If you had asked me while I was a Free Press paperboy what it took to become a newspaper editor, I probably would have looked to the Daily Bugle’s J. Jonah Jameson for clues.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 4/1/2019 (900 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

If you had asked me while I was a Free Press paperboy what it took to become a newspaper editor, I probably would have looked to the Daily Bugle’s J. Jonah Jameson for clues.

As an avid fan of the old Spider-Man cartoon series, I would have guessed all you needed to do was chew on a cigar, slam your fist on the desk and routinely yell "Parker" across the newsroom to chew out a young crusading journalist.

Paul Samyn, editor of the Winnipeg Free Press: About the same amount of shouting and desk-pounding as J. Jonah Jameson, but considerably fewer demands for photos of Spider-Man. (Trevor Hagan for The Star)

Paul Samyn, editor of the Winnipeg Free Press: About the same amount of shouting and desk-pounding as J. Jonah Jameson, but considerably fewer demands for photos of Spider-Man. (Trevor Hagan for The Star)

While I never got into cigars, I do a pretty good job at the fist-pounding and yelling across the newsroom. But one thing I never imagined I would need to do in this job was dig deep into what’s happening in the newspaper industry in order to enable our newsroom to continue producing the journalism this community needs.

All of which takes me to the latest report that was part of my holiday reading: Nurturing Value for News Consumers.

I’m pretty sure none of you is going to pick up the latest offering from INMA’s research fellow at Oxford and Harvard, so there’s no need for a spoiler alert atop what is my seventh annual New Year’s message to readers.

One of the truths Grzegorz Piechota uncovered that will influence the future revenue and relevancy journey for newspapers such as the Free Press is an understanding of the relationship economy. Whether we like it or not, we are competing against the likes of Netflix, Amazon Prime and Spotify. And why those digital content libraries are winning is because they are remarkably good at retaining subscribers.

J. Jonah Jameson: Not particularly concerned about subscriber retention.

J. Jonah Jameson: Not particularly concerned about subscriber retention.

"Retention — not acquisition — is the win," Piechota writes. "Acquiring a new customer is five to 25 times more expensive than retaining an existing one. Thus, the importance of nurturing your current customer base."

In the case of the Free Press, the importance of our current customer base has never been clearer as reader revenue — our single revenue line — is now 10 points greater than what we earn from advertisers. And that means an editor also has to become a nurturer.

"Relationships that aren’t nurtured fall apart," Piechota notes. "That truth is the same in your home and at your news media company. A monthly subscription is nice. A lifelong relationship is what sustains us."

Fortunately, the Free Press began to focus on that relationship two years ago, when we started to talk about our readers as members, rather than customers.

We began reporting directly to them by way of our quarterly Insiders Edition. We invited them to celebrate the importance newspapers play in our country with a free night at the movies that included a post-film forum on the state of journalism. We’ve rewarded them with free tickets to Winnipeg Jets games, where we not only talk hockey but also get feedback on how we are serving our readers. And below you can read heartfelt expressions of gratitude from a wide cross-section of staff to those that fund our journalism.

“Relationships that aren’t nurtured fall apart. That truth is the same in your home and at your news media company."

When I review what we did in 2018 to help retain readers and strengthen that relationship, our newsroom takes pride at introducing a new way to present breaking news online and the debut of our digital evening news magazine, Above the Fold.

We also added to our suite of newsletters, which is crucial to growing a paid digital audience.

And we were the only Canadian media outlet to be recognized by Editor & Publisher, winning three of the five nominations. Being lauded with the likes of the Boston Globe, CNN and NBC speaks volumes about what we are accomplishing in the digital space.

On the print side, we introduced two new sections that have earned praise from our readers and helped improve the value proposition of our weekend edition. The Passages cover story kicked off with us righting some historical wrongs in terms of how we ignored the accomplishments of women, while the Weekend Review allows us to shine a spotlight on the critical writing we do so well.

