Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Winnipeg Free Press Fires Seven News Staff

Winnipeg Press Offices on Mountain Avenue

It is the paper of record and rightly or wrongly takes it on the chin when they gets things wrong, overlook things or take a position that someone is not going to like. the Winnipeg Free Press has the largest news gathering force in the city. It still does but it is minus some of its most junior staff as of Tuesday.

Seven in the newsroom were let go.

They were:

John White, online editor
Melissa Martin, reporter
Alison Mayes, reporter
Adam Wazny, sports writer
Rob Williams, music columnist
Lindsey Wiebe, social media reporter

And one web position not named.

It should be noted that some of these latest hires are the most active in multiple media platforms, especially Twitter, blogging, radio and elsewhere.

Unions protect senior employees first. Always have. With some justification the fear is that companies will dump older workers for ones paid lower wages. However, the problem with removing new and younger workers in a downturn is that they are the very people to build for the future.

I can say about some of the above writers that some were truly innovative and exciting to read. They will be missed.

This lay-off represents 8% of the news staff. I think it is devastating. It comes on the heels of 15 people let go earlier this year. The Free Press and its partners such as Canstar, Brandon Sun and the Steinbach Carillon employ around 570 people. Employees had a 2% wage increase in the year and revenue was down $500,000 in the second quarter from last year.

Like many newspaper companies, the Free Press is trying to figure out how to increase advertising revenue and profit.

Some say that newspapers are a declining business as people get their news online. However, getting news online also entails people writing it and the best writing is that which comes from people who make their living on it.

The Brandon Sun is mostly behind firefalls now. I am not sure how the paper fares compared to its larger counterpart but I'd wager the fact that the previous cutbacks of 14 jobs at the Free Press and 1 at the Brandon Sun were not an accident.

We are seeing more firewalls going up for newspapers all the time. Content has to be paid for somehow. We have gotten used to the idea that things are free and they really aren't.

I think the Free Press has no choice but to go behind a firewall so they can create exclusive content for the local area. The trick will be to create content so that is affordable and unique. That won't be easy without the writers that were let go.

I am wondering if a new model of newspaper by owner/operated news reporters might not work in this city. The big corporate format seems to be driven by management and union issues that won't go away too soon.

It may be that the future job security for journalists is multi-platform like Gary Lawless with the Free Press and TSN or finding reporting work with Shaw cable like Marty Gold on City Circus or Scott Taylor and Goldeyes broadcasts. The first writer likely does well with two strong commercial enterprises paying him. I am not sure about the other two writer/broadcasters but I hope they are self sustaining with their work.

I want strong newspapers and media but fear the corporate and labour structure that seems to put them in conflict.

To the writers who are out of work. Please keep writing! And hope upon hope that jobs are there for you.


The Great Canadian Talk Show said...

HI John.

Firstly thanks for the mention.

I am currently seeking additional sponsors for The Great Canadian Talk Show podcast and the City Circus TV show -- which has been renewed until March 2013 and will have better time slots in the fall. I can be reached at TGCTS1 at

My web traffic is much superior to that of a certain radio host in town and I am quite sure the cumulative audience for City Circus' replays as well as its demographic and influence makes it a better ad buy than that show by far.

Why? I break news and make a difference, that's why.

Regarding the FP 7:

No one has mentioned the sterling leadership of Margo Goodhand who abandoned ship rather than wear the failure of her failed "vision" to attract audience/readers and wield the ax over the neck of her favored pets.

Maybe if Margo knew what real journalism was, rather than promoting pink papers, and gimmicks like 'story-telling' CNC -style, the finances of the newspaper would have been able to sustain these jobs.

Strange isn't it that my becoming a loud voice for the community, breaking important news stories, and a good option for advertisers so enraged Margo and radio execs that I was illegally silenced by Red River College. Yet in this case there is no censorship at play and there are poor financial results in evidence, but the outcry is far more widespread and pronounced even though the dismissals are legal and legitimate.

I do feel sorry for Adam Wazny and Rob Williams. The NHL strike may have played into Adam's dismissal and I think it was a quirk of the union system that Rob was a victim of. Adam's story which touches on Rob's firing is

Anonymous said...

Wasn't Martin the one that had widdle fweelings hurt by big bad Marty Goldness when criticizing Freep for superficial local gov't /civic election coverage? Y'know.. back when KICK FM had a show called TGCTS...? and back when there was actually a KICK FM on the FM AIRWAVES in this barren wasteland of empty & foul local radio?? If so, FANTABULOUS.

Williams is a surprise. He is a good music critic.

Wasny was ok in sports.. Lawless probably felt that near miss!

Online Editor was responsible for, let's face it... "innovative" fluff. Someone with an edge and ability to dig deeper pls and tanks?

Mayes and Wiebe: can't say I recall much of their work.

Anonymous said...


Why are you stumping for Matty Moroun now?

Anonymous said...

There is a new newspaper in town that is making money while giving their news away for free. I love Metro Winnipeg. They're the future.

Anonymous said...

"I am wondering if a new model of newspaper by owner/operated news reporters might not work in this city."

Something like

John Dobbin said...

Anon 1: Metro is owned by the Toronto Star which saw profits drop even further than the Free Press.

