It’s 4 p.m. on a Monday and Orillia native Terry Pedwell is juggling a list of stories he’s pursuing for the Canadian Press (CP) newsroom.
“My day started with covering the beginning of closing arguments in the Mike Duffy fraud case, and then moved on to the finance minister (Bill Moreau) announcing the federal deficit is going to be billions more than originally estimated,” Pedwell told Simcoe.com.
He was so busy he missed covering Question Period in the House of Commons.
“Now, I’ve moved on to an interview with two RCMP officers who have come back from Jordan, after assisting Syrian refugees,” he added.
No two days are the same for the 53-year-old graduate of Couchiching Heights Public School and ODCVI. Pedwell likes it that way.
Change “is part of it, and things change all the time,” he said.
“Sometimes that can be confusing, because there are so many things happening all at once.”
He notes that with today’s rapid-fire approach to news, CP clients want to access material as quickly as possible.
“The drive is still there because there are so many interesting stories to tell and events to cover, and the bigger they get, the more complicated they get,” said Pedwell.
Looking back, Pedwell vividly remembers being in an English class at ODCVI, where his teacher first planted the seeds of journalism in his head in his early teens.
“Mary Masterson was my English teacher at the time and she was probably the most important influence on me,” said Pedwell.
Through conversations, she suggested he abandon thoughts of becoming an eye doctor and instead pursue journalism.
“Looking back, there might be some fascination in becoming an eye doctor, but you end up being stuck in an office, looking at people’s eyes all day,” he said. “That’s something I could find tedious after a while.”
Now 26 years into his career with Canadian Press, his assignments have taken him to the far reaches of the globe.
“I’ve been on every continent except for South America, and I plan on going there later this year,” he said. Pedwell has so many memories of trips abroad, but one trip to Israel with then Prime Minister Jean Chretien has special meaning. He had just a short window of time before he had to board the plane “and I was bound and determined I was going to go out and see something,” he recalls.
He ran as fast as his body would carry him from the King David Hotel to the Wailing Wall in the old section of Jerusalem.
“I saw what I needed to see, bought a souvenir off a vendor, ran back to the hotel, packed my bags and jumped on the plane,” said Pedwell. “I also saw the pyramids in Egypt through my hotel room,” he jokes.
Working as a war correspondent for CP, he did three tours of Afghanistan.
“My third time in Afghanistan, I was sitting in my tent in the Canadian base in Kandahar, two days into my assignment and saying to myself, ‘what the hell am I doing back here?’” he said.
But what he saw there paled in comparison to the atrocities he witnessed in Haiti.
The ousting of Jean Betrand-Aristide unleashed full-blown violence.
“It (Haiti) was probably one of the toughest experiences of my life and there were mobs of people who were moving around like flocks of birds,” he said.
At one point, a young man was shot and killed right beside him.
“At that moment I froze and the gunman who shot the boy came up to me and just smiled. I froze and watched him reach down and pull the running shoes off the dead man and he just took off,” he said.
Pedwell’s news partner and photographer was yelling frantically at him to run for his life.
“It was the strangest and most horrifying situation I’ve ever encountered,” he remembers.
The images and memories of that day have never left him.
“There were situations I saw there, that I will never be able to un-see,” he said.
On Parliament Hill, Pedwell has seen governments come and go in his time.
The change in federal governments last fall from Conservative to Liberal has altered the relationship between members of the media and MPs.
“During the Harper years, we didn’t really rely on information from any of the communications people in the various departments or the ministers, because they all clammed up,” said Pedwell.
“So you had to find other ways of getting information.”
During the first 100 days of the Trudeau Liberals, the exact opposite has happened.
“There is more access to ministers and department officials now, but the problem with that is that you are inundated with information from so many sources you have to sift through it and figure out what is important to people,” he said.
Pedwell says the relationship between politicians and reporters is sometimes rocky.
“If they’re not in hot water, they’ll get to know you and want to talk to you,” he said. “If they are in hot water and they know you, they want to avoid you like the plague because they know you are going to ask the tough questions.”