On both platforms, we consistently have set the agenda, provided depth and context that other media can’t or won’t and made the case for the important role newspapers can and should play in a community. Plus, we are doing it all for just slightly more than the $13.99 Netflix is now charging for its monthly subscription — which never includes any coverage from city hall or the Manitoba legislature.

Of course, there is more to do. And more that will be done. Fortunately, the relationship we have with you as a paid reader will help make it possible in 2019.

Happy New Year!

-Paul Samyn is the Free Press editor




Reader rewards

You can never go wrong listening to readers.

And you are always right when you look to ways to reward your readers.

In November, we convened a readers’ forum for 14 lucky subscribers who got a to watch the Jets game in our suite and talk about the Free Press with publisher Bob Cox, editor Paul Samyn and other senior members of our newsroom.

Readers with Free Press publisher Bob Cox (seated at table, left) in the Free Press suite at a Jets game.

Readers with Free Press publisher Bob Cox (seated at table, left) in the Free Press suite at a Jets game.

And when the Anaheim Ducks come to town on Jan. 13, we will have another readers panel convened in our suite for the following lucky winners who entered recent draws:

  • Three pairs of tickets for subscribers: Glen Mazur, Trevor Stiles and Bohdan Wowczuk
  • One pair of tickets for successfully solving our year-end news crossword contest: Brad Woodfine
  • Three pairs of tickets to our youth essay winners: Hayden Tymchak, Ella Martin and Tristan James.

Congratulations to our winners and thank you to everyone who entered.

Please take a moment to read the entries by our winning youth essay writers:


My name is Hayden Tymchak. I go to my Nana and Poppy’s house every morning before school. We read the newspaper together when i get there and i like it. Newspapers are important because they are fun and have games and comics. My favourite comic is Beetle Bailey. I like the weekend coloured comics and I look forward to seeing them on Monday, because Nana and Poppy save them for me. I like the word find puzzle too. The newspaper tells you what movies are on and what singers are coming to town. My Poppy likes the car section and my Nana likes the Crossword. My favourite part is the Sports Section. I like to read about the Jets. I cut out pictures of Patrick Laine. He is my favourite Jet. I like the newspaper and it is important because I know what is happening in our community.

Thank you. I hope I win.

-Hayden Tymchak (Age 9)

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Why Newspapers Matter.

The newspaper has been around since 1690’s, but what makes them so significant that they stayed important that long? Newspapers are the bundles of paper thrown on your driveway or stuffed into your mailbox. Most people enjoy reading the newspaper at breakfast while sipping a cup of coffee. Whether the daily paper is about sports or the events happening around us you will always find something entertaining or informative.

The newspaper comes regularly offering everyday articles, advertisements, and of course, news. Newspapers contain various topics such as politics, sports, the weather, advertisements, and much more. Many people have multiple reasons for reading the newspapers and below are a few examples. They are made out of paper so it is recyclable which is another bonus.

The first reason members of my family read the paper is to be more knowledgeable of the events that are happening around them. The articles may present many stories about social issues or social accomplishments. They help you learn and be aware of situations that are happening near or far from you. I would also like to include some sports paper benefits. You can review the stats of the players or find out who the top team is right now, you can learn more about the previous moves that were used to score the winning goal.

"You can learn new opinions and sides of stories you have not really given thought to. Newspapers can change your perspective lots of topics. Newspapers are often made up of the writer’s opinions and evidence to prove their case so while reading the newspaper, different opinions may pop into your head."

The second reason is that newspapers come out consistently and they are easy to read and understand. Depending on which newspaper you have decided to read they may come out daily or weekly. They always have new and original articles in case the last one did not catch your eye and gives new educational information. Newspapers are easy to read because they are organized into categories and have pictures to appreciate the work more. The pictures may also be there for an advertisement which is another benefit because you can discover new products that you would like to try.

The third reason is because you can learn new opinions and sides of stories you have not really given thought to. Newspapers can change your perspective lots of topics. Newspapers are often made up of the writer’s opinions and evidence to prove their case so while reading the newspaper, different opinions may pop into your head.

