Posts Tagged ‘ Winnipeg ’

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.

Fort McMurray

When I first drove into Fort McMurray on April 30, 2012, it was a gorgeous sunny day. I’d just spent the past three days driving through Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, finishing off with my first-ever drive up Highway 63, just a few days after a fiery head-on collision claimed seven lives on what is commonly referred to as ‘The Highway of Death.’

I was 23 years old, and had just done something I never thought I’d be able to do: graduate from college. I was restless, bored of my hometown and, finally equipped with an education, I was ready to get out of town. In fact, at that time I was exclusively applying for jobs out of province, that’s how badly I wanted to leave Winnipeg behind.

Fort McMurray answered my call.

I vividly remember hesitating for just a moment when I was officially offered my position as a reporter at the Fort McMurray Today daily newspaper, my false bravado finally giving way to anxiety and uncertainty as I realized all at once everything saying ‘yes’ to this opportunity would mean.

I sold the large majority of my possessions, sublet my apartment, packed everything I owned into my brand new 2012 Toyota Corolla, hugged my mom and dad, and I drove away.

I called Fort McMurray home for 13 months after that. From fist fights at black-tie galas to 8-hour city council meetings to black bears shot in backyards, I became a journalist, made lifelong friends, fell in love with photography, and grew into the person I am today.

Fort Mac wasn’t perfect. Far from it. Everything you’ve heard about the place is probably true, to a lesser extent, and everything you’ve heard in defense of that is probably also true, to a lesser extent. People like to exaggerate. So just marry the two opinions together and I’ve got a crisp $5 bill that says that’s a perfectly accurate depiction of Fort McMurray.

But to me, Fort McMurray was an opportunity that nobody had to give me. I wanted to find out what I was made of and Fort McMurray was there for me to make as much or as little of that opportunity as I chose.

It’s been an interesting feeling the past few days, watching footage of the city burning, the journalist still in me longing to be there just for that one photo…

I may not miss the city, but I would be ignorant to deny owing it a massive debt of gratitude, and I think that sums up many people’s feelings toward Fort McMurray lately. Much of the time it’s but a pit stop for the transient who are looking for something missing in their lives; in many cases, you’ve had it with you all along, but people seem to find it in Fort McMurray.

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For once I agree with Torts

It is not my intention to drag out the issue that was my last post, but it was the first thing I thought of when I saw this recent clip of New York Rangers head coach John Tortorella.

Normally I find Torts to be way over the top in how he goes out of his way to be deliberately difficult with reporters, but he was right on the money here.

We don’t actually get to hear the reporter’s question, although the voice-over on TSN says he was, “asked in an indirect way” about Rick Nash’s lack of production. Much the same as Claude Noel was asked in an indirect way about how he thought that game went.

“Are you asking me is Nash playing good enough? Is that what you’re asking me?” Tortorella challenged the reporter.

“Yes, but without… asking it that way,” he responded.

“Ask me that way. You’ll get an easier answer if you just ask me that way, instead of beatin’ around the bush.”

I can’t say I understand why some reporters seem to be too intimidated by a coach after a loss to do their job effectively. I mean, I suppose I understand it well enough, but I guess I’d just suggest the reporter try to find a little more confidence then or maybe a new profession.

Hopefully if someone is a sports reporter, he or she is a sports fan. And being able to think like a sports fan is one of the greatest assets a sports reporter can have. A sports reporter should know what he or she would want to read, the answers he or she would want, as a regular fan.

“How did you feel the game went?” might seem like a lazy question, but yes, fans want to hear the coach’s thoughts on the game. “How tough is this loss?” Not a sports fan in the world who wants or needs the answer to that question.

Ask the question you want an answer to. It’s your job, don’t be afraid to do it.

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.

R.I.P.

We all have someone in our family who we look at when we’re young, before we really know who we are, and say, “I hope I’ve got even a tiny little bit of what he has, in me.”

I’m lucky to have more than one of those people in my family, but my grandpa Reg sits high up on that list.

I’m not sure that I ever once saw him upset or angry about anything at all. Maybe that was just because I’m his grandchild, but somehow I doubt it. Even in the final years of his life, suffering from a mixed bag of medical ailments, living in a care facility away from his wife of 62 years, he still had a better outlook on life than I did, and his sense of humour was as sharp as the fedora he always wore on his head.

But when I think of my grandpa, I don’t think of those years. That’s not how I’ll remember him. I think of pulling up to my grandparents’ cottage at Detroit Lakes after a four-hour drive, and seeing him sitting out back on a lawn chair in his bathing suit, shirt off, straw hat planted firmly on his head, toothpick in his mouth, and a cold beer in his hand, soaking up the sun.

I know that’s where he is right now.

I’ll always cherish the time I got spend with him, but especially being able to sit down with him last November and document his experiences and contributions during the Second World War. I sometimes wonder if he was too emotional, or simply too humble to really elaborate on the efforts he made while fighting for our country.

I can only hope that when my time here is up, I’m as loved, respected, and remembered as fondly as I know my grandpa is right now. He earned it.

