Saturday, January 14, 2012

Winnipeg Free Press - Rate Your Journalist Part 1

The Free Press is the paper of record for the city of Winnipeg.

There are some excellent writers and there are some that tend to make some readers crazy as they read. I will list those writers and editorial staff according to the the paper's own biographies listed. Some I have an opinion about, some I don't know what they do as it might be setting editorial policy in the background. I know many of you will have an opinion about the writers.

Have at it:



Bob Cox, publisher

He has been a reporter and editor for the Free Press and publisher since 2007. He has had a few columns over the years. They seem random in that they cover a wide variety of topics from the personal to local and national.

Nothing wrong with that per se. I would love a "paper-making" column that explained the nuts and bolts of how the Free Press operated in every capacity. I'd love once a week but every month would be improvement over nothing at all.

A publisher is responsible for a profitable paper but also for carrying out a direction that the owners establish. What is that editorial policy in general? Do we have a mission statement? Is their a political angle? Are the owner's politics known? Is the publisher's?

Who is the publisher responsible for in terms of hiring and firing and why? Can we find out more? It isn't very transparent. And I can imagine the Free Press would be asking those questions of business and government. We need to hear how the publisher handles these crucial issues. Certainly, I'd love to know in a general way how things get decided.

There was a documentary on the New York Times recently. It was enlightening. It would be good for the Free Press to have a regular feature in the paper showing what was behind the curtain.

The opening of the Free Press Cafe downtown was innovative. I have not been there yet but it is a good way to reach out. Would like to see more.

There are some that have criticized the Free Press for not looking more closely at construction of the human rights museum early on. The issue of being a promoter of such projects is being questioned as interfering with analyzing of said projects as they develop. It seems clear at the moment that the museum might be in a spot of trouble. Some people were pointing out for a while that this might be happening.

So what is the view of other people on the publisher? As I've said, I want to know more about what happens at the paper and explanations of why it does what it does and sometimes a more focused look on what it hasn't done well in the past or present.

Margo Goodhand, editor

She has had many firsts in her career. She still posts regular columns of a variety of subjects. She takes credit as well for the News Cafe. The Community News Commons is still not up yet though according to the website. Could be good, no way tell yet.

The site is here.

Some critics have said that the Free Press editor was too quick to jump on criticism from some of its detractors, specifically The Great Canadian Talk Show. Freedom of Information requests have provoked questions.

It seems to me that the Free Press had nothing to fear from pokes at being the paper of record and might have even done well to allow their reporters the ability to respond. Chances are that lines of communication would have shed light on news gathering, reporting and opinion. And all of this might have been done with humour, humility and gentility.

Differences of opinion will exist. That's fine. No need to be defensive.

As with the publisher, I think we need to see more of an explanation of how the news operation works. Regular informed commentary would be huge to that end.

As far as the direction the paper takes, it seems to me that the paper could stand to address the issue of a makeover where each section of the paper might be re-done. Better pictures, graphics and news bulletins would be welcome. I have no idea when certain columns run. Tell me.

I would love to see a finer, sober thinking approach to Sundays. Can't we have the View From The West there?

More guest columns and bloggers, please.

Is a columnist shuffle out of the question? We have seen a few shifts from Ottawa to Manitoba and Arts to City Hall. If a columnist can switch to a new portfolio or take on a certain role for a while, it can be amazing journalism. Some great pet columns came from Bruce Owen.

Would love to see the whole team come aboard for things like elections. It should be a full court press from humour columns, general columns, sports columns, TV and arts columns and business columns. I can't help think that a story about a treehouse could have waited till after the election.

I think I wrote to the editor directly one time about the lack of inclusion of screenwriters in movie reviews. I am happy to say that I notice that the writer or writers are included in reviews. If it ain't on the page, it ain't on the stage.

So what are people's views on the editor? I want to know more, see more, expect more.

The Free Press is not going down for citizen reporting via tweets. It won't. And with other media struggling or folding and city forums ending or other city media folding like Sandbox, the Free Press will be looked to as a continued paper of record.

I hope it steps up even in light of a lesser local competition in providing news.

to be continued...

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