As a result, newspapers have been around that long because they can be used for personal use, business use or even educational use. They can give you more information about what is going on around you and that can be helpful and useful. They are generally valued because of the information they can bring to one. And that’s why newspapers matter!

-Ella Martin (Age 13)

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Hi Mr. Samyn,

I saw your article in the Free Press this morning during my daily reading in my high school library. I am a grade eleven student at Westwood Collegiate and read the paper every morning to keep myself up to date with current affairs and what’s going on in the city. I enjoy reading the Free Press because I appreciate the truthful and relevant stories that are published every day by a reputable newspaper. With the increasing availability of digital news outlets literally at people’s fingertips due to the rise of the smartphone, I believe that a lot of people take quality news for granted and settle for the much inferior quality of reporting from countless places around the internet. I enjoy knowing that what I am reading is truthful and fact based.

I also appreciate the variety of different topics, columns, and sections that are included throughout the week. For instance, I always look forward to reading what Doug Speirs has to say, and I am also a big fan of the Auto section because I usually get to read about a car that is brand new to the market, and then sometimes there’s a story on a classic as well!

I believe that reading this type of journalism is absolutely imperative to having a well-rounded view of what is going on both at home and abroad. The wide range of stories published by the Free Press every day is unique in that any reader who picks it up should be able to find something of interest. If you’re not interested in World News or Politics, maybe you’ll be into the Sport Section or the Stock Market. The convenience of having all these topics combined into one paper is something that can never be replaced by the frenzy of random and unorganized stories that cover the internet every day.

Thank you for offering such a fantastic paper every morning.

-Tristan Mackid (Age 16)




We appreciate you

On the weekend of Jan. 11, we will be giving our readers a close-up look at how the Free Press does what it does every single day.

But we are giving our Insiders a sneak peek at a portion of that feature, sharing personal notes of thanks from our staff for the financial support from readers that funds our journalism.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Even now, nearly two decades into my writing career, there are moments that take my breath away. They find me in a multitude of places. A small-town curling rink, for instance, or a Hutterite kitchen. A cigar-box plane bound for a northern First Nation, or the debris-strewn scar of a violent tornado.

Melissa Martin

Melissa Martin

Each time, a thought washes over my mind: "I can’t believe I’m getting paid to do this."

I am living out a dream, because of readers. But it’s not my dream that is most important.

For as long as I have written, my words have been driven by one overarching vision: that Manitoba deserves to have its stories told with care and with passion. That we deserve to see our communities reflected with the detail and clarity that come only with time and significant investment. That this type of journalism should not only be a privilege of the more glittering and populated places; that our province’s truths are due the same attention.

And, above all else, that this voice should be local and independent, raised by, and for, Manitobans.

I am only the messenger. It is readers who grant me the space to try and be a better one.

So, in the first days of a new year, another moment arrives to take my breath away. Another thought dances through my mind when I reflect on all we’ve done: thank you.

Thank you for supporting us. Thank you for believing in us as we try to navigate the storms of today’s journalism business. Thank you for all your words of praise and your honest criticisms.

It is because of you that this Manitoba girl gets to tell her province’s stories. I hope that you find in them something worth exploring.

When you do, know that every word or picture is, in its own way, our thank-you card to you.

— Melissa Martin

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦


Wendy Sawatzky

Wendy Sawatzky

In the course of my work I have the opportunity to read almost all of the stories our reporters write, see the images our photographers shoot and observe the care and attention paid by copy editors and staff who lay out our articles online.

It’s a genuine privilege to work with so many people committed to telling Winnipeg stories, and it’s rewarding to see the impact those stories have in our community.

I’m grateful every day to the readers who fund this work.

My job sometimes introduces me to our readers when they’re not overjoyed with the Free Press — they’re having trouble using our website, or they’re dissatisfied with the way we’ve handled a story.

