Aug 132011

Recently, I asked my Tweeter crew to share their ideas for what type of journalism they’d like to see more of in Manitoba.

Some people wanted to see more positive news stories coming out of Winnipeg. Luc Lewandoski (if that is his real name*) suggested more in-depth profiles of our local powerbrokers — which tweaked my interest. It sort of reminded me of About Face, a really cute mag they publish in Portland (have I mentioned yet that everything good comes from Portland?) featuring interviews with cultural, culinary and community leaders. I perused it last time I was there and liked the idea — and I like even more the idea of doing more in-depth backgrounders.

With that in mind, I thought I would open the question up to hear Nothing in Winnipeg’s visitors ideas as well. Obviously, I have a personal interest in this: as I develop as a writer, I’ve been thinking a lot about where my niche naturally falls, and what voice I can bring to the table. I’ve been carving out a better idea of this in the months since I moved into news — but it’s still a work in progress.

So the question: what type of journalism would you like to see more of in Winnipeg?

Interpret however you wish.

*EDIT: Totally his real name.

  • Reed Solomon

    more local interest stories about interesting and talented dogs and cats.

  • Melissa Martin

    This is a desperately underserved market!

  • James Turner

    Less torque, more context? Less emphasis on lame ‘breaking news’ of little consequence to free up reporter resources to go after actual reports and stories? This is a tough question. 

  • Melissa Martin

    James, I love it when you tell me what I want to hear.

  • Melissa Martin

    P.S. my cat can give kisses on command! And she does backflips!

  • Tessa

    A good reference point is GOOD magazine, which doesn’t necessarily post all good news, but focuses on people trying to fix the world, exciting developments and, when there is a serious issue to be dealt with, solutions. IMO that’s what we need more of!

  • Melissa Martin

    Looks like I have some new reading fodder! Thanks for sharing it.

  • James Turner

    I say it because it’s true. We all get into this for the right reasons. But years of being pulled off things or having your pitches tanked because there’s a car crash or a stabbing can stall passion for the real reason we do this. 

  • Melissa Martin

    I’ve also started musing that distribution of human resources is a problem. Needs refocusing.

  • West End Dumplings Guy

    I’d like to see more coverage that extends beyond the Perimeter. There are interesting places, people and events taking place in other cities and towns across the province.

    Watching local media you’d think that the only thing that happened beyond the Perimeter is bad weather and fatal car crashes.

  • Melissa Martin

    Absolutely. When I was at CBC they called it “Perimeteritis.”

  • Walter

    I’m inclined to echo some of the comments that I agree with:

    -Stories about influential personalities who aren’t necessarily obvious (we all know who the politicians are, but what about the behind-the-scenes players?)
    -The significant stories, which is quite often sidelined by the urgent but ultimately inconsequential stories.

    I think the Globe actually does a pretty good job of keeping its eyes on the ball as to important events and trends. Leave the litany of overnight stabbings and car crashes to the electronic media. 

    I will, however, disagree with the popular view that we need more “good news” stories. News should be driven by what’s important and interesting. “Good news” for its own sake would make the daily papers look like the community weeklies. Nothing wrong with the Metro or the Sou’wester, but I’m not going to pay good money to read about a junior high choir’s trip to Saskatoon.

  • Graham_hnatiuk

    Investigative journalism.

    Less cheerleading by local media for projects like CMHR or Upper Fort Garry. The WFP’s love for the Aspers and these projects despite what is really going on with taxpayer dollars is antithetical to journalism.

  • Melissa Martin

    This comment is super interesting to me, actually, because I think it demonstrates pretty well how some of the gaps in coverage appear on the outside. And that’s something I think we need to have a better dialogue about across the board.

  • Melissa Martin

    This is exactly the specificity of feedback I was craving Walter, thank you.

    You’ve also definitely identified the problem with “good news.” I think sometimes the answer to that is that if there was some different balance in coverage, there would appear to be more balance between “good news” and “bad news” without sacrificing quality.

