Posts Tagged ‘ Manitoba ’

In Defense of the Truth

I never really thought that Donald Trump being elected the President of the United States would have much of an effect on us here in Canada.

But now I’m beginning to see that through TV screens and laptop speakers, Trump has already crossed our border and is cementing the long-standing yet wildly unfounded notion that the press and its reporters are gossip-hungry vultures who get off on destroying innocent people’s reputations with unsubstantiated “fake news,” to borrow some classic fear-mongering vernacular from Mr. Trump himself.

In the early morning hours of February 14, 2017, a 58-year-old Winnipeg Transit driver named Irvine Fraser was stabbed and killed while he was working. Brian Kyle Thomas, 22, has been charged with the crime.

In the hours and days that followed, we heard from colleagues of Fraser about what a fantastic person he was, and there was an outpouring of sympathy from the community of Winnipeg in the wake of a tragedy that most people had wrapped up nicely with a bow inside their heads: “Upstanding, blue-collar family man slain on job by young punk.”

On February 16, the Winnipeg Free Press published this article: Winnipeg Transit driver was facing serious criminal charges prior to his death. In short, the article shatters the aforementioned illusion that mourners had previously bought into by bringing to light allegations of repeated sexual abuse by Fraser on a now-adult woman, beginning when she was as young as four years old.

First and foremost, I’d like to express that the top priority of any credible/ethical newsroom — which the Winnipeg Free Press is, I assure you — is to find the truth and publish it. Not three quarters of the truth, or only the attractive parts of it; all of it. This is a fact, which means it’s not something that can be debated, despite any “alternative facts” you might have.

Sometimes, the truth is uncovered in segments, over time, or the truth is misreported and needs to be corrected and updated as a story unfolds. But the press has an enduring obligation to report as much of the truth as they’re aware of, so the public can make an informed decision on how to feel, but also so that they aren’t lying by omission.

The reason I wanted to write something today, is because some of the comments on the WFP’s story infuriated me. Not just because they were painfully ignorant and uneducated, but because they were all just continuing to roll this snowball of hatred for the press down the hill, helping it gather more and more momentum.

01

This was the highest-rated comment on the story, with 29 Likes. A suggestion that this professional newsroom went out of their way to “dig up dirt” on the victim in order to “take pressure off the attacker.” Normally I would completely dismiss a comment as absurd as this, but the fact that 29 other people agreed with what she said is, frankly, terrifying.

02

On the flip side, and to provide a small glimmer of hope, we also have comments like Jay’s. What’s most important here, is his repeated use of variations of “possibly.” This is something most people don’t seem to understand. Journalists, if educated properly, have the utmost respect for an individual’s right to be considered innocent until proven guilty in court. No one is reporting that this man molested a child.

I don’t work in journalism anymore, and as much respect and appreciation as I have for those who continue to bring us the facts in a world that is becoming more and more hostile toward the media, it’s days like today that make me so thankful I chose to get out of that industry. There are far better-suited people with more patience to continue beating the dead horse of trying to reason with a general population that is somehow becoming denser in a world of infinite information.

I guess my conclusion here is that if you don’t trust the press, or believe they report to their own narrative, please stop consuming their product, or do so more quietly. Because, ironically, in the name of trying to expose these “corrupt newsrooms,” you’re the one telling the biggest lie of all.

Claude Noel: Press Conference Killa

And so October 17 will forever be immortalized as the day the new Winnipeg Jets celebrated their first ever regular season win, over the Penguins of Pittsburgh, in a truly impressive showing of skill, determination and passion that we’d not seen in the previous three games.

But what I want to talk about is the Jets’ head coach, Claude Noel.  Originally I had criticized him for being too hard and bitter toward his team.  He would say things like “I really don’t know what’s going on with them” and would place a lot of the blame on his team, and seemed dumbfounded as to why the Jets were performing as poorly as they were.

Claude proved me wrong tonight.  Seemingly from out of nowhere, the Winnipeg Jets that stepped onto the ice tonight were not the Jets that we’ve seen in their last three games.  And against an established contender like the Pittsburgh Penguins?  Even without Malkin and Crosby, the Pens are a formidable opponent, and we went toe-to-toe with them.  I give Noel credit for not panicking.  He was right to say he had no idea what had gotten into his team, and why they weren’t performing, because all along they could perform like they showed tonight, they simply weren’t doing it.

I also said earlier in the day that I hoped Noel would start Ondrej Pavelec in goal tonight, and was glad to see that he did.  Pav had a rough start – rough as hell – but he is a great goaltender, and this is something that is known.  You don’t just lose your talent one day and that’s it, you’re benched.  Noel benched him for a game, probably scared him straight, and then said “Okay, chance #2, let’s see what you’ve got” and boy did we see.  Should have been a shutout for him but Matt Cooke did what he does best and made a dirty play, causing us a goal.

