By Becky Benoit
When journalist Dawn Booth arrived in Fort McMurray from big-city Ottawa, she didn’t see the wild-and-woolly oilsands boomtown that has figured so largely in media stories outside the region. Instead, Booth saw a place she could call home, and immediately set about sharing that reality with the world.
“I was taught in school that ‘if it bleeds, it leads,’ meaning that if it’s a negative story, it’s on the front page,” explains Booth, who graduated with a bachelor of journalism from Toronto’s Humber College.
“But I try not to dwell on that or even recognize the fact that there’s a negative impression of our region. I take things at face value – I live here, and I know it’s a great place to live, a place that I’m more than happy to raise my two baby boys.”
In fact, Booth was so inspired by Fort McMurray that she left her successful editing job to launch snapd Wood Buffalo, an events publication that promotes the region through what Booth describes as “a monthly yearbook of all the wonderful things happening in Wood Buffalo.”
“From your neighbour to your co-worker, snapd is full of hundreds of pictures of the smiling faces of people you know,” Booth says of the positive contribution snapd has made to the region.
“It’s published proof that this is a community everyone can love.” Booth sees a journalist’s role in the community as one of deep involvement. “I think it’s very important to know the subject you are writing about and know the readers you are writing to – research is crucial,” she says. “I took it upon myself to get out there and volunteer, not only to meet people with the same interests as me but to meet the community, learn its stories and see what Wood Buffalo was really all about.”
Booth has certainly succeeded in that goal as an active community volunteer for a variety of organizations from Volunteer Wood Buffalo and the Fort McMurray Environment Committee to NorthWord magazine, Fort McMurray Tourism and CIBC’s Run for the Cure. For Booth, it’s about more than just career-building and community service; it’s about giving back to a place that has given her so much.
“I will be forever grateful to this place because not only did it give me the opportunity to fulfill my wants in a career, it gave me the greatest gifts of all – my husband and two children,” she says.