Local Media Team Reflects on Carol Ann Nicholson

Remembered fondly for her sense of humor, her compassion, and her commitment to covering local events and interpreting state and national issues, Carol Ann Nicholson was part of a team of like-minded local journalists that served the community for decades. (Online photo)

By Lura Jackson

 

It takes an unquenchable curiosity paired with a fair dose of compassion to be an effective community journalist, both traits that Carol Ann Nicholson had in abundance. Nicholson passed away in her sleep on February 21st, at the age of 77. In her career as a journalist in the St. Croix Valley, Nicholson made many impressions on those she interacted with – particularly a group of her fellow newshounds that mirthfully dubbed themselves the “Media Monsters”: Diana Graettinger, Tom McLaughlin, Joyce Scott, Heather Henry Tenan, and Laura Haley. Each worked with Nicholson for years, and each came to know her as a close personal friend.

Born in Vermont, Nicholson moved to Calais when she was in high school because of her father’s work in immigration. She was a bright, inquisitive student, and she applied to the journalism program at the University of Maine to pursue a career in sharing knowledge with the public. While there, she was awarded with a United States Senate Fellowship that would send her to Senator Ed Muskie’s office in Washington, D.C. where she would serve a further three years after graduation. The experience gave her the opportunity to hone her political acumen, something that she would continue doing for the rest of her life.

After a period in Fredericton in the 1970s, Nicholson returned to the St. Croix Valley to write for both the St. Croix Courier and then later the Calais Advertiser. At the St. Croix Courier, Laura Haley was the editor while Nicholson wrote a popular column; Nicholson became assistant editor after demonstrating her proficiencies at various tasks. “Carol Ann became one of my closest friends as well as a trusted and respected colleague,” Haley said. “She had a great sense of humor and was game for just about anything. She could talk to anyone, and had a way of earning people’s trust.”

With her feet firmly on the ground as a local journalist, Nicholson began connecting with the other media reporters in the area. While they generally worked for different organizations, they shared similar senses of humor and a great deal of affection for the area. Nicholson prompted the group to become the “Media Monsters”, complete with tee shirts. The group would meet weekly “to discuss local politics, local issues and mostly just to enjoy each other’s company,” Heather Henry Tenan recalls. 

Beyond sharing social conversations and discussing news, Nicholson and Diana Graettinger inspired the group to participate regularly in charity events. The combination was constantly rewarding, Tenan shares. “[The Media Monsters club] turned what can be a competitive profession into one that was filled with friendship, fun and endless laughter. For nearly 29 years, we participated in every fundraiser organized on both sides of the border.”

The events that the team attended were numerous and noteworthy. The Media Monsters walked in the Relay for Life from its inception until 2012, the last year they were able to pull the team together. They would enter into the Calais Police Department’s Bowl Down Drugs, winning the “Turkey Award” for coming in last. Every year, they would enter the Curl for Cancer in St. Stephen, though none of them knew how to curl. “We’d always come in last, but it was fun, and it was for a good cause,” shares Joyce Scott, adding that Nicholson’s presence made it all the more enjoyable. “Carol Ann always made you laugh. She was always laughing, and it was contagious.”

At one point, Scott’s brother, Jeff Demmons, helped to acquire media passes to the Boston Red Sox for the Media Monsters. The group traveled down to Boston to spend the night. “We ate in the press dining room, watched the game from the press box, and asked players questions on the field,” Scott recounted. 

Along with participating in various events, the team worked hard to provide full coverage of pressing issues, whether at the local, state, or national level. Nicholson was adept at writing every kind of story, Diana Graettinger recalls. “Whether she was challenging the state of our national government or the challenges of an abused mother, she showed great compassion, love and a gentle understanding.”

When it came to election time, the group agrees that Nicholson was fully in her element. “Carol Ann was an invaluable part of that coverage. She really knew her stuff,” said Tom McLaughlin. “Politics were her thing, U.S. or Canadian,” agreed Scott. Nicholson provided steady commentary and insights throughout the evening on WQDY, something that she would occasionally provide to CBC radio for Canadian elections and issues.

Nicholson’s passion for her community – no matter which community she was in – was evident throughout her life. In St. Stephen, as an example, she was among the founding members of the Fundy Region Transition House in 1982. The 15-bed facility provides a place to say for those who are in need of shelter. 

Even though the Media Monsters met regularly and worked for different organizations, they were careful not to share any scoops. “We were very professional in what we did that way. After we had gone to press, it was a different story,” Scott explains. That didn’t stop both Nicholson and Graettinger from providing guidance whenever it was needed to the less experienced journalists, something Scott remains grateful for. “Between [Diana] and Carol Ann, they would answer all my questions. It didn’t matter that I worked for a competitor.”

Outside of the news industry, the team enjoyed their close social relationships. Tenan recalls one year when she received a gift for her birthday from Nicholson that evoked the giver’s sense of humor. “One year, I received a book about tractor use in the Sahara Desert,” she said with bemusement. “I needed a laugh that week and she worked hard to ensure it happened. It also came with a bottle of my favorite wine.”  

The impression that Tenan retains of Nicholson clearly goes well beyond her talent as a journalist. “She was a beautiful, brilliant woman that I always looked up to, and I hoped that I could only grow up to be as relaxed and kind and beautiful as she was,” she shares. 

 Graettinger provides this fitting closure for the group as they continue to reflect on their dear companion: “It is with great sadness that we say goodbye, but we will never lose the memories we have created together. Carol Ann was an integral part of the media team, and, in the tradition of that group of reporters who once embraced Washington and Charlotte counties as home, we say ‘finis’.”