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Meet Shannon Waters, The Narwhal’s B.C. politics and environment reporter

With years of political reporting experience, Shannon is poised to bring fresh stories to the table during an election year in the province

When Shannon Waters first joined the press gallery at the B.C. legislature, the decision on whether or not to continue the Site C dam project was looming large. Shannon was there as a reporter for BC Today, a daily political newsletter, and she remembers being blown away by long-time Narwhal reporter Sarah Cox’s work.

“Her ability to look at these huge complex reports, which, at the time, I mostly just felt like I was drowning in, and cut through that to tell stories about what was really going on was impressive,” Shannon says. “That was my initial intro and I have been following The Narwhal ever since!” 

Fast forward more than six years later, Shannon joins The Narwhal as our first-ever B.C. politics and environment reporter. And get this, Sarah will be her editor in the new gig. 

“After years of admiring their work, I’m excited to work with Sarah and the whole Narwhal team,” Shannon says.

I sat down with Shannon to get to know her better and hear more about what brought her The Narwhal’s growing pod. 

What’s your favourite animal? 

That’s easy, it’s an octopus. I have one tattooed on my arm. I just think it’s really neat that we have a creature on this planet as intelligent as an octopus. It’s the closest thing to alien life that we’ve ever come across but it’s right here on the planet with us. And I think that’s very cool. 

Shannon Waters, The Narwhal's B.C. politics and environment reporter, stands in front of the ocean wearing a Narwhal shirt.
The Narwhal’s new B.C. politics and environment reporter Shannon Waters comes by her name honestly, she’s a real water and ocean lover. Photo: Jillian Miller / The Narwhal

What is the thing about journalism that gets you excited to start your work day?

I get excited about working as a journalist because every day is a bit different. I like having the opportunity to learn new things on a regular basis, partly because I get bored really easily. 

My favorite thing about being a reporter is you never really know exactly how your day is gonna go and you’re always getting to talk to interesting people. As a bonus, I also really like to write, and I always have.

Your first job was at a radio station in Prince George, B.C. How did this early experience shape you?

I think it really honed my sense of journalism being part of the community and a community service. We covered all kinds of things. I was on the school board beat when I first got there and then I was covering city hall a little later on. I did a weekend shift. I covered crime stories.

Sometimes you’d start out the day covering one story and then by the end of the day, you’d be doing something else. I was also in Prince George in 2017, for the wildfires, and the city became a hub for people who were displaced from all across B.C. That was a really intense, eye-opening experience about what communities can do for people when they are put to the test. So again, learning things, and that variety and getting to write about them for a living.

You’re a self-described political nerd. Where does that come from? 

I’m fascinated by politics because it touches every aspect of our lives, and there’s not really any way to get away from it. I consider myself a bit cynical about our political systems but even if you don’t like them, or don’t believe in them, or don’t want anything to do with them, you can’t really get away from politics. I find it fascinating to look at what is going on in the political sphere, what kind of policies are popular at the moment? Which ones are being rejected? How is that conversation going? How did it get started? Where might it go? And politics is also about people. 

Investigating problems. Exploring solutions
The Narwhal’s reporters are telling environment stories you won’t read about anywhere else. Stay in the loop by signing up for a weekly dose of independent journalism.
Investigating problems. Exploring solutions
The Narwhal’s reporters are telling environment stories you won’t read about anywhere else. Stay in the loop by signing up for a weekly dose of independent journalism.

I like being someone who can hopefully try and help people understand why politics matters, what they can do to try and affect the change that they might want to see and how the politics in their area or the policies being enacted by politicians affects them and the people around them. It’s not something that everybody finds fascinating. A lot of people’s eyes glaze over when you tell them you’re a political or a legislative reporter. But I really enjoy the work. And it’s one of those things that feels like, well, somebody should be doing it. And so for now, at least, that somebody can be me.

It’s an election year in B.C. What are you most excited about?

I’m looking forward to seeing what happens. We’re really in a very interesting space in B.C. right now. If you were talking to me a year ago about the election, I would probably have sounded a bit more bored, because it seemed like much more of a foregone conclusion — you know, the NDP were going to likely win a majority and we’d have sort of more of the same. But now you have this really interesting churn in the political landscape with the emergence of the B.C. Conservatives as a real contender of a party according to the polling that we’ve been seeing. Meanwhile B.C. United, which is the very well-established B.C. Liberal party renamed, has sort of had the wheels come off. 

So, I’m really interested to see what happens on the campaign trail as you have these parties trying to court voters, what sort of ideas they’re going to put forward. I’m also really curious what it means for the Green Party. B.C. hasn’t had a lot of elections where we’ve had so many parties competing for seats in the legislature and I think that’s going to make for a very interesting and probably quite dramatic campaign.

Shannon Waters, The Narwhal's B.C. politics and environment reporter, looks out at the trees wearing a Narwhal shirt.
Shannon is no stranger to the B.C. legislature and will be digging deep as she grows the politics and environment beat for The Narwhal. Photo: Jillian Miller / The Narwhal

What kind of stories do you hope to tell more of?

I am excited about getting more in depth. I’ve been doing daily news for about seven years now, including covering elections. I have really enjoyed doing that and I feel like when you’re a daily news reporter you also have all these thoughts about potential stories that need a closer look or more time to percolate. So I’m really looking forward to looking at the news landscape and seeing what’s missing. With the election, I’m also excited to look back and think: what was the government saying about this particular policy in the last election? What have they done on it during the interim? And what are they saying now? 

I think one of the biggest things I learned as BC Today’s reporter and later Politics Today’s editor-in-chief is finding the stories in the minutia and the nuts and bolts of what goes on in the legislature. There’s a list that has been building in my head for a long time of all of these stories that I’ve wanted to take a closer look at over the years and I’m excited to get started. 

What are three things people might not know about you?

I could eat peanut butter toast and drink coffee every day of my life and die happy. Growing up I wanted to be a marine biologist and study either sharks or cephalopods. I am the biggest word nerd, which can be a good thing for someone who writes for a living, but is sometimes a struggle. I am still striving to use the word “absquatulate” in a story someday!

We’ve got big plans for 2024
Seeking out climate solutions, big and small. Investigating the influence of oil and gas lobbyists. Holding leaders accountable for protecting the natural world.

The Narwhal’s reporting team is busy unearthing important environmental stories you won’t read about anywhere else in Canada. And we’ll publish it all without corporate backers, ads or a paywall.

How? Because of the support of a tiny fraction of readers like you who make our independent, investigative journalism free for all to read.

Will you join more than 6,000 members helping us pull off critical reporting this year?
We’ve got big plans for 2024
Seeking out climate solutions, big and small. Investigating the influence of oil and gas lobbyists. Holding leaders accountable for protecting the natural world.

The Narwhal’s reporting team is busy unearthing important environmental stories you won’t read about anywhere else in Canada. And we’ll publish it all without corporate backers, ads or a paywall.

How? Because of the support of a tiny fraction of readers like you who make our independent, investigative journalism free for all to read.

Will you join more than 6,000 members helping us pull off critical reporting this year?

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