Bob Cox

Bob Cox

Publisher

Bob Cox was named publisher of the Winnipeg Free Press in November 2007. He joined the newspaper as editor in May 2005.

“Rejoined” is a better word for it, because Bob first worked at the newspaper as a reporter in January 1984. He covered crime and courts for three years before getting restless and moving on to other journalism jobs.

Since then, his career has spanned four provinces and five cities. Highlights include working in Ottawa for the Canadian Press covering Prime Minister Jean Chrétien during his first term in office, and five years at the Globe and Mail in Toronto, first as national editor and later as night editor.

Bob grew up on a farm in southwestern Ontario, but has spent most of his adult life in Western Canada in Winnipeg, Regina and Edmonton.

Recent articles of Bob Cox

One last story — actually, two — before I go

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One last story — actually, two — before I go

Bob Cox 4 minute read Saturday, Jul. 23, 2022

I once watched a colleague stand up in a newsroom on his last day of work and address his soon-to-be-former co-workers.

He imparted his decades of wisdom and told them how they should do their jobs and what principles they should uphold while he was enjoying retirement. Listening to him I made a solemn vow: never tell people what to do if they’re staying and you’re going.

So, I won’t. I am leaving my post as publisher. Rather than preaching, I’ll leave you with a story — the core of all good journalism.

Actually, I have two stories. Both are about coming to the Winnipeg Free Press, once as a reporter and once as a senior manager. Both stories start with me asleep.

Saturday, Jul. 23, 2022

I once watched a colleague stand up in a newsroom on his last day of work and address his soon-to-be-former co-workers.

He imparted his decades of wisdom and told them how they should do their jobs and what principles they should uphold while he was enjoying retirement. Listening to him I made a solemn vow: never tell people what to do if they’re staying and you’re going.

So, I won’t. I am leaving my post as publisher. Rather than preaching, I’ll leave you with a story — the core of all good journalism.

Actually, I have two stories. Both are about coming to the Winnipeg Free Press, once as a reporter and once as a senior manager. Both stories start with me asleep.

An in-your-face approach to speed enforcement

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An in-your-face approach to speed enforcement

Bob Cox 4 minute read Saturday, Jun. 18, 2022

To improve road safety around Winnipeg and Manitoba, here’s an idea that we can steal — relentless, transparent, automated enforcement of speed limits through the use of permanently installed roadside cameras.

Yes, it will make opponents of photo enforcement scream. But it works.

I encountered it on a recent trip to Sweden. Over and over again on highways, I saw the same sequence. First came a sign outlining the speed limit. Beside it was a sign with a camera on it. Then, about 100 metres later, a real camera was posted on the roadside.

Drivers approach with the certainty that they will be photographed and fined if they are over the limit. There are no tricks to it, no hiding to try and catch people unaware, and a chance to slow down if you happen to be going too fast. There are thousands of these speed cameras along Swedish roads, and their omnipresence keeps the vast majority of drivers at or under the speed limit.

Saturday, Jun. 18, 2022

To improve road safety around Winnipeg and Manitoba, here’s an idea that we can steal — relentless, transparent, automated enforcement of speed limits through the use of permanently installed roadside cameras.

Yes, it will make opponents of photo enforcement scream. But it works.

I encountered it on a recent trip to Sweden. Over and over again on highways, I saw the same sequence. First came a sign outlining the speed limit. Beside it was a sign with a camera on it. Then, about 100 metres later, a real camera was posted on the roadside.

Drivers approach with the certainty that they will be photographed and fined if they are over the limit. There are no tricks to it, no hiding to try and catch people unaware, and a chance to slow down if you happen to be going too fast. There are thousands of these speed cameras along Swedish roads, and their omnipresence keeps the vast majority of drivers at or under the speed limit.

New bill a key step in addressing news crisis

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New bill a key step in addressing news crisis

Bob Cox 4 minute read Wednesday, Apr. 6, 2022

IT’S supposed to address a crisis, but the name of the legislation may just put you to sleep – Act Respecting Online Communications Platforms that Make News Content Available to Persons in Canada.

