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Bob Cox was named publisher of the Winnipeg Free Press in November 2007. He joined the newspaper as editor in May 2005.

"Rejoined" is a better word for it, because Bob first worked at the newspaper as a reporter in January 1984. He covered crime and courts for three years before getting restless and moving on to other journalism jobs.

Since then, his career has spanned four provinces and five cities. Highlights include working in Ottawa for the Canadian Press covering Prime Minister Jean Chrétien during his first term in office, and five years at the Globe and Mail in Toronto, first as national editor and later as night editor.

Bob grew up on a farm in southwestern Ontario, but has spent most of his adult life in Western Canada in Winnipeg, Regina and Edmonton.

  • This year proved good journalism can change my life

    As 2014 ends I’m reflecting on this as the year that Time magazine changed my life.

    It’s a testament to the continuing power and reach of traditional news media that I say this. It wasn’t Facebook or Twitter or even Instagram that had an impact, but the good research and thought-provoking work of professional journalists in a well-established MSM outlet.

    So what happened?

    As 2014 dawned I was overweight and under-fit, a middle-aged man slowing down and doing less. One day I found myself in a waiting room and started thumbing through an edition of Time, which featured an article titled Lift, Squat, Repeat: Inside the CrossFit Cult.

    It was a takeout on CrossFit, a form of functional fitness training that has exploded in popularity in the past decade. CrossFit includes many different forms of exercise, but is best known for its short, super intense workouts that leave you flat on your back, staring at the ceiling and feeling like you want to throw up.

    Part of the article dealt with how some CrossFit athletes become so obsessed with the regime of lifting, lunging, jumping, squatting, skipping, rowing, running, pulling and pushing that they exercise themselves right into the hospital.

    My first thought: "I’ve got to try this."

    So I located CrossFit204, which is near Polo Park and is the closest CrossFit box to my house (gyms are called boxes in CrossFit-speak). The next Sunday morning I met Mike Warkentin, founder of CrossFit204 and managing editor of CrossFit Journal, the bible of the functional fitness movement.

    Soon I was in a class swinging a kettlebell over my head, squatting with the kettlebell clutched in front of my chest and jumping from a prone positon on the floor into an all-out sprint to the other end of the gym – without any rest between movements.

    Under the guidance of a single trainer, people at a wide variety of fitness levels and ages were doing the same workout at the same time, working with partners, pushing themselves hard and supporting one another like I’ve never seen in a traditional gym.

    It was challenging. It was fun. I was hooked.

    It takes commitment to join a CrossFit box. You have to go through, and pay for, a training program called an "on ramp" to learn some of the skills needed for classes that can range from Olympic lifting to running around the block with a 25-kg jug of water balanced on one shoulder.

    Then you have to start showing up for classes with workouts with names like "Fran" and "Karen" that include terms like AMRAP, EMOM and junkyard dog. They leave you thinking: "I don’t even know what this is. How on earth am I ever going to do it?"

    The first thing I learned is that I had to relearn everything, even things as basic as how to do a pushup properly or how to skip rope.

    The second thing I learned is that CrossFit is not dangerous. The trainers are highly skilled. They chart your progress. They check for injuries. They won’t let you do a movement incorrectly. They show you how to do the mysterious workouts and tell you what scale to use – a workout involving pushups typically has some people doing them from the floor, others from their knees and maybe even someone pushing off against a wall.

    Very quickly I became fit. I found that with the right training I could run and jump like I could 20 years ago. I lost some weight and then started following CrossFit guidance on nutrition and diet. The scale that used to push 200 lbs. now reads 170.

    None of it would have happened if it hadn’t been for good old-fashioned journalism, opening my eyes to something going on around me that I had not been aware of.

    So as we approach 2015, that’s what I’ll celebrate. Have a Happy New Year.


  • Winnipeg and Manitoba the low-key part of Postmedia purchase of the Sun

    There is lots of excitement - mixed with lots of bad jokes - about the purchase of all the Sun newspapers by Postmedia.

    "This is the biggest news since you cornered the covered wagon market. #AmishBusinessTycoon," one Tweeter commented shortly after the announcement yesterday.

    Regular readers of this blog know I do not share such pessimistic views about the newspaper industry.

    Personally, I think Postmedia's purchase of all English-language Sun properties is a bold bet on the future of Canadian newspapers and their substantial reach into the lives of people across the country.

    The changes will be felt all the way to Winnipeg, though our city and province were pretty much an afterthought in all of the news coverage of the sale.

    Most people don't follow who owns what media, so I offer this blog to explain what is happening here in Manitoba and northwestern Ontario.

    The Winnipeg Sun, along with papers such as the Portage Daily Graphic, Kenora Daily Miner and News, and several community newspapers in southern Manitoba will be owned and operated by Postmedia.

    The company has committed to continue operating the Sun papers.

    In other major markets, such as Edmonton, Calgary and Ottawa, Postmedia intends to combine resources and operate two or more papers in the same city.

    That won't happen here because Postmedia does not own other papers here.

