Reader Bridge to Free Press future
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 09/04/2021 (604 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
There are many things a good newspaper needs to be.
A light that exposes injustice. A magnifying glass that brings into focus what otherwise might be missed. A signpost to help you navigate the way to events that matter to you.
A foundation that supports and strengthens the community through the power of its words and pictures.
But these and other fundamental qualities of a newspaper we strive to deliver each and every day aren’t enough if the Free Press isn’t also a bridge.
For far too long, our newsroom has been like so many others in this country, offering journalism built on connections already established and well-served.
Those connections were largely a reflection of both readership and the makeup of the newsroom. However, those connections need to be broadened if the Free Press is truly going to serve its increasingly diverse community.
A commitment to broaden reach and to expand coverage to underserved communities is the foundation upon which the Free Press is building a new initiative that will be the first of its kind among major Canadian newspapers.
The Reader Bridge is designed to be a new piece of newsroom infrastructure, a span to invite and increase two-way traffic involving our journalists and readers from diverse backgrounds who might never have had any contact with the Free Press or any other mainstream media.
The project, funded by Google’s Global News Initiative, will have the Free Press newsroom reach out to those who represent the changing face of our city and province, so our journalism will be infused with the equity and inclusion critical to strengthening communities today.
By reaching out and delivering stories and perspectives the Free Press missed in the past, we hope to draw in new readers who will be critical to sustaining our future.
I’ll be the first to admit the Reader Bridge is an adaptation long overdue. As I made clear in an acknowledgment published amidst the racial reckoning in the weeks after the 2020 killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis sparked global reflection: the Free Press needs to do more, and needs to be better.
The commitment that began with an apology for the times when our coverage has fallen short, had been blind to those marginalized by the colour of their skin — and the cases when we have been part of the problem, not the solution — has already led to change within the Free Press newsroom.
My hope is the Reader Bridge will cement a path where our newsroom intersects with those we need to better serve.
From that intersection of race, ethnicity and diversity, our journalistic mission will be strengthened. It will be enriched with deeper and richer stories, adding the texture and tone critical to understanding, to growth, and to our ability to provide the light, the magnifying glass, the signposts, and the foundation upon which a newspaper’s varied and diverse readership can rely.
We’ve arrived at the Bridge. Here’s to crossing it together.
Paul Samyn is the Free Press editor.
Paul Samyn has been part of the Free Press newsroom for more than a quarter century, working his way up after starting as a rookie reporter in 1988.
Free Press asking Manitobans of colour to join in making our storytelling more diverse, inclusive
For the last three months, I’ve been spending much of my time trying to build a bridge.
I was thrilled that the Free Press turned to me to help lead this groundbreaking project. But I was also humbled and, if I’m honest, a little scared.
I wondered if I could do it. If I could actually help build and create a new connection for our newsroom and for readers to offer so much meaning and potential. I wondered if my shoulders were strong enough to help carry this forward.
But as a proud Indigenous woman who is a member of Brokenhead Ojibway Nation, I knew I had to take my space offered to me in the newsroom to work towards creating a better, more inclusive Free Press for all.
Grassroots organization teaches families how to navigate the child-welfare system
Jacqueline Rieu wants her son back. He’s eight years old, is on the autism spectrum and has been living in foster care since being apprehended by Manitoba Child and Family Services five years ago.
“Other than my son having a disability, no one understands why my son is not home with me,” Rieu says, adding that she has since been diagnosed with autism herself. “What they’ve said in the past… is, ‘We don’t think you can handle his disability,’ even though I have the same disability and more understanding.”
The provincial department tasked with protecting children has long been a presence in Rieu’s life. She grew up in the CFS system and both her children have been apprehended — her daughter was taken into care from the hospital shortly after she was born two years ago. Rieu was able to regain custody of her youngest last July with assistance from Fearless R2W, a grassroots organization created to help families understand and navigate the child-welfare system.
Fearless R2W — so-named for the postal code blanketing the North End neighbourhood in which the group operates — was formed in 2014 in response to community calls to action at Meet Me at the Bell Tower events.
An apology for marginalizing people of colour; and a promise to atone for our past
The St. James of my childhood was a largely monochromatic world.
Most of our neighbours were Caucasian, or more simply, white. So were my classmates. The same could be said for the subscribers on my Winnipeg Free Press paper route.
The area’s white member of Parliament, Dan McKenzie, made headlines by defending apartheid after a visit to South Africa in 1982 and suggesting Black people made natural car mechanics. Despite the controversy his remarks created, he was re-elected in 1984.
Six years later, I walked for the first time into the newsroom of the Free Press, a local institution which, like so many others in the city at the time, was also very white.
Updated on Saturday, April 10, 2021 9:12 AM CDT: Adds link to past Samyn column.