It might sound odd, but I’m also grateful for these conversations because it demonstrates how much people care about the work we’re doing, and how important it is for us to tell these stories.

— Wendy Sawatzky

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦


Your support allows me, as multimedia producer at the Free Press, to tinker, experiment and push the boundaries of what we can do online. For that, I thank you.

Graeme Bruce

Graeme Bruce

You have have allowed me to work on some of the best pieces of local data-driven journalism in Canada this year, including an in-depth analysis of hundreds of thousands of 911 calls in Winnipeg, a groundbreaking investigation into the the relationship between city police force and its watchdog and a closer look at female representation on municipal councils in Manitoba, to name a few.

Your support means we can remain nimble and help shape the future of digital news publishing in Canada and I’m proud to be a part of an independent organization still willing and able to take chances and chart a new course.

The biggest chance we took in 2018 was the overhaul of how we publish news online on a daily basis by way of the of our Above The Fold evening news magazine. Our daily edition, which I help curate and publish, is designed to make sure the unique journalism you support is seen by the biggest audience possible. That chance appears, largely, to have paid off.

I love this industry. It’s only because of you, the reader, that I can continue to thrive and help inform this city and province.

— Graeme Bruce

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦


"I make music for myself, not for other people."

When I was a music journalist, I'd run into a variation of this quote with some frequency. And to be honest, the logic always baffled me.

Jen Zoratti

Jen Zoratti

Shouldn't it be a goal to be heard? Or, in my case, read? When I write, I write for you. My favourite thing about this dream job is learning something interesting and being able to share it with you.

My other favourite thing? When someone trusts me to tell their story. It's a great honour and a great responsibility.

As a columnist/feature writer/podcaster here at the Free Press, I have a lot of freedom in terms of both the subjects I cover and the style in which I cover them.

As I believe the Free Press has shown time and time again, we do more here than report the news: we tell stories, start conversations, explore new angles and impacts and, hopefully, do all that in a way that can educate, entertain, inspire and challenge.

But we can't do any of that without you. Readers are as critical to newspapers as reporters and journalism.

At a time when there's more information to parse than ever before, I'm grateful that you choose to spend your valuable time with us.

— Jen Zoratti

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦


Solomon Israel

Solomon Israel

Reporting on marijuana legalization on behalf of our subscribers is an incredible privilege.

Legalization has brought with it a torrent of new information that comes out every day: fresh laws and regulations, new scientific research and untold personal stories.

I do my absolute best to sift through all that data and distil it down to the essentials, so Free Press (and The Leaf) readers can make sense of how legalization is changing the province and the country.

With your continued support, I'll continue telling those stories in 2019 — and if there's a specific cannabis-related story you'd love to read, let me know and I'll look into it!

— Solomon Israel

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦


Words cannot express enough how thankful I am to be working at the Winnipeg Free Press.

Niigaan Sinclair

Niigaan Sinclair

A space like this is due to the tremendous support and commitment of readers in believing in the importance of free, independent and local media and the inclusion of a voice like mine here.

In the world of 2019, diversity in our media is crucial to the Indigenous community, which rely on localized relationships in our territories and responsible, ethical journalists who can help build these connections while representing our people fairly.

I’ve witnessed this in the Winnipeg Free Press newsroom which, while nimbly transforming itself in a rapidly changing media environment, has responded positively to readers seeking the inclusion of Indigenous perspectives.

I’m excited to be a part of the Free Press and a part of this community, so I thank you immensely and look forward to continuing this work!


— Niigaan Sinclair

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦


Every weekday morning, I walk up Parliament Hill and try to make sense of what Ottawa has in store for Manitoba.

Dylan Robertson

Dylan Robertson

I report on what the province's MPs and senators are up to, and how big-scale policies such as the carbon tax or the national housing strategy will impact life in Winnipeg.

My position as parliamentary bureau chief exists because of our subscribers.

