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I'd really like to, but...

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I received a speaking invitation last Friday from Pro Tem, my old university paper at Glendon College of York University.

Back in the day, I was sports editor and, for my final year, editor. We always assumed that we all had various spy and security agencies compiling personal files on us and bugging our phones, and half a dozen of us went into careers in serious journalism.

Anyway, the invite came here at work, not at home, and is for the paper’s first writers’ conference March 27.

That’s a Thursday, I’m working that day, and it’s also being held on the campus at Bayview and Lawrence, which is a complication, being in Toronto and all; there was no mention of any expenses, so the flights, taxis, meals, and probably a hotel would come out of my pocket. The invite included the full address of the WFP, so it’s not like they weren’t aware I’m not in Toronto.

There was also no indication of how many people would be speaking, or who or how many the audience is expected to be.

So I wrote back asking those questions, and so far have received no reply.

None of my Facebook friends from Pro Tem 1967-1971 was invited, though I did get in touch with a Toronto Star reporter of my vintage, who’s asked the same questions without reply, though he of course would have a much shorter journey and would sleep in his own bed that night.

I know there are some Glendon grads around town...all I know about the conference is that Pro Tem asked me to speak about changes to mainstream media, no mention of my telling tales of the sports pages being graced way back then by the adventures of The Masked Beaver and Captain Bourgeois on campus, or down in the valley, the Serpent of the Don or Cap’n Scurvy and the crew of The River Crab.

But I could tell such stories, if they pay my way.

No, I won’t crowd-source the trip.

Changing topics....

I see by the twitterverse that there was a major safe schools conference in the city this past Monday.

I receive invites for safe schools conferences in Saskatoon, but nary a peep about this one, as I recall.

April 21 will be the ninth anniversary of Safe Schools Manitoba’s severing all contact with the WFP.

James — excuse me, Minister Allum — you fund Safe Schools Manitoba, I presume by your silence that you, like your predecessors, are OK with the issues of safety in schools not being brought to the attention of the province’s largest newspaper.

Another segue....

Let’s say you write a really long, very detailed letter to an education reporter, in which you make very serious allegations about a particular office within the vast public education system, and let’s say that the situation facing the student in your family is allegedly racially-based and involves alleged racial profiling. Then let’s say I show enough interest to want more details, and to want to arrange to interview you for possible publication.

And let’s say you then tell me that you never intended to be interviewed and have this go in the paper, you just wanted me to help you deal with it.

Um, I think you’re unclear with the concept here. You could call a lawyer, or the minister, or your MLA, or contact student services at institution X, or a whole bunch of things.

My job involves talking to you and to other people, writing down what people say, going to my keyboard, and writing a story for the paper.

Deftly switching topics again....

Someone upset about my coverage of the adult fight at the eight-year-old hockey tournament in Fargo lambasted me for allegedly writing a story before all the facts were known.....

OK, journalism 101, no one can ever know if all the facts are known. And even if we could somehow determine the finite limit of the facts available for each story, it’s highly unlikely the first story would contain all of the facts — as you may have noticed, topics are reported day after day, as more information becomes known.

Switching sports....

A soccer coach who yelled at me for 60 minutes came over afterward and told me he held no hard feelings against me, that it’s his job to yell at me....

Sigh.

Another night, I had one I’ve never seen before. I’m doing a women’s match, a few of whom are possibly close to my own generation, and I call a foul when a defender gets her foot up around the attacker’s chest on the challenge, no contact, but threw the attacker off and was worth a foul. And all of her teammates were celebrating because one of them had enough flexibility to get her foot that high.

Finally....

For eight years now, each fall-winter visit to Peterborough involved sitting at the top of the Trent University gym where you can get a back rest, watching Trent Excalibur home volleyball matches. There was even one year when the kids overlapped. And last night child the younger played the last home game of her university eligibility.

It’s been wonderful.

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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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