    The Winnipeg Free Press is owned by FP Canadian Newspapers Limited Partnership (FPLP), which also owns the Brandon Sun, Steinbach Carillon, and all the free distribution Canstar community newspapers in Winnipeg.

    FPLP is controlled by Ron Stern and his business partner, Bob Silver, who hold 51 per cent of the company privately. The rest - 49 per cent - is part of FP Newspapers Inc., a publicly traded company that owns securities entitling it to 49 per cent of the distributable cash of FPLP.

    The Free Press has a long and close relationship with Postmedia.

    Postmedia sells national advertising in print and digital for us and it provides editorial content and other editorial services. We used to print the National Post in Winnipeg, but the paper discontinued publishing here several years ago.

    We expect there to be changes, but we do not know what they may be.

    Postmedia must get federal regulatory approval before the sale can close and that could take a few months.

    At that time we will know better what the lay of the land is for newspapers in Winnipeg and Manitoba.


  • Winnipeg journalist blazed trail for female newsroom managers

    You should always thank the person who gave you your first real job in your chosen field.

    So it's with some regret that I read of the passing of Shirley Sharzer, a Winnipegger who made a difference in journalism in Canada.

    The Globe and Mail ran a detailed account of her life that is worth reading, another great story of a Winnipeg-born talent better known in Toronto for what she accomplished than in her home city.

    Born Shirley Lev, she grew up here and started as a newspaper reporter in 1945 at age 17. She eventually worked for the Winnipeg Free Press, married, had a family and then moved to Toronto.

    There she worked at the Toronto Telegram, Toronto Star and The Globe and Mail, among other stops in her varied career. She climbed the management ladder in newsrooms where men ruled the roost in the 1950s, '60s and '70s.

    She was the associate managing editor of The Globe and Mail in the spring of 1983 when a young student at Carleton University appeared before her as a candidate for the newspaper's summer intern program.

    She noticed that I was wearing a bow tie, and probably thought it was so that I stood out from the other keen journalism students. In fact, it was the only tie I owned.

    Whatever the reason, she offered me the position and it launched me on what is now a 31-year-career in newspapers -- and counting. I have no idea what might have happened in my life if she had not hired me.

    Countless journalists in Canada can tell the same story, because Shirley Sharzer hired many student interns, and mentored many young journalists through their first days and months in a big-city newsroom.

    I had not spoken to her since that summer in 1983, and never did properly express my gratitude. Thanks Shirley.



  • Broadcasters want to force you to pay for news

    Imagine being forced to subscribe to, and pay for, the Winnipeg Free Press, if you want to look at any other newspapers or magazines.

    Ridiculous? Of course. But it is exactly like what Canadian TV providers are asking the federal broadcast regulator to put in place.

    The CRTC is holding hearings that will help determine what rule changes it makes for how TV signals are distributed -- and how you pay for them.

    Both the CBC and CTV networks have told the CRTC that the business model for local TV stations is broken and that the way to fix it is to force cable and satellite companies to pay for their signals -- and, by extension, have consumers pay for those signals. The situation is outlined well in this Globe and Mail article.

    The broadcasters want over-the-air transmission ended, so the only way you will get their signals is through cable or satellite. And they want carriage of these signals to be mandatory.

    So if you watch TV, you will pay for local channels. There will be no other way of receiving them and you won't be able to get a TV service without them. No more free TV.

    This means forced payment for all the programming on networks like CBC and CTV, and in effect forced payment for local news programming. Local TV stations in Canada do almost nothing except news and current events programming. Otherwise they are transmitter stations for nationally programmed shows.

    A local TV broadcast licence used to be called a "licence to print money." An owner had a spot on the limited airwaves and few competitors, if any. Advertising dollars rolled in to pay for everything. That's no longer the case as audiences have fragmented in the universe of unlimited TV channels.

    The situation is not unlike what has happened to newspapers, where new digital media have taken away traditional revenue streams like classified ads.

    Some newspapers are now asking readers to pay for digital access as well as print copies. But none would ever dream of asking a regulatory body to force consumers to sign up.

    But's that the solution proposed by broadcasters. Force every TV viewer to pay. The CRTC should see the argument for what it is -- a way of broadcasters getting back into a comfortable position of having a lucrative stream of revenues, guaranteed.

    Taxpayers might expect that the CBC, at least, would continue to be free. But the CBC sees no problem asking for both its public subsidy and these viewer payments. A CBC executive likened it to VIA Rail, which gets a federal subsidy and still charges for tickets.

    It's not the same, for the simple reason that people can choose to take VIA Rail, or not, and they do not have to take the railway if they want transportation.

    TV viewers have already had experience with forced funding of local programming. The CRTC established the local programming improvement fund that collected money from cable companies to fund local programming in markets of fewer than one million people. All Winnipeg TV stations got money from the fund, which took in more than $100 million a year from cable subscribers.

    That program ended as of August 31 this year. The CRTC should leave it that way, and require broadcasters to adapt to changes in markets in ways that don't include forced payments by all TV viewers.



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