Posts Tagged ‘ Press ’

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.

How tough is this loss?

Jobs in journalism are hard to come by. I mean that within the broad spectrum of all job industries in the world, and I feel qualified to say that living in Fort McMurray, surrounded by the oilsands industry, in which, if you want a job, you’ve got one. But as with any industry, if you’ve got talent and work hard, someone will recognize it and give you a job.

What I’m trying to say is, since the broader picture of journalism as a whole doesn’t have a lot of jobs to offer, it’s kind of like trying to find a needle in a haystack if you want to get even more specific about the job you want, ie. politics, crime, arts… sports.

I never wanted to be a city reporter, the job I have now with the Fort McMurray Today, but I realize that if I choose to sit around and wait for a sports journalism position to open up, I might die of starvation before I’m employed. And it doesn’t mean that I don’t work hard at the job I currently have, it’s just not where I ultimately want to end up.

NOELSo when I’m watching a post-game scrum with the Winnipeg Jets’ head coach Claude Noel, after arguably the team’s most devastating loss in the two seasons they’ve been back in the NHL, and I hear someone who has a job I would kill to have ask him, “How tough is this loss?” it makes me want to scream until I throw up blood.

What exactly are these guys doing in the three hours they’re up in the press box, being paid to watch a hockey game? I realize they need to have a game story as good as written by the time the 3rd period buzzer sounds, I know what’s required, but really? The best question you have after 60 minutes of hockey is, “How tough is this loss?”

I don’t want to pass judgment on whoever it was that asked the question, because I know absolutely nothing about the situation. It could be someone new in the position (although Noel was quick to point out that the offender asked the same question last season…) and I know what it’s like to feel like a small fish in a big pond and end up asking a stupid question. Yes, stupid questions do exist, no matter what your parents tell you.

I guess it just dismays me to see someone not care enough to come up with one decent question to ask, when I’d like to think I would have been jotting down potential educated questions based on the game to ask during the post-game scrum.

But then I also think to myself, maybe this person simply takes his or her job for granted. Maybe I would have asked the exact same question if I was hired by a major media outlet as a sports reporter right out of college. But instead, I’m actually missing hockey games I’d love to watch, because I’m in a city council meeting, trying to force myself to care about things that wouldn’t even be on my radar otherwise.

So when I finally do get a chance to ask Claude Noel a question after a Jets game, I can appreciate how fortunate I am to be doing something I love for a living, realize what I had to put up with in order to get there, and come up with something a little bit better than, “How tough is this loss?”

The other bit of good news is that I’ve been there. I’m not just speculating that it’s where I want to be, I already know it is. It’s not a place that I’m trying to get to, it’s a place I’m trying to get back to.

Past and future.

Past and future.

Winnipeg’s Own.

I think most people probably don’t believe in the concept of ‘fate’. I know I don’t.

The notion that I’m not in control of what happens to me, isn’t something that I find very appealing.  But every once in a while, something happens that makes even us doubters pause for just a moment, and go, “Huh…”

In this particular case, four separate occurences happened at just the right moment in time to allow me to achieve probably the most significant moment of my not-yet-existent career.  These things were:

– Requesting a work placement at True North Sports & Entertainment, and not getting it.

– Being placed, instead, at the Winnipeg Free Press.

– Chris Jericho returning to the WWE.

– The WWE scheduling a show in Winnipeg for January 20.

Click to read the article.

On any given day, just one of these things could have happened.  But for whatever reason, they all happened at just right the moment, and I do mean just the right moment, because today is the last day of my internship with the Free Press and my interview with Jericho is in today’s paper.

Not much else to be said other than a definite dream come true for me, it was great to talk to him as a journalist, but it will be even greater, as always, to watch him on Friday night, as a fan.

Break The Walls Down…

My interview with WWE Superstar and Winnipeg's own 'Y2J' Chris Jericho.

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