The tips readers sent in this past year have helped me break stories on Churchill’s railway crisis, the future of Kapyong Barracks and the military’s debate over pulling pilot training out of Portage la Prairie.

Your subscription helps me dig into regional and local issues the national media doesn’t cover. It also puts local issues on the federal scene. This year I’ve broken stories on mismanagement during wildfire evacuations, allegations of sexual exploitation at Manitoba Hydro sites and the governor general’s delayed visits to the Prairies.

The Free Press uses its subscription revenue to pay hundreds of dollars in fees for freedom-of-information requests and the editors give me the time to go over reams of documents with no guarantee I'll find anything worth writing about.

Those files have helped us expose safety issues at the federal fish-processing plant in Transcona, underfunding in the child-welfare system and the federal cabinet ignoring problems flagged by the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

This newspaper has had a parliamentary bureau since shortly after Manitoba joined Confederation, and it’s one of a handful of agencies keeping that tradition alive as this country's entire news industry grapples with budget pressures.

Every time I walk up Parliament Hill, I remember that our readers are trusting me to figure out whether Ottawa is giving them a fair shake. Thank you for your support.

— Dylan Robertson

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦


As photojournalists, we get to have a first-hand, boots-on-the-ground view of life in this city.

Mikaela MacKenzie

Mikaela MacKenzie

I feel honoured to have had the privilege of covering everything from immersive investigative pieces, to kids catching snowflakes, to the Jets' playoff run.

Since I’m the youngest person on the photo team, I can only imagine the breadth of what everyone else has covered in their careers at the paper!

We punch above our weight class in terms of in-depth storytelling and consistently go above and beyond to present our content with compelling visuals. We couldn’t tell these stories if Winnipeggers weren’t invested in local journalism.

I can’t wait to keep growing, learning and capturing this beautiful city, all thanks to you.

— Mikaela MacKenzie

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦


Times certainly have changed since I was a young editorial clerk working in the bustling Free Press newsroom on Carlton Street.

Leesa Dahl

Leesa Dahl

That was 30 years ago, and back then I never would have imagined a time when this newspaper would become a competitive multimedia producer with a growing digital audience who increasingly appreciates our outstanding online presence.

And for that I’m grateful.

I’m also thankful that these days, as a graphic artist responsible for the layout and design of our daily print product, I continue to play a significant role in creating our city’s finest newspaper.

After all, it’s been two decades since the industry adopted electronic layout and in that time I’ve laid out thousands of pages, created hundreds of logos and even redesigned our newspaper’s masthead.

Lately, I oversee the daily design of many pages and lay out most of the specialty sections of the newspaper, our community’s only broadsheet that is delivered to no less 125,000 Winnipeggers each and every day.

I’m proud of that.

And with the continuing support of readers like you I’m certain the Winnipeg Free Press and its dedicated, award-winning reporters and photographers can continue to be an essential part of your day for many years to come.

So, thanks for reading the newspaper. It means a lot to me.

Thanks for visiting our website. I love reading your comments.

And thanks for caring that this great city of ours continues to have a voice!


♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦


The Winnipeg Jets are a heck of a hockey team these days, giving their fans plenty to be proud about. And I’m proud to be part of a championship-calibre sports team at the Free Press, one that couldn’t function without our passionate, knowledgeable readers.

Mike McIntyre

Mike McIntyre

As Jets beat reporter and columnist, your backing helps me and my teammates produce the most in-depth daily coverage you can find — from practices, morning skates and every game — home and away — from the pre-season to the playoffs.

There’s a significant cost, naturally, that comes with pouring dedicated resources into following an NHL team. But it’s something we do without hesitation, because we know it is important to you and our community.

Whether it’s a detailed look at the summer training regime of Jack Roslovic, a look back at Patrik Laine’s first 100 goals, taking you behind the scenes of a typical practice, questioning the team’s handling of a player’s injury or just having fun with our weekly Dump & Chase digital hockey notebook, you’ll get a lot more than just the final score or the latest clichéd quotes.