In fact, many of us in the news business have pretty much nodded off waiting for the bill to be introduced in the House of Commons this week that would require digital platforms such as Google and Facebook to negotiate payments for content with news publishers.

News Media Canada, which represents daily and community newspapers across the country, started lobbying in early 2016 to get the federal government to force digital companies to support journalism. Six years later, we finally seem to be getting somewhere on what Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez described recently as “a crisis in the Canadian news system.”

Crisis, indeed. News Media Canada representatives were met with blank stares when we first started using that word with federal politicians and officials six years ago. Even though a steady stream of newspapers had been closing for years and remaining newsrooms dwindled as staffing was cut, there was little awareness that public-interest journalism was in trouble in Canada, or that the government could play a role in helping it survive.

Wednesday, Apr. 6, 2022

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Minister of Canadian Heritage Pablo Rodriguez

Free Press temporarily alters print delivery time

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Free Press temporarily alters print delivery time

Bob Cox 2 minute read Monday, Jan. 10, 2022

Dear readers:

The most recent COVID-19 variant has struck workforces across the province, and the Winnipeg Free Press is also feeling its effects.

In order to cope with an increase in absences by staff and newspaper carriers, we are making a few adjustments that could delay delivery of your morning printed edition.

The Free Press normally completes deliveries by 7 a.m. weekdays and 8 a.m. Saturdays, but we have moved the deadlines temporarily for the city of Winnipeg to 9 a.m. weekdays and 10 a.m. Saturdays.

Monday, Jan. 10, 2022

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / FREE PRESS FILES
In order to cope with an increase in absences by staff and newspaper carriers due to COVID, we are making a few adjustments that could delay delivery of your morning printed edition.

In the misinformation age, the truth needs champions

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In the misinformation age, the truth needs champions

Bob Cox 3 minute read Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021

“FALSEHOOD flies, and the truth comes limping after it.”

If you think that quote comes from someone studying the spread of misinformation through social media, think again.

Jonathan Swift, author of Gulliver’s Travels, wrote those words in 1710, more than 300 years ago.

The quote has been rephrased and repeated many times in many ways. It is often misquoted and attributed to someone else. One version — “a lie can travel around the world and back again while the truth is lacing up its boots” — is often wrongly attributed to everyone from Mark Twain to Winston Churchill.

Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021

WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES
Newspapers have provided communities with a trusted source of information since the early 1700s.

Reduced speeds won’t expand travel time

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Reduced speeds won’t expand travel time

Bob Cox 4 minute read Saturday, Jul. 17, 2021

I drive a car that spends almost all its time on the streets of Winnipeg. Thanks to the vehicle’s trip computer, I know my average speed — 31 kilometres per hour.

So, the current debate over lowering speed limits on some city streets comes as a bit of a surprise. There is some opposition as the City of Winnipeg begins a yearlong experiment with reducing the speed limit to 30 km/h from 50 km/h on sections of four local streets. Do opponents of the move realize how fast they really travel?

The simple fact is that lowering speed limits to 30 km/h on many residential streets is not going to change how quickly you get around town — and it will save lives in the process.

It is well known that the actual speed vehicles travel in an urban area is governed by such factors as traffic volumes, the road system, accidents and construction — and not so much by posted speed limits.

Saturday, Jul. 17, 2021

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES
Reducing speeds on residential streets, as is being done on four routes during a City of Winnipeg experiment this year, would have little impact on drivers’ overall travel times.

Predictions of newspapers’ demise were premature

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Predictions of newspapers’ demise were premature

Bob Cox 4 minute read Saturday, May. 8, 2021

For seven years I have been the chair of a board of a national association in an industry that is supposed to be dying.

You might imagine that would be a gloomy task. But, quite the contrary, I’m happy to report that Canadian newspapers are still very much alive and very much involved in developing sustainable models to deliver news and information in the future.

News Media Canada represents and provides services to daily and community newspapers, and other news outlets, across the country. Its board represents the range of news organizations from big ones such as the Toronto Star to tiny ones like the Gabriola Sounder, a community paper published on Gabriola Island in British Columbia. I stepped down as chair of the board this week, after taking the post in 2014.

