Where I've Been

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When I was a kid, I spent many summer days swimming in my grandma’s pool. 

I was super lucky that, for one, both of my grandparents lived within a short walk or skateboard from my house, and for two, they both had big, in-ground swimming pools. 

During summer break, my brothers and I generally fell into a routine. We’d usually wake up in the morning,  watch TV as the sun began its work of warming the day outside, and when it was high enough in the sky, we’d head out for grandma’s place. Towel’s hung over our shoulders, perhaps a football or a frisbee clutched in hand to play with in the water when we arrived. 

Days on end were spent this way. Thinking back on it now, I feel like there could have been weeks at a time where we’d spend 90 per cent of our time at grandma’s place. I miss those days. 

Some days we’d spend the entire day there, continuing to swim as the sun sank behind the horizon and the air started to cool. Despite the fact your skin is starting to prune and your eyes are rimmed with red from the chlorine, you don’t want to get out because, at that point, the water is warmer than the air. 

 I used to like to test how long I could hold my breath under the water. Pushing myself down with my arms, I’d stare up at the shimmering, turquoise water as the sun danced across the surface like a living creature. 

I’d also swim from one length of the pool to the other underwater. After many summers, I was able to go from one end of the pool and back again in one breath. 

The last few lunges beneath the water were always the toughest. My lungs would be close to bursting, ballooning in my chest and seeming to press, hot and heavy, into the bones of my ribcage. I’d keep going though, my arms pulling in the water, creating aggressive streams of bubbles as I thrashed and clawed my way to the wall. Bursting to the surface, my mouth would gape open, sucking in the hot air of summer, a wide smile on my face. 

These last four months have felt something like that. 

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In September, The Pointer officially launched. This is the gig that pulled me away from the editor’s chair at The Oshawa Express this past August.  

Now, as journalist, editor, photographer and part-owner of The Pointer - Brampton, I’ve been pouring the majority of time into the job. 

Just like the massive intake of breath, and the initial kick off with my legs from the wall of the pool, the beginning of this process was fairly seamless. 

The team put together a collection of five in-depth, strongly reported stories, including the results of an exclusive poll from Forum Research, and put them all out for the world to see.

The Pointer is a subscription news website for Brampton residents. It’s strictly online, strictly Brampton and Peel Region content, and strictly world-class journalism that tells the stories that Brampton residents can’t get anywhere else. In my view, subscription news is the future of journalism. Well, it’s the future of quality journalism anyway. There will always be the clickbait, Facebook news updates and sites offering you “news” for free. However, good journalism costs money, and good journalists deserve to be fairly compensated for their work. So, in order to do that, readers need to be willing to pay for their news. I believe there is a strong contingent of the population that are already willing to do that. There’s another chunk of the population that wants quality news, but still believes they can find it for free online. To an extent, they’re right. There is a a lot of news, from quality newspapers and outlets, still widely available online for no cost, but that window is slowly closing. The New York Times, the Globe and Mail and most recently, the Toronto Star have switched over to subscription-based online models. Sooner or later, all good news will cost money, and I believe that as that window closes, people’s mindsets will slowly start to change as well. 

Enough about that though.  

The launch of The Pointer itself was an amazing learning experience for me. The team, led by former Toronto Star editor and investigative journalist San Grewal (the man who recruited me to join in this endeavour), poured over each paragraph, sentence and word of those five stories to ensure everything was perfect.  Here are those five initial pieces, covering a wide range of issues affecting Brampton and Peel Region.  Note that you will need to subscribe to read the full versions.


Linda Jeffrey has single-digit lead over Patrick Brown in race for Brampton mayor’s job

Brampton's is one of the hottest municipal races in the country. A Forum Research poll commissioned by The Pointer reveals the preferences of the city's voters on a host of key issues as mayoral candidates ramp up their campaigns ahead of the Oct. 22 election.


Patrick Brown wants redemption and needs Brampton to deliver it

Patrick Brown’s year began with a ten-point lead in the race to become premier. Allegations of sexual misconduct soon followed, and moments later the forced departure from the PC leadership. With his battle for the soul of the conservative movement in Ontario lost, Brown now hopes to cue his political comeback by winning the race for mayor of Brampton.

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How many people should be allowed to live in one ouse?

A look at one of the most divisive issues in Brampton. It centres on a sometimes reviled yet arguably necessary form of affordable housing: secondary suites, a.k.a. basement apartments, nanny suites, or additional units.

With population growth nearly 10 times the national average these suites may be a necessary evil in Brampton.


Who’s telling the truth in a $28 million lawsuit against the City of Brampton?

Former city hall executives who sat in the same closed-door meetings for a $500M development deal tell court different versions of what happened.

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Is anyone policing Peel police? Concerns mount about officer misconduct

With Brampton gripped by a recent crime wave, concerns mount that frequent misconduct in the force is putting public safety at risk.

Since hitting the GO button on Sept. 5, things have seemed fairly non-stop ever since. 

After the launch we were busy researching and reporting our next batch of stories to make sure we followed up our big launch with some quality content for the initial subscribers. 

Then the election slowly started to creep in, and through the end of September and most of October, I was consumed with that, as well as maintaining the new website, posting new content, trying to generate new sources in a new city, trying to figure out what exactly is happening in this new city, coordinating photographs, organizing interviews, and of course, writing stories. 

For weeks, it feels like I’ve been at that point when, as a kid swimming those lengths in grandma’s pool, my lungs felt close to bursting. There hasn’t been a chance to come up for air. 

I’ve been able to manage a (limited) social life and spend time with M, but the business side of things has always occupied my thoughts. I’ve tried to push it away, and at times have been successful, but it’s been so new, so exciting, and so consuming, that my thoughts keep returning to it and fluttering around it like a moth to a porch light.

However, it was recently time to come up for air. For Christmas, I took a week off to spend with M and back home in Kitchener with the family. 

After what has been an absolutely wild final quarter of 2018, I’ve been preparing for what is set to be one heck of a new year (starting off with a bang as your boy turns 30). 

More on all that later though. 

As always, thanks for reading.

Seriously, whether this is your first time reading this journal, or you’ve been around for some time, thank you so much for your attention, I appreciate it more than typed words can show. 


Joel Wittnebel