Sun Scribe Thane Burnett bids farewell after 26 years

Thane Burnett dips his feet into English Bay to close off his Retro Canada trip in Vancouver,...

Thane Burnett dips his feet into English Bay to close off his Retro Canada trip in Vancouver, Wednesday, March 27, 2013, CARMINE MARINELLI/QMI AGENCY

Thane Burnett, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:27 PM ET

I can see the bartender tapping his watch.

So I guess it's time I gathered up my coat and headed out.

But before I go, and you've been great to sit and listen to my stories, I'd like to pass along a few parting words.

Not any great wisdom. More like a period at the end of a last sentence.

After 26 years of telling tales for Sun Media, another four with a Halifax paper, I am no longer their reporter. Though I guess I still qualify as a journalist.

Years ago, I stood with a group to meet Prince Charles. He was introduced to our motley band with someone explaining: "Your highness, these are a few local reporters."

"What's the difference between a journalist and a reporter?" the prince asked.

A veteran among us chimed in: "A reporter is a journalist who has a job."

So I am no longer a reporter or 'Sun Scribe' — the scrappy moniker used by my peers in the newsroom since 1971. And, because of the complicated marketplace of the business, I may never be a newsman again.

Beyond being a husband and dad and, on better days, a good man, I've always seen myself as a news writer. And my stories have always been for you — until now.

I see you looking at me with a certain unease. Don't.

These years have flown by in endless rounds of adventures. If you had told me at 20 years old how I would spend the next three decades, I would have paid to live through it.

Did I tell you once, while at the Calgary Sun, a Blackfoot elder guided me through a vision-quest involving me going without food and water, and being left in the wilderness for four days? Or the time I was, after I joined the Toronto Sun, smuggled into a South American prison? That a Canadian soldier dove in front of me to protect me from incoming fire in Afghanistan?

Oh, ya, I guess I did tell you.

Wait, what about how I felt in earthquake-ravaged China, or on the island of Montserrat during a volcano that melted my boots, or in remote India where I followed a trail of AIDS patients, or Oklahoma City on the day of the bombing or inside Ground Zero's 'frozen zone' on 9/11 or finding Biddy Baby, a tough Louisiana swamp-man whose family stubbornly rode out hurricanes Katrina and Rita inside a bandit's camp?

You're right. I told you them all, right here.

I just really appreciate the time you gave me.

And I've always been aware they were never my stories. I just carried them to you.

I know there are plenty of louder voices — those demanding you feel outrage about this or screaming the other guy shouldn't be allowed to believe that.

But behind these obnoxious characters, there are as many as 13,000 journalists working in Canada — many quietly knocking on doors or jumping on planes so you'll know the full truth of a story.

Is the industry dying? No, though it is going through serious growing pains that many other trades have known.

In fact, there are apparently — despite corporate shakeups — as many journalists in this country as a decade ago.

How do I know? A journalist dug into it and told me so.

Showmen like Rush Limbaugh like to routinely call out the flaws of 'mainstream journalism'. But Limbaugh, and those like him, simply feed off of the work done by reporters who daily venture out to ask questions and bring you back answers.

Yes, I have worries about journalism. We all do. But I believe in storytelling and the need to be informed when there are sirens blaring on the street outside, or when a government is throwing its citizens in prison a half world away.

Better journalists than me have died believing the same thing.

If I do decide to replace my pen with a hammer or rake, to give up what I've been doing for so long now, I'll still wander in here each day -- now to listen rather than tell.

I just thought it was important, if these are the last words I write for a newspaper, that you know having you sit with me to hear my many stories has been a great honour.

And with one hand on the door latch and the other over my heart, be sure I always tried my very best, knowing you were waiting right here.


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