A few years earlier, some bright thinkers on the future of media had come up with something called the newspaper extinction timeline. According to it, the Winnipeg Free Press should not be here today.

Saturday, May. 8, 2021

Adrian Wyld / The Canadian Press
Minister of Canadian Heritage Steven Guilbeault has introduced legislation offering Canadian news media long-sought supports.

Seeking the truth has never been more important

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Seeking the truth has never been more important

Bob Cox 4 minute read Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020

Journalists know one thing for certain — readers can handle the truth.

The first principle of journalism is to seek truth and report it — to put the facts into the hands of people, so they know what is really going on.

That is why News Media Canada, which represents daily and community newspapers across the country, has adopted a new slogan: Champion the Truth. It’s a reminder to everyone of the core goal of journalism.

Seeking the truth has never been more important, as Canadians cope with an enduring pandemic that is affecting every aspect of our lives. To get the information they need, Canadians have turned to sources they trust. More than half say they have relied on local, national and international news outlets as a main source of information about COVID-19.

Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020

Journalists know one thing for certain — readers can handle the truth.

The first principle of journalism is to seek truth and report it — to put the facts into the hands of people, so they know what is really going on.

That is why News Media Canada, which represents daily and community newspapers across the country, has adopted a new slogan: Champion the Truth. It’s a reminder to everyone of the core goal of journalism.

Seeking the truth has never been more important, as Canadians cope with an enduring pandemic that is affecting every aspect of our lives. To get the information they need, Canadians have turned to sources they trust. More than half say they have relied on local, national and international news outlets as a main source of information about COVID-19.

Facebook has one-sided relationship with news media

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Facebook has one-sided relationship with news media

Bob Cox 4 minute read Saturday, Sep. 5, 2020

WOULD Facebook block you from sharing news stories on its platforms in Canada?

The idea seems far-fetched, but it’s coming closer to reality in Australia, where the social-media giant made headlines this week with its response to the government’s efforts to make digital platforms pay for news content.

Facebook warned that if a proposed law requiring payment for news goes into effect, it will “reluctantly stop allowing publishers and people in Australia from sharing local and international news on Facebook and Instagram.”

The Australian government did not blink. Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the government would continue with the legislation and did not respond to “coercion or heavy-handed threats.”

Saturday, Sep. 5, 2020

Rod McGuirk / The Associated Press Files
Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg responded quickly to Facebook's 'heavy-handed threats' regarding legislation aimed at making digital platforms pay for news content.

Rock a metaphor for new form of togetherness

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Rock a metaphor for new form of togetherness

Bob Cox 4 minute read Tuesday, May. 26, 2020

On a recent sunny Manitoba morning, I opened my front door to discover a large purple rock on the deck.

The rock was covered with initials and had “204” on the front. Underneath was a note from my friend Carol. “Consider yourself stoned,” it began, explaining that I was supposed to walk the rock one mile and deliver it to another member of the gym we both belong to.

A social media search discovered that Carol got the rock from Jim who got it from Chris, etc. — a chain of people from our gym, CrossFit 204, sharing a 20-kg stone, scrawling their initials on it and passing it along. I haven’t seen any of them since March. The rock connected us again.

A gym member started the chain a few weeks ago, and the rock has been showing up on lawns and front steps ever since.

Tuesday, May. 26, 2020

Supplied
Man Who Runs With a Rock, a.k.a. Free Press publisher Bob Cox.

Manitobans are hitting the pandemic ‘wall’

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Manitobans are hitting the pandemic ‘wall’

Bob Cox 4 minute read Monday, May. 11, 2020

The toughest stretch of a marathon does not come in the final kilometres.

Instead, runners hit “the wall” around the 30-km mark of the 42.2-km race. Fatigue overtakes effort. Negative thoughts overwhelm you. Continuing takes all you’ve got.

A lot of Manitobans are hitting the wall. We’re grumpy, fed up with our physically distanced, socially isolated lives. We’re tempted to do something crazy, such as gathering in a group of more than 10 people.