My post today is a little bit more on the PR side of things.  I have to say, I think I love the way Claude Noel handles pre and post-game press conferences.  There’s something about his speaking style that’s appealing to me, he’s so blunt about everything.  After the game tonight he just sits there and finally says, “Shoot, someone must have a question.”

The way he checks his facts right there at the press conference, no matter how long it takes, and doesn’t guess at anything is commendable.

There is still a lot that needs to happen before Noel can solidify his reputation with the franchise in a positive light, but right now he is back in my good books, and we’ll see what happens from here on out.

Here’s the Thing About Journalism

Since I first began in CreComm over a year ago now, I’ve learned a hell of a lot about journalism along the way.  I’ve learned good things, I’ve learned bad things, and I’ve learned things that are just good to know.  But the fact remains: you can only learn so much about anything in a classroom.  I’ve long been a believer that school only gives you the tools you need to be competent in the real world, and that the majority of your actual learning will happen when you’re out of school and into a job.

This concept certainly held true last night.  I was working for the Winnipeg Free Press, on an election night intern opportunity, and this was something that I had done before, during the 2010 Civic Election.  Exact same job, two very different experiences.  Last night I was set up in Karen Velthuys’ (PC) headquarters in St. Norbert.  For those who followed the results of the election last night, St. Norbert ended up being one of, if not the, closest race of the entire election.

Working for the Free Press means my submission needs to be timely, and you’d better believe there’s a deadline.  It’s really not cool for me to single-handedly muddy the reputation of the city’s most prestigious newspaper.  So, in preparation of the night’s events, I wrote out a template for a PC victory, with blanks that I would fill in with a couple of things like quotes, and specific numbers.  I wrote one that I would submit to be published immediately on the WFP website (called a webbie) and another one that would be published in the paper the next day.

As the night progressed, Dave Gaudreau of the NDP pulled ahead.  Now I’m nervous.  An NDP victory would mean I’d have to hop in my car and drive over to his headquarters instead and get a quote from him.  Beginning to sweat, I pulled out my laptop and wrote another webbie for an NDP victory, as well as a paper copy version.  I’ve now got four different variations of stories that I’ve written for the night.  Want to take a guess at which ones I ended up using?

Correct!  None of them!

I was in frequent communication with WFP editor, Bartley Kives, and during one of our last phone conversations he told me he’d be sending another reporter to the NDP headquarters just to be safe.  By this time, the St. Norbert race was so close that a winner simply couldn’t be safely predicted.

In the end, the NDP ended up winning St. Norbert, and now there was already another reporter at his headquarters.  So I called up Mr. Kives, and asked what he’d have me do.  I tell him I have quotes from Karen Velthuys, and he asks me to just “send along a quote, and add a little bit of colour”.  Yes sir, Mr. Kives, sir.

So, Starbucks is closed by now, it’s around 11:00 p.m., but I drive over there anyways because I imagine they maybe leave their wi-fi on for me to mooch.  Wrong.

So, no template to use for this one, I write out my story on my iPhone.  Yes, my iPhone, I didn’t even have the convenience of a full-keyboard BlackBerry for this venture.  It was only about 174 words, but trust me, at the speed I was typing, my iPhone made those 174 words seem like 1,000.

What I learned last night, is exactly what I already knew.  School only teaches you so much.  Classmates; how many times have we been told to expect the unexpected in journalism?  To be prepared to change our plans on the fly?  It doesn’t matter.  You haven’t learned that until you’ve learned it.  Out there.

I also had a great time last night, which surprised me.  It was an odd feeling, to be panicking and stressing so hard, but as soon as I hit ‘send’ on my email to Bart Kives, I actually almost said out loud, “Huh… That was pretty fun.”  I actually surprised myself.

And so, I will leave you with this one tidbit of information regarding journalism that you can try to remember all you want, but (un?)forunately it is something you will simply need to learn on your own, as we all do.

Plan for the worst, and hope for the best.

(You can check out my WFP story here.  I now go by my middle name of “Staff” and married a beautiful young woman and took her last name of “Writer”.  Apparently lots of men are doing it nowadays.  Also, I am not responsible for the misspelling of Velthuys in the second graf.  Enjoy.)

E-Night.

Looking forward to spending tomorrow evening with the Winnipeg Free Press, covering some events of the election tomorrow night.

I’ll be stationed at PC candidate Karen Velthuys’ headquarters in St. Norbert.

Still not 100% sure what I’ll be doing, but I assume it will be a lot like what I did for last year’s Civic Election with the Free Press.  Though, I thought I heard something about shadowing an actual reporting from the WFP this year, I could be wrong.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter if you’re not already, at @JournoJT, as I’ll be tweeting about the night’s events, and pick up a copy of the Winnipeg Free Press on Wednesday to check out my contribution!

JT