Monday, September 24, 2012

Portage la Praire summer experience

Over the summer, I had the pleasure of interning at the Portage Daily Graphic. It was my first real taste of writing life and I learned a lot during my three months there.

I've always been told that you have to start in small towns - and it's true - but I didn't realize how much I'd love working in Portage la Prairie.

Hard work. The writing and covering stories was great, but it was the driving that pushed me around on some days. I feel as if I proved that I could work those long days. With the driving back and forth from Winnipeg, I was working thirteen hour days, plus writing my IPP.

I pushed myself hard over the summer and I'm glad I stood up to the test.

Jordan Maxwell, the PDG's editor, was someone who I learned a lot from. He was a great teacher and I'm glad I was able to work with him.

The stories about CreComm grads being everywhere is true too. Robin Dudgeon and Dan Falloon, who are both great writers, are recent graduates of the program. It was great to see other grads having successful careers after school.

Portage was great as well. Until May, I had never really visited the town. As I began to become more familiar with the town, I realized that it was one of Manitoba's gems.

Crescent Lake and Island Park are two treasures. On Island Park alone, you have a beautiful park, golf course, new hockey rink - and my favourite summer spot - the strawberry fields.

The people were fantastic too. Portage is a very tight community and that is something I really admire. Everyone knows everyone and they are very charitable. People in Winnipeg could learn a lot from Portage.

Writing wise, the best part about working at the PDG was that they gave you full reigns to cover a wide variety of stories. During my three months there, I covered city hall, local politics, agriculture, sports, charities and much more. They also allowed me to take my own photos and shoot my own video.

It was a learning experience that you cannot get at larger newspapers and I am grateful for the opportunity to intern there.

I would highly recommend to any first year who plans to major in journalism to see if the PDG will be open to an intern again next year. Is it hard work? Your damn rights it is. However, it'll give you great experience, you'll meet great people and you'll see if you're really cut out for print journalism.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Does Canada love hockey too much?

Roy MacGregor put out an interesting column this week in the Globe and Mail about how the NHL's lockout would be a good thing for Canada. You can read it here.

As many people know, I'm a die hard hockey fan. This article did put some issues in perspective when thinking about hockey in Canada. While I do agree with some of MacGregor's points, for the most part, I think he is off base with a lot of his arguments.

Let's start with his point about CBC's "Greatest Canadian" series held during last lockout. MacGregor pointed out that Don Cherry made the list ahead of Canada's first Prime Minister John A. Macdonald.

I remember watching this series and questioning how Don Cherry made the list - Yes Wayne Gretzky made the list, but that is completely different. He was an icon in North American sports. While I don't mind Cherry as an on-air personality, I thought it was insulting that he made the list - especially ahead of our first Prime Minister.

MacGregor's point that we overvalue hockey-related individuals is probably right. Yes, there are a few exceptions, but having Cherry has one of our greatest people is just odd. And that's not even including Cherry's anti-French and European comments you can hear every Saturday night on CBC.

Where I do disagree with him is the fourth paragraph were he mentions defining moments in Canada's history for Baby Boomers. MacGregor says that in the US, their moment was the assassination of JFK. In Canada, he says it would be "a puck going into a hockey net in another continent," which in non-sarcastic terms means Paul Henderson's Summit Series clinching goal in Russia.

I find it insulting that he decides what is deemed important and not important for a countries history. If MacGregor wanted to dig a little deeper, I'm sure a lot of Baby Boomers in the US would say the Miracle on Ice would be another "Where was I?" moment.

In fact, I'm sure you could go to most countries in the world and see that a sporting event has made a cultural impact. Sports does hold a lot of value in society. Being that the eleventh anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks just passed, I thought it would be a good way to show sports value on society.

While I'm not a George W Bush fan, this moment has always stuck out to me following the attacks - and I think it stuck out for a lot of Americans as well. It may have been a simple ceremonial pitch, but it had a much deeper meaning as seen from this video.

Anyways, even with the disagreements I have with MacGregor, I thought it was a good, thought provoking column.

Hopefully Canadians don't have to experience another year without the NHL, because whether MacGregor likes it or not, hockey will always hold an important place in our country.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Sports front offices vs the media

I've never been a fan of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers or the CFL. However, with the ongoing battle of words between the Bomber's front office and media, this seemed like an obvious issue to tackle (bad pun, I know).

It seems to me more than ever that journalists are becoming armchair coaches behind their keyboard. As an aspiring journalist, I agree that sports organizations are fair game and should have the right to be criticized - but there is a limit to everything.