    For instance, a really common complaint everywhere in North America at least is that there’s only “bad news” in the media. Partly this is true — bad news gets attention from viewers/readers, that’s always been true. But if more space was given to investigating and examining more under-the-radar stories and *ideas*, that would naturally give rise to more constructive content. And more constructive content, I think, would effectively be read as “good news” without being shallow.

    In short, if people get somewhat energized by a sense of ideas and forward momentum being generated, more time/space given to those ideas — even in the context of a story with a serious or “bad” angle — would make the overall picture less, well, bleak, without falling victim to the cheerleader effect.  

  • Alex Paterson

    I agree with this a lot. I couldn’t give a damn about a journalist who doesn’t give the political and economic elite a run for their money. I’m pretty much thinking Robert Fisk has always been on point when he says a journalist’s job is to interrogate the centres of power. 

    Let the political parties and corporations actually pay for their propagandists.  More than half the time when say CBC political shows have journalists come on they are basically party hacks with a job in the media spouting off their teams position. It becomes rather tiring, I can almost predict what the position of each will be.

    I’d hope that a journalist would be feared and trusted by the same elite people, to always tell the truth and uncover as much as they can.

    Someone earlier mentioned context as well. They were dead on. 

  • Melissa Martin

    I’m a propagandist for bacon.

  • Walter

    I agree completely. I would imagine that exploring stories or ideas in depth must take a relatively long time to result in something ready for publication and I’m not in a position to say whether it’s worth it for a newspaper’s proprietors to take that approach. But as a newspaper reader I would appreciate more of that sort of thing.

  • Alex Paterson

    What is the best bacon creation you’ve ever made?
    I like bacon wrapped in aloo paratha with butter….

  • Mpreprost

    Walter, could you elaborate on your seeming dismissal of the weekly papers in the city?

    You make them seem like simply fluff, and that the news in them aren’t important or interesting on a hyper-local, community oriented level. 

    Checking out the Canstar website briefly, in the past few weeks there are stories about: the CWB, car thefts and government red tape frustrating biz owners (Headliner); infill housing plans for St. James, fire and police station relocations, and inner city park revitalization (Metro); Main Street development and derelict housing (Times); etc. etc.

    These are all important stories for their readership that isn’t going to be found in the daily media. Note that they aren’t all good news stories, either. Yes, the weeklies do have a lot of fundraising and local resident wins award-type stories as well, but I think there is still more to them. 

    Really, when was the last time a daily media outlet went in the North End and reported on something that didn’t have to do with crime? When was the last time any media outlet cared about St. James when there WASN’T a string of suspected arsons?

    I guess my question to you is — depending on which area you live in — what do you want to see more of in your community newspaper? What can Canstar do better? What role do you think they play in the city’s media landscape? What kind of hyper-local community news would you pay for?

  • Melissa Martin

    I like bacon, deep fried in pork fat, wrapped around a stick of butter.

  • Walter

    I’m a regular reader of my local Canstar weekly and I appreciate the content it carries. I certainly wouldn’t dismiss it out of hand given that I make a point of reading it as I have for years.

    What I am concerned with is the prospect of those who claim they want more “good news” stories in the daily papers. To my mind, the role of the community weeklies is to provide local updates and to share news about local accomplishments and yes, to carry “good news”. (The local weeklies even used that as their slogan at one time.) That’s fine… I welcome it and I think Canstar’s weeklies do a good job in that respect.

    However, I would have a hard time with it if the dailies, which to my mind have a much different role than community weeklies, began moving in that direction and started publishing more superficial “good news”-type stories. As Alex pointed out above, the role of the press is more than just producing interesting filler to run between ads. Perhaps it may seem naively idealistic these days, but there are many of us who look to the big newspapers, with their resources and contacts that the electronic media (TV/radio) and bloggers could never hope to match,  to cast a critical eye and speak truth to power -  the FP’s series on atrocious water and sewer services on northern reserves is a good example of that.

    Long story short - the community weeklies are fine, but I don’t think I’d want to see the local dailies move in that direction of reporting because some people claim to want more “good news”.