In these ever-increasing times of team-controlled messages and public relations often being passed off as sports journalism, it’s more important than ever to maintain a strong, independent local voice that isn’t afraid to call it as we see it.

I take my responsibility to our readers seriously, and it’s a privilege to take you along for every step of the journey and give you a front-row seat to all the action.

Thank you for your continued support, and I’m looking forward to seeing what 2019 has in store for our team — and yours.

— Mike McIntyre

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦


Glancing through a few tearsheets from this past year, I am overwhelmed with the eclectic array of amazing local people that I get to meet and photograph every day on the job as a photojournalist with the Winnipeg Free Press: a 90-year-old Holocaust survivor; a young woman holding her homemade sign that reads, "Every woman is my daughter," at a protest march in honour of Tina Fontaine; and a farm family living in southern Manitoba etching out a living in an industry that has become big business.

Ruth Bonneville

Ruth Bonneville

They are just three samples of stories I get to work on every day and you, the reader, help make this happen.

In an age when buying local is cool, trendy and economically sustainable, I believe it is also socially responsible. And you can't get more local than your local newspaper. Knowing about what is going on in your community helps you become an informed citizen and informed citizens make for a more democratic society.

But reading local news isn't just about being informed, it also feeds you. How? Because investing in your local paper is like purchasing food from a local market. We investigate, cultivate and harvest stories of people that live amongst you and in your community. They're your neighbours, family members, co-workers, business owners and friends.

Without you we wouldn't be here, without you these stories couldn't be told and without you these photos would not be taken. Photos of people, places, businesses, industries, cultures and faith groups. Photos of new and old immigrants, trends, triumphs and tragedies.

These people and stories are what make up the fabric of our community and if we don't tell these stories, who will?

Like the phrase, "If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?" our endeavour at the paper is to count the trees that fall and also the ones that are planted. Thank you for opening the pages and consuming our local fare.

I wish to thank you, the Free Press reader, from the bottom of my heart. It is my honour to visually capture the stories of the people in our community and be a part of this long-standing institution.

— Ruth Bonneville





Stay tuned

It’s no secret that Thompson, Man. has become one of the most crime-ridden communities in the country.

Katie May

Katie May

But what impact is a rising crime rate having on the wheels of justice?

Free Press justice reporter Katie May spent time in the northern town to document just how slowly the wheels of justice are now grinding and what it means for those caught up on the system.

Don’t miss Katie’s exclusive report early this year.




In case you missed it...

Ice storm

The Free Press followed meth’s tracks in Manitoba to find out where they lead.

(Boris Minkevich / Winnipeg Free Press files)

(Boris Minkevich / Winnipeg Free Press files)

We spoke to dozens of people who’ve been hurt by crystal meth, in one way or another. We met with nurses and lawyers. We visited an innovative transitional house that is changing lives, and spent a night rolling through downtown with police.

We sat with people healing from their meth addictions and folks still caught in the drug’s grasp. We heard how front-line service workers, grassroots advocates and everyday citizens are trying to fight back against a tidal wave of misery.

Together, our seven-part series reveals a picture of a province seized by what one expert called a perfect storm of conditions.


Obstacles to oversight

(John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press files)

(John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press files)

The civilian director of the Independent Investigation Unit of Manitoba — the province’s police oversight agency — has repeatedly raised concerns about a lack of co-operation from city police that appears to have been ignored by the police chief.

During an eight-month investigation, Ryan Thorpe uncovered a story involving disappearing complaints, skirted investigations, institutional pushback, disputes over jurisdiction and interference among officers identified in criminal probes.


The last ride

(Phil Hossack / Winnipeg Free Press files)

(Phil Hossack / Winnipeg Free Press files)

Writer Melissa Martin and photographer Phil Hossack hopped aboard for Greyhound's final run from Flin Flon to Winnipeg, a 900-kilometre journey that served as a lifeline to more than three dozen rural Manitoba communities for decades.