Currently in Washington DC, the Nationals (Major League Baseball team) are get ripped apart by local and national media.

You see, the Nationals are having one of their best years in team history. And they are being led by one of the best youngsters in the MLB - think the Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin equivalent in baseball.

He is Stephen Strasburg - and widely considered a generational talent. Last year, Strasburg injured his arm and underwent Tommy John surgery. Coming into this season, doctors advised that the team would have keep him limited to a number of innings pitched.

All was fine until the Nationals decided to move from mediocrity to an elite team in baseball. The problem? Well, Strasburg has reached his maximum innings pitched and had to be shutdown.

This is where everything went horribly wrong.

According to many journalists, this was simply a dumb move by the Nationals. It started a large wave of opinion based articles that began roasting the Nationals front office. One of the leaders in this witch hunt has been Jon Morosi.

Led me first say I love Morosi's writing and work with the MLB; however, I cannot stand his stance on the Strasburg situation. Yes, he has a right to write what he pleases, but after the fourth or fifth story which contains the same argument and name calling, he's crossed the line.

Here is one of his articles on the situation.

With numerous doctors in the sports industry stating that it was best for Strasburg to be shutdown for obvious health reasons, this did not stop the media from continuing to voice their opinions - after all, they must know more than these industry respected doctors.

This brings me back to the Bomber's mess here in Winnipeg. Today, Gary Lawless put out an opinion piece absolutely destroying the Bombers. While I do agree with some of his column, I think he crossed the line as a journalist.

That is the line between doing a job and reporting on a team - and deciding to act like a pissed off fan who needs to take a calmer look at the situation.

As a pretty big sports fan, this looks like a piece of writing I'd do after watching one of my teams lose a heartbreaking game. It's too emotional and radical for my liking and I think he crosses a boundary as a writer. However, I know a lot of Bomber fans enjoy the piece, so maybe I'm off base?

It seems that more and more sports writers are going in this direction, though. Another example is Steven Simmons, who regularly puts out long ranting articles about the Toronto Maple Leafs. He also engages in Twitter battles with front office officials (Brian Burke and Ron Wilson for example).

I'm not asking for fluffy writing where writers are portraying teams as a perfect and incapable of producing mistakes. What I hate seeing is the same old column where the writers are acting as armchair coaches. It's annoying and after awhile, a point is crossed where the column looks no different from one of my blog posts.

If there is a journalist that has the most balance, I would have to say it's The Globe and Mail's sportswriter, James Mirtle. He has found that perfect balance between angry fan and newspaper writer. So now, I leave you with one of my favourite pieces from Mirtle. I hope you got something out of this long rant.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Fort Whyte byelection

On Sept. 4, I had the pleasure of covering the Fort Whyte byelection. Unlike last year's provincial election, this experience was a little less stressful - most likely due to the fact that we didn't have to write a story the night of the byelection.

I was assigned to cover Liberal candidate Bob Axworthy's campaign headquarters and to be honest, I didn't know what to expect.

As I arrived at Axworthy's location at Cafe 13, there were numerous signs of support for NDP candidate Brandy Schmidt outside the building. This was very odd. I phoned Axworthy's headquarters and sure enough, I was at the right place.

Unlike Jim Maloway's election headquarters last year (which consisted of a small room next to a Subway), Cafe 13 was cozy.

The atmosphere was quiet until about 8:30 and that's when many of Axworthy's supporters started arriving. Of note, Jon Gerrard, leader of the Manitoba Liberal Party, was on hand to show his support for Axworthy.

Gerrard has also seemed to take more interest in social media as he was quick to give out his Twitter handle and name of his blog.

From talking to some of Axworthy's supporters, a large portion of them knew it was unlikely that he would overtake Brian Pallister, but they all believed in Axworthy and his ties to the community.

Axworthy also acknowledged his slim chances after polls closed by saying, "Well, they (the results) speak for themselves."

Even though the outlook was grim, he tried to remain positive.

"The advance poll hasn't come in and as I've said many times, I'm a coach who plays to win," said Axworthy. "The final buzzer hasn't gone, but I clearly see what's going on (speaking about Pallister's lead).

When it was official that Pallister had indeed won the byelection, Axworthy said, "I intend and want to stay in politics."

As for doing the live "rants" on Red River Radio, it was a good learning experience. While we did practice them in class the week before, it was much different doing it live from campaign headquarters during the middle of a byelection.

Overall, it was another great CreComm learning experience.