Childhood memories: Clutching fat wax crayons in my toddler fingers, I colour the headlines in a newspaper. Age eight, I peck out stories on a typewriter – and am struck by a certainty: I will be a writer when I’m a grown-up.
I’m still not sure what “grown-up” means. I cannot remember a time before I was not a writer. I’ve made my living at it for four decades.
As a veteran reporter, I cover breaking news, social and economic policy, and science, for an international audience. Selected clips and a brief bio of my journalism are here.
Cultural change – including growing disdain for facts, science, and freedom of expression, alongside new technologies that destroyed the Western business model for journalism – forced me to rethink a career, dedicated to evidence-based reporting. I continue in journalism part time but, also, have returned to the purely creative forms of Story that enchanted my younger self.
Fictional storytelling is as relevant as factual reporting in our quest to make sense of things. I now have several fiction projects underway, some begun long ago and recently retrieved from dusty shelves.
I have carried a camera since my first newspaper job, which required me to roll film, shoot a manual SLR camera, and develop and print in a dark room. Though my journalism is mainly written, my news photos have been published locally and nationally in Canada, and globally by AFP/Getty. Most of my images, however, are less journalistic: I aim to see, and show, stories beyond the realm of words.
This site is a work in progress. Please stay tuned for announcements about my creative works, and new journalism projects. If you wish, you can subscribe to new posts by email, on my blog page.
My own story, in brief:
I am the first Canadian born, a late boomer, to an European family forged by the World Wars, which migrated in search of a fresh start. My life experience is eclectic, my education interdisciplinary and continuing. Both serve free-range writing well.
Raised in Alberta and the Northwest Territories, I grew up reading, skiing, horseback riding, canoeing, and hiking and camping.
Before working in journalism I flipped burgers, learned to fly an airplane, worked as a first-aid attendant on bush planes throughout the Arctic, was an assistant museum curator in Yellowknife’s Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre, slung beer in bars, and lived for months in the wilderness as a junior naturalist at Wood Buffalo National Park. Later, while a journalist, I taught skiing part time at Whistler.
After graduating from Sir John Franklin secondary in Yellowknife, N.W.T., I aimed to become a biologist, and write about science. Enthralled by a high school teacher who presented life science in its “accidental magisterium” wonder, I enrolled in zoology. Immature and unprepared, I was instantly lost amid the cavernous and sterile lecture halls at the University of Alberta, Edmonton, where the spell cast by my gifted teacher evaporated. I became a poster child for the motto, education is wasted on the young. Science is my path not taken; I fled after two years.
My thrall to a sense of wonder returned with a job at my home town newspaper the Yellowknifer, and having the Globe and Mail notice my work and recruit me to freelance. And in journalism, I found license to explore all of the magisteria, the marvelous myriad of whos, whens, whats, wheres and whys. I was hooked.
I continued freelance journalism when I resumed an undergraduate program, then left for a journalism job one course short of a major in any of biology, political science or economics. I had mixed feelings about dropping out until, years later, I read Jane Jacobs’ distinction between education and certification. It’s education that I’ve valued lifelong, and pursued via intensive reading and lectures, adventures and salons, plus courses that ranged from computer programming to history to human physiology to martial arts to photography to the stock markets. In mid-career, finally ready for formal directed education, I completed a Master of Arts at Simon Fraser University in a luminous Graduate Liberal Studies program, and studied Creative Writing at the University of Oxford.
My thinking is influenced by Hannah Arendt’s final works, communitarian and cosmopolitan ideas, Epicurus, and E.O. Wilson. I am, intentionally, a generalist. Areas of focus are civility, freedom of thought and expression, ecology – and play.
What invigorates my days is marvel at our rich existence on a rock spinning in space. What keeps me awake nights is fear: that we humans are too distracted and divided to appreciate that marvel, or tackle the life-and-death dangers facing our hard-won democracies, our fragile global environment, and our priceless agency. I fear that while every solution begs for cooperation, we brawl over Sigmund Freud’s “narcissism of small differences.” Marvel and fear are the main elements in my work.
What matters most to me is my family and friends, and all of our communities.
Post: PO Box 46875 Station D, Vancouver, Canada V6J 5M4
email: debs AT deborahjones.ca
All images and words on this site are mine, except where otherwise noted.
Photo credits, in order of appearance:
On assignment for AFP at the Law Courts in Vancouver, Canada, in 2017, © Gavin Kennedy
In Santiago de Compostela, Spain, © Alexander Kennedy
At my desk in 1980, as a reporter at the TODAY newspaper in Fort McMurray, ground zero of Alberta’s oil sands. Photo Credit: TODAY
On Pichincha Volcano, Ecuador, © Gavin Kennedy