time of year, of sanity) and drafted a list of possible stories to shop around to advertisers.
Over the past four years, his sharp analysis, opinion and hard-nosed news stories have developed a strong following within the EDGE readership and more people mention his work to me than just about anything else we do. He was originally listed on the masthead as the magazine’s Founding Editor, a title he disliked because he felt it made him “sound dead,” and has since become our Sr. Contributing Editor. Whatever his title, from the start, he’s consistently done more than his fair share of work while being adamant about not receiving public recognition.
It’s an understatement to say the man’s taught me a lot — personally and professionally — from how to perfectly roast a whole chicken to how, as journalists, we hold a never-expiring licence to ask questions of anyone, anytime, anywhere. I’ve never met a man more serious about journalism as a profession and writing as a craft, and I doubt I ever will.
A friend of mine once told me Jack’s secret is that behind his gruff exterior, he’s one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. After eating hundreds of his home-cooked meals, receiving many hours of professional guidance and learning immensely from his range of life experience, I agree. I also can’t begin to thank him for everything he’s graciously shared and taught me.
And so, Jack, my friend, mentor, and the man who helped me start both EDGE YK magazine and EDGE Online, is stepping away. He’s heading south at the end of the month, unlikely to return to YK. If you’re a fan of his work and see him around over the next week or so, let him know as we’ve been lucky to have him reporting on this place. And though Jack’s in his 70s, I won’t call it a retirement as he’s always welcome to write whenever he’s in the mood.
On the positive side, Jack’s endorsed Meagan Wohlberg as his replacement. I’ve always admired Meagan’s work and we were proud to publish her first piece on the ever-rising tolls of the Deh Cho Bridge on the site yesterday. Most recently the award-winning editor of the excellent Northern Journal, Meagan will be an important part of our territorial election coverage and, hopefully, well beyond.