Monday, May. 11, 2020

Runners hit “the wall” around the 30-km mark of a 42.2-km marathon. A lot of Manitobans are hitting the wall when it comes to weeks of pandemic protection measures. (Alberto Pezzali / The Associated Press files)

Internet giants should pay their share

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Internet giants should pay their share

Bob Cox 5 minute read Tuesday, Apr. 28, 2020

Newspapers have never been so loved — and never been so neglected.

The thirst for coverage of how the COVID-19 pandemic is turning the world upside-down has doubled, even tripled, the audiences of news publishers over the past two months. Readers have turned overwhelmingly to trusted news sources for information on the impact of the deadly virus on their communities.

Skyrocketing demand for your products is supposed to drive revenues in the same direction. Yet the very existence of many news outlets is in question as they deal with falling revenues that have caused layoffs, pay cuts and closures.

In the news business, as in so many areas, the COVID-19 crisis has highlighted and magnified a festering problem — publishers are not paid for content that is widely used in the digital world.

Tuesday, Apr. 28, 2020

FILE - This Friday, June 16, 2017, file photo shows the Google logo at a gadgets show in Paris. Google said it has achieved a breakthrough in quantum computing research, saying its quantum processor has completed a calculation in just a few minutes that would take a traditional supercomputer thousands of years to finish. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus, File)

Sports with little fanfare

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Sports with little fanfare

Bob Cox 4 minute read Friday, Apr. 24, 2020

A lot of us who are casual sports observers are asking a pretty simple question: How can you play big-league sports without fans? In other words, without us?

Pretty much every major sports league — hockey, baseball, basketball, soccer, golf, you name it — is considering plans to resume play with athletes, officials and TV crews, but no fans. There won’t be any hometown crowds, just performers in bubble communities.

In a recent virtual episode of Saturday Night Live, Tom Hanks was telling jokes in his kitchen. The pauses after each punchline seemed to last forever. Maybe the jokes were funny; maybe they weren’t. Who could tell without a live audience to laugh?

So you have to wonder how exciting it will be if there is no one to cheer when Patrik Laine blasts the puck over a goalie’s shoulder. It may feel more like a televised practice for those viewing at home.

Friday, Apr. 24, 2020

Mike Sudoma / Winnipeg Free Press Files

Free Press employees deliver definition of dedication

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Free Press employees deliver definition of dedication

Bob Cox 4 minute read Monday, Apr. 6, 2020

It is eerily quiet around the Winnipeg Free Press building on Mountain Avenue. The parking lot is mostly empty, few people walk the halls, and employees keep their distance from one another.

The silence is deceiving, however: the people behind the newspaper are working harder than ever in this new reality to keep readers informed about the COVID-19 pandemic, its impact on their lives, and what they need to do to stay healthy.

Reporters work from makeshift newsrooms in their homes; photographers take pictures of people standing behind windows; carriers stay in their vehicles and pick up papers in a drive-through lineup; customer service representatives answer phones in a thinned-out call centre; accounting staff make crucial moves to meet our financial obligations; press operators show up every night — and have vowed to get the paper out, even if they have to wear full protective gear to do so.

Monday, Apr. 6, 2020

Inside workers at the Free Press have voted to accept 20 per cent or 12 per cent pay cuts. (Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press)

Array

Array 4 minute read Preview

Array

Array 4 minute read Friday, Apr. 3, 2020

The Duck Pond at Assiniboine Park does not quite have the expanse of Burlington Bay, on the western tip of Lake Ontario.

But it was an adequate stand-in recently when I completed the “Around the Bay” 30-kilometre race, North America’s oldest road race that takes place annually in Hamilton, but was postponed this year. The crowds of enthusiastic supporters were a bit thin — non-existent, actually. But that’s the reality of virtual racing.

This weekend is traditionally the start of the outdoor racing season for Winnipeg’s sizable community of runners. It kicks off with a five-kilometre race at Assiniboine Park, the first in the Patrick Riddell running series.

But not this year. COVID-19 has destroyed the entire season. The list of cancelled or postponed events on the Manitoba Runners Association website grows every week.

