Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

New perspectives editor builds on proud legacy

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In the corner of our newsroom sits a maroon leather chair that's much more than a piece of furniture, as it represents the history of the Free Press.

With its weathered, wooden legs and loose threads here and there, the deep-buttoned antique belonged to John Wesley Dafoe, the legendary Free Press editor whose deep thoughts cut a deep swath through not only Canadian journalism but also the politics of our nation.

While Dafoe died in 1944 after 44 years at the helm of our newspaper, his chair has remained a fixture in our newsroom, having been lovingly transported from its old home at 300 Carlton St. when we moved to the Inkster Industrial Park in 1991.

The funny thing about the chair is no one actually ever sits in it, in large part because it's so damn uncomfortable.

But I do wonder what Dafoe would think if he was still in that editor's chair. What would he do as he scanned the landscape in his pince-nez glasses, staring at tweets and blogs, online commentary and user-generated content?

My guess is Dafoe would have found a way to leverage the new media reality in the same way he made the Free Press a great newspaper -- with courage, integrity and principles.

Today, we do our best to be true to Dafoe's legacy by introducing a new-look editorial page section that heralds a fresh approach to the dialogue and debates that have been the hallmark of the Free Press.

The first big change you'll notice is a much wider conversation as we move beyond letters to the editor to capture commentary via Twitter and online postings on the news of the day.

And speaking of Twitter, you can add your voice to the editorial of the day each and every day by joining the discussion via the hashtag #wfpvent.

There will be even bigger changes coming online at as we not only quicken the pace of our editorial response when big stories break, but also add features that allow for more commentary, more analysis and more opportunities for you to respond to what you have read in the Free Press.

Finally, we have a new editor responsible for the perspectives you will be reading both in print and online. Shannon Sampert, an expert in Canadian politics and the media, joins our newsroom from the University of Winnipeg. While Shannon comes to us from the academic world, she is no stranger to journalism, having worked as a radio and television reporter in an earlier life before her PhD. Moreover, you would have read her commentaries on our pages as she has been an occasional contributor over the years.

And in a move long overdue for this 142-year-old paper that gave pioneering female journalists reporting jobs, Shannon becomes the first woman to oversee our editorial pages.

I think Dafoe would be proud.


Paul Samyn is the Free Press editor

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 9, 2014 A2


Updated on Saturday, August 9, 2014 at 8:43 AM CDT: Moves video.

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