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So close to a blockbuster story

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I was this close — THIS CLOSE — to a National Newspaper Award.

The message on my voice mail was a career-maker.....the caller self-identified as a U of M employee and told me that the root of the University of Manitoba’s financial challenges is that all the employees sit around in the campus coffee shops all day, or play solitaire on their university computers, and don’t actually do any work, and would tell me all about it.

Gasp!

Alas, she — whoops, dang, I meant to say, my secret non-gender-specific super-secret highly-placed inside source — didn’t leave either her name or phone number.

But the source did say that if I don’t break this story, she’ll take it to The Globe and Mail.

Sigh.

Meanwhile, as hard as it is to imagine, I got a little snippy with a recent caller, who worked for a public relations firm in the centre of the universe. She’d phoned from Upper Canada for the third straight day, on top of umpteen emails, touting a school contest her client was running across the country.

She wanted a story, of course, and I promised at best that I would type up a three-paragraph brief that might run only on our website. We get inundated with contests, and I told her that if a Manitoba student won, we’d revisit the issue, to use my most polite jargon.

But each day she phoned, to see if we’d run a story yet, and I must confess that I finally told her where her client’s contest stood in the grand scheme of things, from my parochial backwater perspective.

That situation was similar to another recent public relations person, again in the centre of the universe, who couldn’t fathom why her client’s giving $2,500 to two schools in Manitoba didn’t knock the NDP leadership race and H1N1 off the front page.

Sigh.

Meanwhile, I see that the Manitoba School Boards Association has finally unveiled a snazzy new website, long-awaited since the name change from Manitoba Association of School Trustees. Nevertheless, Emessbaw still retains the old www.mast.mb.ca website name.

However, looking at the links on the home page, seeing this "Who we work with", I’m wondering how many English teachers have so far been in touch to suggest "With whom we work"?

Sorry, snippiness does not become me.

This is probably an outcome of my recent physical, and my blood pressure that my doctor had had me tracking. I had noted a correlation — if I drink two enormous mugs of extra-strong black dark roast over the morning paper, stop at the drug store on the way to work, I get a high blood pressure reading. But when I do my blood pressure at the Reh-Fit in the evening, no caffeine in 12 hours, having run on a soccer field for 90 minutes and then having done a workout, my readings tended to be well within the normal range.

So one cup of coffee in the morning, and that’s it for the day. But it makes me CRANKY!!!!!!

And another segue......a correction on my most recent previous blog, about the Manitoba High Schools Athletic Association’s rejection of a bid by faith-based high schools to have their students play football, hockey or rugby for the nearest public high school that fields teams. Executive director Morris Glimcher notes that the rejection came from the membership at the annual general meeting, not from the board of directors.

And getting high marks where it really counts in postsecondary education, I was at Collège universitaire de Saint-Boniface, and found the surrounding streets were all two-hour free curb parking, with lots of empty spots.

Finally, as we transition from outdoor to indoor soccer, it looks as though all those people who threatened to file complaints against me this past outdoor season, mainly the coaches, and a couple of parents doing the sideline flags, no one among them actually went to the work of doing all the paperwork and putting in the time to haul me before a disciplinary committee. They were content just to bluster, threaten, and occasionally have a soul-refreshing hissy fit.

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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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