Friday, Apr. 3, 2020

Daniel Crump / Winnipeg Free Press
Free Press publisher Bob Cox, pictured during a run at Assiniboine Park, uses an app called Strava to keep track of his runs and interact with other runners using the app.

Credit to feds for wage subsidy relief

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Credit to feds for wage subsidy relief

Bob Cox    4 minute read Tuesday, Mar. 31, 2020

If you’re going to criticize fairly, you also need to be able to compliment when appropriate.

Thus, today I offer kind words for the business wage subsidy program Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced over a series of days starting last week.

The scope of this emergency program keeps growing. I certainly never studied economics at a high enough level to comprehend how the government is going to pay for it all. However, it appears this unprecedented support will keep businesses across the country afloat during the most significant economic disruption we have lived through in recent times.

It is remarkably bold of the federal government to do this. It is a huge bet that the impact of COVID-19 will be contained, the economy will rebound, and companies will get back on their feet in a reasonable period of time.

Tuesday, Mar. 31, 2020

Justin Tang / The Canadian Press files
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a crucial wage subsidy program on March 27.

PM’s promise to news media just empty words

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PM’s promise to news media just empty words

Bob Cox 4 minute read Thursday, Mar. 26, 2020

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau lied to the country.

That’s not an easy thing to write about the most visible authority figure tasked with trying to inform and keep the nation calm during a worldwide pandemic.

But he did. “Right now it’s more important than ever that Canadians have access to the latest news and information,” Trudeau said during his daily news conference on Wednesday.

“To ensure that journalists can continue to do this vital work, our government is announcing new measures to support them.”

Thursday, Mar. 26, 2020

Why did Justin Trudeau stand in front of the nation and lie about helping journalists? (Sean Kilpatrick / The Canadian Press)

A message for Free Press readers on newspaper production during the coronavirus pandemic

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A message for Free Press readers on newspaper production during the coronavirus pandemic

Bob Cox 3 minute read Monday, Mar. 16, 2020

During this uncertain time, I would like to reassure our readers that the Winnipeg Free Press will continue to play a responsible role informing you about what is happening, as we have many times when circumstances have challenged our community.

This means many things for us as a news outlet, an employer and a business that puts the health and safety of our community first and foremost.

As a news outlet, we will continue to provide accurate information from public-health officials and others about what is happening and what is changing on an almost hourly basis. It is more important than ever to get information from a trusted local news source as we adjust our lives to unfolding events.

We have also made all content on COVID-19 available at no charge on our digital platforms to ensure the public has full access to this information.

Monday, Mar. 16, 2020

The Winnipeg Free Press has implemented all recommendations from provincial and national governments and is arranging for as many staff as possible to work from home.

Boston Marathon still in sight, no beans about it

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Boston Marathon still in sight, no beans about it

Bob Cox 4 minute read Friday, Mar. 13, 2020

The Boston marathon, the oldest continuously run marathon in the world, has been postponed for the first time in 124 years.

It’s a drop in the ocean of events being cancelled or put off. We’re all swept up in it now. Postponing Boston is a small thing in the bigger picture.

But sometimes when events are global in scope and hard to fathom, it’s the small, personal things that bring home what is happening.

I was supposed to be among the 31,500 runners at the start line for the 124th Boston marathon on April 20. Postponing it sure makes me reflect on the 1,500 kilometres I have run since October — outdoors in -25 C temperatures, indoors on the treadmill in my basement, set at a steep incline to simulate the famous hills in the late stages of the Boston marathon.

Friday, Mar. 13, 2020

(AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File)
The 124th Boston Marathon was scheduled for Monday, April 20, 2020. Marathon organizers say they're postponing the prestigious race until Sept. 14 because of concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.

A new blueprint to support local journalism

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A new blueprint to support local journalism

Bob Cox 4 minute read Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020

The just-published book American Manifesto: Saving Democracy from Villains, Vandals, and Ourselves has a list of actions for people to take to tackle the crisis in democracy in the United States.

No. 1 on the list: “Subscribe to your local newspaper.”

