Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

A toast to a relationship we've formed together

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For more than a century, columns offering advice on relationships have been standard fare in newspapers.

Think Dear Abby. Or Ann Landers. Or even our own Miss Lonelyhearts.

So you'd think after a quarter-century at the Free Press, I would have had this relationship thing all figured out.

Alas, of all the things I expected when named editor in the summer of 2012, I somehow overlooked the relationship that would develop with our readers.

And so 18 months later, it is high time I said thank you for the advice, the support and the patience that has been part of this relationship.

Rarely does a day go by when I don't hear from one of you about something we've done or something we need to do.

Sometimes it's an early-morning voice mail, all huff and gruff, about a story we missed or downplayed. Sometimes, it's the late-night chatter on Twitter as the world of social media reacts to the sneak peek of our front page I tweet out before the paper goes to press.

There are emails that point out the misspellings, grammatical errors and other glitches that unfortunately still slip through during that daily sprint to deadline. And there's the beautifully handwritten letters of thanks for shining a light where it needed to be shone.

I've had readers call to tell me they were cancelling their subscription because we ran a front-page picture of two men kissing. I've had readers call to thank me for making their day by having the "courage" to put Merry Christmas on the front page of our Dec. 24 edition.

I heard from a university professor so addicted to our new Blippar feature she was showing up late to class. I heard from longtime print readers worried they were being shortchanged because they didn't have a smartphone or tablet to access the new reality in their paper.

The decision to restrict online comments to subscribers sparked a record-setting digital diatribe at winnipegfreepress.com with scores of anonymous posts threatening to do things to me that can't be repeated in a family newspaper. And there was the quiet applause from those who welcomed a new level of decorum to our online debate and dialogue now that the party-crashers were finally shown the door.

Of course, this relationship is more than a little complicated as satisfying any one reader may mean we've angered another. Moreover, the relationship with readers is no longer limited to a single audience. Those who read us at home in print aren't always the same as those accessing us at work on their desktop or the rapidly growing number of readers who come to us on mobile devices.

But it's the connections that come from those readers regardless of which audience they represent, that help me deliver a Free Press in print and online you need and want.

The resolution I made a year ago to engage with readers to not only help shape our strategy, but also help us deliver the news, was a pledge that continues to pay dividends. It was readers who aided the design of the new weekend section 49.8SDgr. It was readers who chose our top stories for 2013. And it will be readers who will help us chart our next moves through conversations yet to happen.

So here's a toast of thanks and a pledge to keep listening as we deliver your news in 2014.

Happy New Year.

paul.samyn@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 31, 2013 0

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