Rest in peace, grandpa, I’ll see you again.

Money vs. Moments

If you haven’t watched Janne Makkonen’s video Together We Can, just take a moment right now and watch it; you won’t regret it.

I think he did an absolutely fantastic job of basically summing up the frustration of the fans (the ignored third party in these CBA “negotiations”), who seem to be the only ones who are capable of remembering what the sport of hockey is all about. A hint; it’s not money.

For the average joe, blue collar NHL fan, watching the back and forth between the millionaires and billionaires of the NHL as they selfishly fight eachother for a bigger slice of the pie is enough to make most of us sick.

Where along the way did everyone in the NHL, players and owners alike, stop being fans like the rest of us, and become corrupted by the heaps of cash they’re paid to do something that they supposedly love?

We can’t lose sight of the fact that the NHL is a business like anything else, and money is what makes it tick, but for those of us who don’t even breach $50,000 annually, it can be hard to comprehend someone complaining about being paid millions to do what most of us would do for thousands, or for free.

The infinite number of things that don’t make sense about the CBA negotiations aside, Makkonen’s video inspired me to take a look back at some of my all-time favourite hockey moments.

Disclaimer to self-proclaimed NHL historians: This is a list of moments that I was alive for, and remember. Bobby Orr’s world-renowned “flying through the air” Stanley Cup winner doesn’t really resonate with me, as I was -18 years old.

 5) “Welcome back, Sid!”

After being sidelined with a concussion on January 5, 2011, arguably the most anticipated moment of the 2011-2012 season was the return of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ captain, Sidney Crosby. Sid finally made his season debut almost a year later on November 21, 2011, and to say there were high expectations of him would be an understatement.

All eyes were on Sid “The Kid” right from the puck drop, and it only him five minutes to find the back of the net, roofing a backhand shot on the New York Islanders’ Anders Nilsson and bringing every fan in the arena to their feet.

Crosby would finish the game with two goals and two assists for a four-point performance that not even the most fanatical fans saw coming.

4) The Finnish Flash Returns

After the smoke had cleared on the initial explosion of hysteria surrounding the Winnipeg Jets’ return to the NHL after 15 years, the first thing most fans did was circle December 17, 2011 on their calendars.

It was the day that Winnipeg would play host to the Anaheim Ducks, and one of the greatest Jets of all time, Teemu Selanne.

The reaction Selanne received from the Winnipeg fans was awe-inspiring. From the initial eruption of applause when he came out onto the ice, to cheering him every time he touched the puck on his first shift of the evening.

With an NHL lockout looming, Winnipeg fans can at least count their blessings in that they had one final and emotional opportunity to welcome Selanne back to Winnipeg, and thank him for all the memories he created there.

3) Wings vs. Avs

The Detroit Red Wings and Colorado Avalanche will always be one of the greatest (and bloodiest) rivalries in all of sports.

It all started in 1996, after Colorado’s Claude Lemieux crushed Kris Draper from behind, causing him to break nearly every major bone in his face and requiring reconstructive surgery to repair.

The next time the two teams met, in March of 1997, a standard tussle erupted into one of the biggest brawls in NHL history, after the Red Wings’ Darren McCarty took matters into his own hands, socking Lemieux in the mug, and repeatedly punching him despite Lemieux’s defensive, turtle-like position.

The scene of Brendan Shanahan and Patrick Roy colliding in mid-air (0:37 of the video below) is almost as epic and iconic as Bobby Orr’s 1970 Stanley Cup-winning goal.

2) The Captain Caps It

Possibly Steve Yzerman’s greatest moment of his career.

Playing in the second overtime period, the Detroit Red Wings were locked in a fierce battle with Wayne Gretzky’s St. Louis Blues, in Game 7 of the 1996 Western Conference Semi-Finals.

After stealing the puck The Great One himself, Yzerman brings new meaning to the phrase “full clapper, top cheddar”, rifling the puck top cheese from the blue line, past the Blues’ Jon Casey, to win the series.

Stevie Y is usually pretty reserved when it comes to goal celebrations, but he let it all out after this one. A great and defining moment in the career of who I consider to be the greatest captain in NHL history.

1) The Golden Goal

Up to this point, I could have called this list my favourite NHL moments, but had to specify HOCKEY moments just for this one right here.

This is one of the rare moments in my life (and not just hockey-specific) that I will never forget exactly where I was, and exactly what it felt like.

After Zach Parise tied the game 2-2 with only 25 seconds left in the third period, the epic battle between Canada and USA in the Gold Medal game of the 2010 Olympics would need overtime to decide a winner.

With the Olympic games being played in Vancouver, BC, the pressure on Canada to take home the Gold in our nation’s sport was overwhelming.

I can’t say for sure whether or not my heart dared to allow a single beat for the entire seven minutes and 40 seconds of overtime that it took before Sidney Crosby slid the puck between Ryan Miller’s pads and ignited an entire nation of hockey fans.

I’m not sure I’ve ever been more proud to be Canadian.