Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Last dispatch from the 'new' building

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I think it's funny that I call the Free Press office on Mountain Avenue the "new" building.

I only spent a year in the "old" building and then a whopping 21 more out here in the North End. As a true Winnipegger, however, I tend to define things by what they once were.

Witness my favourite restaurant critic Marion Warhaft, who last week described the new Arkadash restaurant as the old Chocolate Shop site. (Ah, we all nodded sagely, so that's where it is.)

Filmmaker Guy Maddin understands this better than most Winnipeggers. This city gets into your bones somehow and landmarks are forever enshrined. Probably because -- like our now-famous Exchange District -- change comes slowly.

But you know, that's changing, too.

In the doldrums of the late 1990s, when building cranes were virtually extinct in Winnipeg, I heard Sandy Riley tell a pre-Pan Am Games crowd that he wanted his kids to see "Winnipeg with the lights on." We all did. And I look around the city these days and see all kinds of changes: the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, the waterfront by the ballpark, the new airport, the MTS Centre -- home of the Winnipeg Jets.

Manitoba has the second-fastest growing economy in the country, the Conference Board of Canada proclaimed last week. Mega projects like the new Bomber stadium and IKEA are going up.

The great gap between haves and have-nots prevails, but there's hope in a new task force to combat homelessness, along with accompanying social issues from affordable housing to mental health to child poverty.

Everyone agrees education is key to major social change, and I see our post-secondary institutions actively working to break down barriers to the disenfranchised.

This city is no longer a place your kids flee as soon as they come of age, as I did.

It's a city of possibilities, a city that is changing.

And change is inevitable.

The Free Press newsroom has undergone profound changes in my two decades.

I was lucky to start my career in what we now know as the golden age of print, the mid-1980s, when advertising and circulation peaked. The future was so bright, management built this shiny new building and hauled us out of the heart of the city in 1991. (Anybody want a 100,000-square-foot office building with great parking? Call publisher Bob Cox. We'd move back downtown in a heartbeat.)

I was lucky to work in an industry that I loved, with people who became family.

And we've done pretty well out here. In the past few years, I've been lucky to ride the coattails of a newsroom so full of talent it was recognized from Berlin to Miami, from Rideau Hall to Vancouver and back again. It's been a terrific 12 years in management, the last five as editor -- albeit a challenging time to helm a business that was so successful for so long, it never thought it had to change.

Change is healthy. Any good business knows this.

The Free Press is changing to acknowledge the reality that one day, virtually all of its audience might be digital readers, not newspaper readers.

We've moved from a 24-hour news cycle to a measured-in-minutes universe of tweets, live blogs and livestream video, webbies, slideshows, and, oh yes -- maybe an end-of-day newspaper column or story.

You won't find me longing for the good old days of print, however.

Today's digital universe is an incredibly rich medium, with so many ways to tell a story, so many possibilities. And it's our future.

Whether you read us on your tiny cellphone or your big-screen TV will be the next editor's concern. For now, all we know is that our online audience is growing by leaps and bounds.

And the news coming out of the newspaper industry these days is grim. The Calgary Herald just laid off 30 people in its newsroom alone -- a gut-wrenching one-third of its staff.

The once-mighty Southam-cum-Canwest-cum-Postmedia chain has been crippled by debt, declining ad revenues and some unfortunate business decisions. Caught in the maelstrom are colleagues in cities like Edmonton, Ottawa and Vancouver.

Here in Winnipeg? My joke has always been we're bucking the trend.

Yes, the Free Press faces the same challenges of declining newspaper circulation and declining national ad revenue. But we're independent, and have never had the crippling debt load of those teetering news franchises. We've also made some tough decisions over the past few years that have kept us buoyant, including cancelling delivery of the perennial money-losing Sunday paper several years ago.

Our local businesses, god love 'em, still choose to advertise with us. And the biggest reason for that? Readers like you. The Free Press has the highest per capita readership of any metropolitan daily in Canada, and we've held that spot for years.

Whenever I see that chart, with the Free Press on top of every other big newspaper in Canada, I am proud to live in a place with readers like Lucille Anderson or Norman E. Sanders, the people who call if their paper's not on their doorstep that morning, or if they don't like the angle of a story, or they are moved by a particularly beautiful photo. Readers who write pithy letters to the editor, pen profound op-eds, donate to the Sunshine Fund, share "random acts of kindness." It's readers like you that make the editor's job an honour and privilege, and one I will never forget.

Thanks for letting us try new things, like the Pink Paper and the Africa Edition. Thanks for calling, as one woman did last week, just to bark that Lindor Reynolds' column was "Right on... You let her know that!" (Done, ma'am.)

Thanks for sticking with us even when you felt we were becoming too left-wing, too right-wing, too biased/negative/too fluffy or just plain screwing around with your puzzle page.

Our slogan used to be "we're there for you."

Thanks for being there for us.

Last dispatch from the new building.

Cheers.

 

Margo Goodhand has resigned as editor of the Winnipeg Free Press effective today.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 31, 2012 A10

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