Friday, October 14, 2011

Refreshingly retro journalism ideas

Creative Communications students at Red River College received great advice this week from two prominent Winnipeg journalists.

On Oct. 13 Margo Goodhand, editor of the Winnipeg Free Press – “We’re not a newspaper; we’re a news company” – told the students that journalism is “a calling.”

Sometimes that calling means publishing “boring stories that we think are worthwhile,” she smiled.

An example is the Free Press Democracy Project that aimed to involve citizens in the recent civic, federal and Manitoba elections.

She jokingly took credit for a one-percentage-point increase in voter turnout in the provincial election, while turnout has declined in other provinces.

On the other hand, some tales are “talkers:” stories that people feel compelled to talk about, Goodhand said.

This week the Free Press broke a good example of a talker: Nick Martin’s story of the Roman Catholic school that gave its students community service credits for participating in anti-abortion vigils.

On Oct. 14 Alex Freedman, the CBC’s I-Team reporter in Winnipeg, conducted a spirited exchange with students about his career and the CBC’s journalistic standards.

Freedman moved to Winnipeg from Montreal so he could work on the CBC’s investigative team.

He showed several of his stories, including one about the city of Winnipeg wasting thousands of dollars on unused sandbags during the spring flooding.

Don’t think you’re smarter than the people you interview, he warned. Learn everything you can about your topic before conducting interviews.

Freedman’s bottom line, especially for broadcast journalists: Don’t be a diva.

Let the story be the star.