Alex Kurial always enjoyed reading about Bronwyn Beairsto’s life as the editor of the Bowen Island Undercurrent.
The two had met when they were both doing their master’s in journalism at Carleton University. Beairsto was a year ahead but their lives converged, if only briefly, when they were interns at the Vancouver Courier.
Kurial’s admiration of the way his friend was managing the challenges of being half of a two-person newspaper took on a hint of envy when the pandemic hit. He had just accepted a new job as court reporter at the Petrolia Independent in Ontario. Usually a reporting job — coupled with his love of sports — offer an instant springboard into community life. But, with all the lockdown restrictions, his primary interaction with people was over Zoom.
Building connections with people is harder when your lives don’t actually interconnect.
Meanwhile, although the pandemic also upended life on Bowen, Beairsto’s coverage illustrated that it could also bind people together as they sought ways to keep community life intact.
It’s the possibility of forging those meaningful connections that excites Kurial as he prepares to become the Undercurrent’s next editor.
“I’ve heard such good things about the paper and the island from Bronwyn,” he says in a telephone interview. “What really struck me is how involved the community is with the newspaper and how everyone cares about it. It’s important to them.”
Kurial will be taking over the editor’s role on November 29 — provided the weather co-operates with his cross-country drive back home to British Columbia. Beairsto began her new role as editor of the Coast Reporter in Sechelt this week and former Undercurrent editor Martha Perkins — who was Beairsto’s and Kurial’s editor at the Courier — will be filling in during the transition.
It many ways it will be a big adjustment for Kurial. He took on the reporting job at the Independent because he wanted to get out of his comfort zone as a sports reporter. On Bowen he’s going to hold up a mirror to a community that is very passionate about the island but is also very varied on how that passion should express itself.
But some things will be very familiar.
Kurial was born in Vancouver. His family moved to Charlottetown when he was three and, at 10, they moved back, this time settling in Richmond. He got his undergraduate at the University of Victoria with a major in history and a minor in journalism. When the sports editor of the university newspaper noticed how many games Kurial was attending, the editor suggested that Kurial write about the games. A journalist was born.
His first full-time gig was as a reporter at the Prince Rupert Northern View. The vistas he woke up to every morning were stunningly beautiful and he thrived on being so immersed in community life. Some people might have found the north to be isolating but, for Kurial, “you’re never really lonely in a community like that.”
Sports also echo many of the things he loves about newspapers. Yes, there is an appreciation of the energy and drama that the competition between rivals generates, especially when you’re watching from the stands. But “I like how sports bring people and the community together,” he says, noting that he likes all levels of sports from recreational to professional.
As the Undercurrent’s new editor he wants everyone in the community to continue to feel as involved with the newspaper as they were under Beairsto’s stewardship.
“It’s a special sort of newspaper,” he says. “It almost seems like its own character on Bowen. That’s what I want to uphold.
“I’m looking forward to a nice, long stay on Bowen.”
“We are thrilled and delighted that Alex has chosen to join us here at the Undercurrent,” says publisher Peter Kvarnstrom. “Alex’s strong academic background and several years of local reporting, in small markets, make him an ideal candidate.
“With family and roots in the Lower Mainland, Alex will quickly pick up on the local lore and undercurrents on the island. Please join us in welcoming Alex to our wonderful community on November 29.”
In the meantime, there are certain practicalities of starting a new job — such as finding a place to live on the island. Kurial knows that rental apartments can be hard to find but he’s also willing to start out renting a room in a house. “It doesn’t have to be the end place,” he says.
If you know of any housing possibilities, please contact Alex Kurial at email@example.com.