Author Bob Garfield, a Washington-based commentator on media, says the dwindling resources available for serious news gathering have neutered the ability of media to be watchdogs and inform the public.

“Don’t starve the watchdogs,” writes Garfield. “Nourish them.”

Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020

The just-published book American Manifesto: Saving Democracy from Villains, Vandals, and Ourselves has a list of actions for people to take to tackle the crisis in democracy in the United States.

No. 1 on the list: “Subscribe to your local newspaper.”

Author Bob Garfield, a Washington-based commentator on media, says the dwindling resources available for serious news gathering have neutered the ability of media to be watchdogs and inform the public.

“Don’t starve the watchdogs,” writes Garfield. “Nourish them.”

Runners need not eschew high-tech new shoes

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Runners need not eschew high-tech new shoes

Bob Cox 4 minute read Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020

One day last July, I plunked down $365 for a pair of neon green running shoes. It’s unlikely I’ll wear them more than a dozen times.

If that makes me crazy, much of the rest of the running world is also nuts. You see, we just want to run faster.

So much so that the shoes, known as Nike Vaporflys, are flying off the shelves and causing controversy at races everywhere.

Last week World Athletics, the governing body for track and field, ruled the Vaporfly shoes are legal and can be used in international competitions such as the Olympics. World Athletics also warned there is evidence that the integrity of the sport might be threatened by new shoe technology.

Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020

Supplied
Bob Cox in his neon green Vaporflys.

Canada not ‘more divided than ever’

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Canada not ‘more divided than ever’

Bob Cox 4 minute read Thursday, Oct. 24, 2019

There has been a considerable amount of hand-wringing over the results of the federal election and what it means for national unity.

Depending on who is talking, or which headlines you read, Canada is either “further divided,” “truly divided,” or “more divided than ever.”

But are we really? You can perhaps forgive a 40-year-old political leader for using this rhetoric, as Andrew Scheer has done. But those of us who have lived a bit longer and seen a bit more of Canadian political history know this is simply not true.

Much has been made of the failure of the Liberals to win a single seat in Alberta or Saskatchewan. It would have been more surprising if the Liberals had won a handful of these seats.

Thursday, Oct. 24, 2019

Sean Kilpatrick / The Canadian Press
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was all smiles on Monday night, but a minority mandate means tense times ahead for the Liberal government.

Newseum’s future endangered

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Newseum’s future endangered

Bob Cox 5 minute read Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2019

One summer day in Washington, D.C., a few years ago, I found myself staring at front page news — on the death of Martin Luther, leader of the Protestant Reformation, on Feb. 18, 1546.

It was the title page of a German newsbook, complete with a woodcut portrait of Luther, carefully preserved and displayed at the Newseum, which to this day remains my favourite museum in the world.

Newsbooks began appearing in Europe in the 1500s and led to the creation of regular newspapers. They were the first news media, putting current information into the hands of the masses by way of the relatively new technology of the printing press.

The Newseum has devoted itself to displaying and animating the history of news media, from the 1500s to today, from the serious to the silly, and attracts close to a million visitors a year.

Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2019

AP Photo / Pablo Martinez Monsivais
People stop to look at newspaper front pages on display at the Newseum in Washington on Sept. 25, the day after the announcement of a formal impeachment inquiry against U.S. President Donald Trump.

Government program intended to support — not control — journalism

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Government program intended to support — not control — journalism

Bob Cox 4 minute read Friday, May. 24, 2019

I love oxymorons, those combinations of contradictory words, like jumbo shrimp, lead balloon and civil war.

I love them because one aptly describes the work I have done for almost a quarter of a century — journalist manager.

People in other occupations are constantly amazed at the stories that newsroom managers tell. “You mean you sent the reporter to an assignment and she came back and told you that she wasn’t going to write a story?” Or, “He wrote that terrible thing about the mayor and you didn’t fire him?”

Well, yes. Professional journalists are among the hardest people to manage. That is not surprising for people who are trained to ask questions, to challenge authority, to expose and to criticize.

Friday, May. 24, 2019

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
The Winnipeg Free Press newsroom.