Anon 2; Is ChrisD owned by the journalists who work there. What is the ownership?

reedsolomon.matr1x at said...

chrisd mostly does press releases. It's not exactly a newspaper. That said, it really shows how little content there is in newspapers nowadays anyways.

I'm not a fan of paywalls. I loathe logging in to things, and I highly doubt anything the Free Press puts out would be worthy of me paying for it. They already have subscription only content, and I can't imagine that anyone cares for it.

The problem with the Free Press is exemplified by whose jobs they cut. People with fresh ideas who aren't old and repetitious cranks from the 60's and 70's and 80's. That might work for local radio, but not for news reporting.

If the Brandon Sun makes decent money from their paywall, I'd be shocked.

The Free Press and the Sun are two sides of a turd sandwich.

I do think it's about time the Free Press went to a tabloid format. Where do people read the newspaper these days? At home? Probably not. If you're at home, you have the internet. If you're on the bus or at the coffee shop, you're not going to read a broadsheet.

Does the Free Press or Winnipeg Sun offer pdf's of their daily newspapers print versions to be downloaded via their android or iphone apps? If not, why not? I might not subscribe to view content on the net, but to receive an ebook readable copy would be worth paying a reasonable subscription fee per month. Plus no need to charge for delivery and printing. Heck I used to download the metro this way until i realized it's too tedious to do so (they could just put a link to download as pdf from their app but they don't)

And now I'm rambling. That's enough out of me.

Anonymous said...

This doesn't require saying but it sure would have been nice to see Gordon Sinclair Jr. (need I say more??) and Bruce Owen (aka Hydro's unofficial spokesperson and Selinger bootlicker extraordinare) get the axe.

Anonymous said...

"This doesn't require saying but..." You're right, why be so nasty?

The Great Canadian Talk Show said...

"Wasn't Martin the one that had widdle fweelings hurt by big bad Marty Goldness when criticizing Freep for superficial local gov't /civic election coverage?"

If thatès what you think happened, you can blame Margo Goodhand.

She lied, and what everyone believed was a lie.

6 weeks after free speech got kaiboshed by the corporate media and their College censor friends - MM told Graham Hnatiuk she had NEVER complained about me to Margo Goodhand and said Èthat wouldn't have even made senseÈ.

So as the push to censor me was first told to station manager Rick Baverstock, who heard it from Dean of Business and spokesman of the fictional Executive Committee Graham Thomson:

- He had attended a meeting (with VP and treasurer Cathy Rushton) with president Stephanie Forsyth who heard it from Margo Goodhand. And they had to cook up a false reason to cancel my show to protect Margo.

- Margo made the mistake of repeating the Melissa deal TO the company lawyer. ie "when he attacked Melissa it was the last straw". How dumb is that. And I have it in writing.

- Melissa was not attacked.
- She was not even aware IF I had criticised her reporting, let alone about what and bitched about it.
- She didn't complain about me to Margo.

Melissa was NOT moved to tears by my citizen journalism or audience comments.

Margo admitted she had never heard my program, so she couldn't have heard me say anything about Melissa.

The editor of the Free Press incited my ouster by falsely claiming I had caused a scene in her office with the star, um, non-graduate of the Collegeès CreComm program - turned- FP reporter.

Whatever scene there was Melissa that cried about, was NOT about me.

Not about the supposed "last straw" that led Goodhand to smear my work with the RRC students and qualification to be on Kick-FM.

(Like I had never reported on Sports. What a dumb thing to say.

And donèt forget, To make sure I was buried, Margo, employed for zero known days in the radio business, also smeared the station manager to Forsyth to seal the cancelation deal.)

Margo libel-chilled and made some insinuations to pressure Forsyth to get rid of TGCTS.

As it turned out to keep it together and protect Margo, RRC ignores all ethics complaints that followed and the NDP, whose economic advisory committee was co-chaired by Margoès publisher.

The Minister, a RRC graduate, ignores all complaints about the College and their blowing $300,000 of tax dollars by folding Kick-FM.

(The business aspect of me being wiped out by the contract breach at the same time the Free Press started a sports show with one the commercial stations that got rid of me on the Board - in my time slot - is for another day.)

We can all see what happened here.
And why the mainstream media, or the college papers whose reporting is pathetic - never mentioned the interventions filed with the CRTC demanding an RCMP investigation.

The bottom line is that Margo Goodhand told a horrible lie about Melissa Martin and me.

Since it was repeated to College executives who repeated it to Rick, I believed it too. He knew this version about 5 days before the ax fell.

It was only 6 weeks later, when Melissa emailed Hnatiuk, that we learned Margo had told a lie about her pet pupil to get rid of me.

So as for TGCTS, it never made her cry or hurt her feelings.

The Great Canadian Talk Show said...

Anonymous said...


Why are you stumping for Matty Moroun now?

September 19, 2012 11:24 PM

HI! I;m glad to answer that. Ièm not stumping Maroun, I donèt see him as the issue.

The entire NITC DIRC process smacks of Canadian intervention in US and Michigan affairs and is a vast waste and risk of our tax dollars on US infrastructure. Meanwhile Winnipeg and Manitoba streets and highways fall apart.

Thatès why I am covering it.