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Teachers won't pander to the media

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Taking my first vacation time of 2013 — you’ll have to yell anonymously online at someone else on our staff until June 10.

Meanwhile, sharp-eyed readers may have noticed the strange timing around our reporting on the key resolutions at the Manitoba Teachers’ Society annual general meeting.

It wasn’t just because I was on a 7 a.m. breaking news shift that I wasn’t at the AGM for three long days with my pencil and scribbler.

As I told union prez Paul Olson — no, no, don’t reach for the comment button yet, if you haven’t figured out by now that I don’t consider "union" a pejorative... sigh — I’ve been complaining like since totally forever on the way the teachers draw up their agendas.

Most of the three days consists of internal union business, with education policy that would pique the interest of general readers a decided rarity. Not quite as rare as Tories being invited as guest speakers, but plenty rare.

I know that resolutions on the mileage rates paid to members of the subcommittee to the subcommittee to the ad hoc committee who have to drive into Thompson for meetings, or the procedure by which the 18th assistant regional vice-president from the bunch of schools yay close to the Saskatchewan border gets elected, would drive Mike Duffy and Rob Ford off the front pages.

Alas, until MTS decides it wants media attention and packages its education stuff at a particular scheduled time, it won’t get media there. None of us, and here I take the dangerous step of speaking for all members of MSMM — mainstream media maggots — just can’t camp out for three days in the hopes that we’ll eventually get a story.

So, the night reporter working Friday night picked up the resolution on spending $1.5 million in union dues for a classroom in the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, and I didn’t do the interview with Olson on the resolution demanding the province require all education curricula to reflect sexual orientation and same-sex family and gender identity issues and themes until later Sunday, when I was working a night shift as a general assignment reporter. And I did it then because MTS didn’t get to that key resolution until Saturday morning, when our reporter and photographer were engaged with breaking news.

Harumph. You teachers do understand that it’s all about me, don’t you?

Moving along, all you anonymous commenters excoriating the education minister and MTS prez, could you at least note that it’s Nancy Allan, not Allen, and Paul Olson, not Olsen?

Sigh.

I got a call the other day from this guy who didn’t offer his name. He wanted to alert me to a scandal at a large educational institution whose name sharp-eyed readers would recognize. Seems this couple, one of whom is an academic, is stalking students. OK, I’m interested.

A few minor glitches. While he knew the name of the non-academic partner of the alleged stalking pair, he didn’t know the name of the academic allegedly involved. My informant wasn’t involved himself, and he didn’t know the names of any students allegedly being stalked, nor did he know what this alleged stalking entailed. He’d heard about it, though, but didn’t want to name his sources or have these sources call me. I’m the reporter, he pointed out — surely this is more than enough for a major investigative story to be broken.

No, I didn’t tell him that my name isn’t Shirley.

I did call the unnamed institution, and ask if this rang any bells around disciplinary proceedings, which is really a reach.

That reminds me of two calls a few months ago from two people working together to reveal a scandal. Both calls sounded long distance. The gist of it was about — again — an academic, this time someone whose credentials they alleged are not legitimate. One of the individuals’ theses, they said, may not have been his own work. All they would tell me is that the degree was obtained in another country, and the thesis was not in English. They wanted me to publish a story, but had yet to even hint at the person’s name or field. I told them they’d need to provide substantiation, and a lot of it.

They were taken aback.

Why?

Um, because you want potentially to end someone’s career? And such things need incredibly serious substantiation?

They said they’d have to talk it over, and I’ve never heard from them again.

Moving along....

I try to be co-operative when people ask me for help, but, as one student found out a few years ago, I won’t write responses of at least 3,000 words. But I digress. I’d written about the veterans’ memorial at Daniel Mcintyre Collegiate, and the reader emailed to ask me to find out who Daniel McIntyre was — I knew — and said that back in the 60s there’d been a statue in the main hallway, is it still there, and oh yes, what was that a statue of, since the reader can’t remember.

I thought I was being polite, she probably thought I was rude; I said I would get the answers when I had time, if she could tell me a reason she herself couldn’t Google Daniel McIntyre and phone the school to ask about the statue.

Haven’t heard back yet.

Is it just me, or did the last episode of Game of Thrones have more characters than usual who didn’t make an appearance or have their situations updated?

Back to education.

 I’ve been up to my eyeballs for the past few weeks working on annual convocation coverage of U of M, U of W, and RRC. And inevitably, when the U of M convocation coverage ran Wednesday, the first call I got was from a parent, wanting to know why we didn’t publish the names of every single graduate.

Thousands of names.

Sigh.

Back June 10. Do try to cope.


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About Nick Martin

Nick Martin is the old bearded guy at the back of the newsroom, the most experienced reporter at the Winnipeg Free Press, having started his career in Ontario in 1971.

He’s been covering education for the Free Press since the spring of 1997, after decades primarily covering municipal politics, including a four-year stint at the Ontario legislature for the London Free Press.

Nick moved to Manitoba in 1988 with his Winnipeg-born wife, who is a professor at the University of Manitoba. They have two kids, both of whom graduated from Grant Park High School: son Chris and daughter Gillian.

Nick has won a national journalism award from the Canadian Association of University Teachers, two Manitoba Human Rights Journalism awards, and the Ontario Reporters Association investigative award.

Nick is a long-distance runner, having finished and survived 18 marathons and 15 half-marathons and 30-kilometre races, and having (barely) survived 10 years as an outdoor and indoor soccer coach.

Nick became a soccer referee in 2007, delighting in his 60s in outrunning 16-year-olds and keeping his distance from obstreperous coaches and parents.

Nick and his wife have discovered a mutual love for kayaking at their Whiteshell cottage, and are both regulars at the Reh-Fit Centre. They hold season tickets to both the Manitoba Theatre Centre and the Warehouse, and as empty nesters, have rediscovered the joys of an active winter vacation.

A native of Jarrow-on-Tyne, England, Nick is a member of the Toon Army as a Newcastle United supporter, and a proud citizen of Leafs Nation.

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