Shannon Sampert

  • The 311 black hole

    In the first six months of Winnipeg's unveiling of the new 311 service in 2009, more than 950,000 people used the service. I think some of those callers are still on hold. OK, that's an easy joke to make. But seriously, when you raise the issue of 311 to folks around the water cooler, you're bound to hear a story or two. The wait times are outrageous. There's no sense anyone's acted on the complaint. You can't call a department directly.
  • A tale of two murders

    A 15-year-old girl's body is found, dumped like garbage. She's described as troubled. She was a runner. She was involved in the sex trade. No, I'm not describing Tina Fontaine, although the similarities are eerie. I am describing Susan Janine Holens, found in a drainage ditch southwest of the city 25 years ago. Her death remains an open case, and she is now one of the 28 names included in Project Devote, a joint project run by the RCMP and Winnipeg police. The project came out of recommendations made by the Manitoba Integrated Task Force for Murdered and Missing Women. Holens is one of the youngest girls on that list of unsolved cold cases.
  • How do we protect aboriginal women?

    Saturday marks the 10th anniversary of Amnesty International releasing its groundbreaking report on missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada. As a white feminist, I have marched alongside aboriginal women to protest the misogynistic violence they face in disproportionate numbers. As a white feminist, I have asked: What are aboriginal men doing about this? It's one thing to look for solutions to violence against aboriginal women from within society. The calls for a national inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women have not abated, fuelled by the death of 15-year-old Tina Fontaine. But for me and others like me (read white, middle-class and privileged), I want to know what men -- aboriginal men -- are going to do to protect their sisters and mothers.
  • How they obstruct your right to know

    There's a carnival game called Whac-a-Mole. You hit the mole coming out of one hole with your rubber mallet, only to have another mole come out a different hole. It's fun, if not a bit frenetic. In many ways, the Whac-a-Mole is a metaphor for how government organizations skirt the public's desire for transparency and accountability in information. When one law is put in place, officials find ways to work around those laws to clip full disclosure.
  • NFL can't 'take the stairs' on violence

    Fox & Friends came under fire earlier this week for suggesting the lesson learned in the Ray Rice case is to "take the stairs" to avoid the release of embarrassing videotapes that end football careers. While the panelist's joke was tasteless and unacceptable, the message may not be too far off. The NFL has been despicable in its response to domestic violence in general and the Rice case specifically, particularly since there is now evidence officials were aware of the video footage showing Rice punching his then fiancée unconscious from inside an Atlantic City hotel elevator. Only when that video was released by TMZ earlier this week did they decide to act and suspend the running back indefinitely.
  • Take suicide out of the closet

    In October 1996, while walking to work in Edmonton, a man killed himself in front of me. It was a life-changing event for me, but when I tried to get the details about who this man was, I was frustrated there was no mention of his suicide in any of the local media. It was explained to me that media don't often report on suicides for a number of reasons -- most notably, concerns about the so-called contagion effect or copycat suicides. But, what are the responsibilities of the media in reporting suicides? Given the high-profile death of Robin Williams and the heart-wrenching story today from Mike McIntyre about Ethan Williams, suicide has certainly been up for discussion, particularly in new social media, online and around the water cooler. What role can the media play in responsible coverage of suicide? Plenty, it seems.
  • Women settling into politics

    When's the last time someone asked Premier Gary Doer what he's done for men lately?

    For Doer, there's no expectation that he will represent men more avidly than women. There's no expectation that he must take into account his gender while doing his job. And while some of my cynical colleagues will say everything Doer does is aimed at helping men, he's not required to actively speak on behalf of men, simply because he is a man.

  • It's a scandal!

    Political scandals are nothing new, but how we talk about political scandal has definitely changed.

    The genesis of the modern media scandal in politics can be found in the coverage in the 1970s of the Watergate break-in. The story was transformative, changing forever the relationship between the media and government and fostering a new brand of reportage -- investigative journalism.

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