Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION

A campaign observation

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One thing I learned as a police reporter is to observe.

At a crime scene or car crash, I learned to just stand back and watch. Sometimes it paid off.

Look to see who else is standing around watching. Hang around to see who brings flowers or leaves a photo or candle. Watch what the cops are doing, particularly the Ident guys. Where are they putting evidence markers? A blood trail or shell casings?

At a collision, look for skid marks. The length of the skid can tell you how fast a car was going. If there’s no skid, that obviously tells you the driver never braked. He didn’t see the light had turned red or the kid had stepped out to cross the road.

Sometimes you can even quickly piece together what happened without talking to the cops.

It’s not same in politics.

This campaign, colleague Larry Kusch and I decided to split up how we cover the leaders. Larry does one guy one week, I do him another. One of us picks up Liberal leader Jon Gerrard where we can.

Our focus is on Tory leader Hugh McFadyen and Premier Greg Selinger. One of these men will be premier Oct. 4.

We’re not only watching for where they’re campaigning, what ridings they’re spending a lot of time, but how they appear. Are they tired? Are they properly briefed? Do they stay on message? Are they patient with the media and answer all our questions? Do they appear confident? How do they interact with other people in the room and the public?

The other thing I look for is the organization behind the leader. Are the handlers all in place? Does the sound equipment work? What’s the backdrop? Is it appropriate to the announcement? And who else is in the room? Who else is attending?

Larry and I talk a lot — I talk to Larry more than to my wife — and our take is that both men and their parties are handling themselves as you’d expect.

Neither is giving an inch.

So with less than three weeks to go, neither Larry nor I can get a good read on which campaign is pulling ahead.

I can watch Selinger and McFadyen all I want, but right now it doesn’t tell me anything.

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About Larry Kusch and Bruce Owen

Larry Kusch has been a journalist for 30 years, the last 20 with the Winnipeg Free Press. His is one of the newspaper's two legislative bureau reporters.

Raised on a Saskatchewan farm, he received an honours journalism degree from Carleton University in 1975.

At the Free Press, Larry has also worked as a general assignment reporter, business reporter, copy editor and assistant city editor.

Bruce Owen joined the Winnipeg Free Press in 1990 after four years working in other media.

He's worked in a number of positions at the Freep, including pet columnist, assistant city editor and police reporter. Right now he takes up space at the Manitoba legislature.

Bruce is one of five reporters who won a National Newspaper Award for the paper’s coverage of the 1997 Flood of the Century. He's also the recipient of the 1996 Volunteer Centre of Winnipeg Media Golden Hand Award and the 1995 Canadian Federation of Humane Societies Media Commendation Award.

In a past life Bruce worked at YMCA-YWCA Camp Stephens. He has a blog where he and others write about camp and the people who worked and played there.

You can also find Bruce on Twitter where he posts and retweets all sorts of stuff.

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