Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION

Limping back into the game....

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Some serious matters competed for my attention in the fall and as a result, the Sausage Factory suffered. The most important of all new year's resolutions in my household was to get the factory back up and running. So here goes.Actually, the time off, I had an interesting experience that caused me to re-think the entire blogging experience.I was interviewed by a rather odd student from Ryerson who wanted to know about the Free Press adventure with blogging, and its enhanced on-line presence. The student asked me about my blogging experience, and what I thought it added to the overall product at the FP.I stopped to think. What a good question, although my answer was probably not what he wanted to hear.I found that over my brief experience with blogging, I became much too focused on what other bloggers were saying. I still firmly believe in credit where credit is due, and so the old TOTH will continue to be a part of factory policy. However, it was rather pointless to compete with hard-core bloggers on one activity that seems to dominate blog content more than any other.Criticizing other media.I know many bloggers consider themselves to be part of an alternative media, or NOT part of the mainstream media to be more correct. I think those are legitimate differentiations, but I'm not sure if the bloggers know what makes them alternative. Certainly, dealing with subjects the mainstream media will not touch is an alternative approach, but many (not all) of the self-proclaimed alternative journalists do not actually do that. What they do is criticize mainstream media. And there's an important difference.In the mainstream media, there is an unwritten rule that demands that we not waste space writing about other media outlets. It's not universally respected, of course, but in general there is an 'honor among thieves' philosophy that says, 'I got my say, and you get your say.' It's generally frowned upon if columnists begin to take each other on by name in their columns, or if one newspaper devotes a front-page story denouncing another media outlet.There are exceptions. When Don Imus self destructed on his radio show last year, it became a story most if not all of the mainstream media ran with. Similarly, when former CBC Winnipeg anchor Krista Erickson was punished by her employer for breaching ethical guidelines, most news organizations documented her fall from grace, and transfer from Ottawa to Toronto. I comfort myself with the knowledge that people in the media are, sometimes, celebrities as well and thus make for good headlines.The blogosphere, on the other hand, is often dominated by commentary about how mainstream news organizations missed stories, or did bad stories, or spelled stuff wrong, or made mistakes in fact. Fair enough - there is no purpose in denying that all that happens. But IMHO, it doesn't make for compelling content, whether it's on a blog or not.So, I'll tip my hat to bloggers breaking real news, and try to add to the greater understanding of politics and public policy. But I won't spend time criticizing how or why other bloggers do what they do.That felt good.-30-

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About Dan Lett

Dan Lett came to Winnipeg in 1986, less than a year out of journalism school.

Despite the fact that he’s originally from Toronto and has a fatal attraction to the Maple Leafs, Winnipeggers let him stay.

In the following years, he has worked at bureaus covering every level of government – from city hall to the national bureau in Ottawa.

He has had bricks thrown at him in riots following the 1995 Quebec referendum, wrote stories that helped in part to free three wrongly convicted men, met Fidel Castro, interviewed three Philippine presidents, crossed several borders in Africa illegally, chased Somali pirates in a Canadian warship and had several guns pointed at him.

In other words, he’s had every experience a journalist could even hope for. He has also been fortunate enough to be a two-time nominee for a National Newspaper Award, winning in 2003 for investigations.

Other awards include the B’Nai Brith National Human Rights Media Award and nominee for the Michener Award for Meritorious Public Service in Journalism.

Now firmly rooted in Winnipeg, Dan visits Toronto often but no longer pines to live there.


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