From teaching history to reporting on history in the making

Wolfgang Depner sits at his desk in the legislature, wearing a suit and tie.

Wolfgang Depner has been a working journalist before, but now he’s back to full daily immersion in British Columbia’s political scene as he was recently appointed the BC legislative report for Black Press Media.  

Depner, who has taught philosophy and history within Royal Roads University’s Justice Studies program, says he has plenty of news experience, but covering provincial politics brings unique challenges. 

“I’m used to the journalistic pace [of work] but the journalistic pace at the legislature is a step higher,” he says, before comparing it to moving from a lower level of auto racing to Formula 1. “The cars are faster, the curves are tighter and the crashes can be more spectacular.” 

In fact, he considers the busy day of David Eby’s government’s first Throne Speech his second first day on the job. But working in the legislature, where he’s part of the press gallery and has a cubicle, Depner feels comfortable. “That is sort of the essence of the job — being close, keeping an eye on what’s happening in Question Period, trying to read the room, trying to get a sense of the debate.” 

A resident of Sidney, BC, who previously worked at the Peninsula News Review and Penticton Western News, Depner brings to his new job and province-wide audience a wealth of journalism experience as well as significant academic credentials. He’s earned a Master of Arts in Journalism from Western University in Ontario and a PhD in Interdisciplinary Studies (Political Science/Philosophy) from UBC.

Journalists gather around former Premier of BC John Horgan inside the BC legislature.

Wolfgang Depner's work as BC legislative report for Black Press Media involves media scrums with provincial leaders.

He says his PhD thesis topic — the effectiveness and legitimacy of Canadian federal minority governments since 1945 — came in surprisingly handy when he covered the 2017 election, after which John Horgan and the NDP formed a minority provincial government with the support of the BC Greens. 

More importantly, his background studying and teaching political science and governments has provided a foundation for his journalism work, he says. 

“I’m able to draw on historical examples… and then see whether there are any examples from the past that have any applications for the present,” he says. “Can you pick out any patterns and use those patterns to understand what’s happening right now?” 

“So, the big question I’m trying to answer is: Why does it matter? Why is this important to readers? Why should they care about any particular subject?” 

His focus for his provincial audience, he says, will be on writing news, not opinion pieces, and, “always with the larger goal of helping people understand what legislation might mean to them, or how it might impact their community.” 

“So, the big question I’m trying to answer is: Why does it matter? Why is this important to readers? Why should they care about any particular subject?” 

A month in, he’s pleased with his decision to take on this new challenge. “I’m interested in how politics work, I’m interested in the people who are in politics. And in British Columbia, there’s no better place to cover those subjects. 

“It’s a great responsibility and I hope that I can meet the challenge.” 

The only downside, he admits, is having to cut his teaching responsibilities at RRU, where he has been since 2017 and whose faculty, staff and students he lauds. 

“It was a difficult decision,” Depner says, “but it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Positions in the press gallery don’t open up that often.” 

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