Winnipeg Blogs

Blogs offer a different take on the news, but beware the anonymous blogger

  • Graham Hnatiuk is the 23-year-old University of Manitoba student behind the Progressive Winnipeg blog. Unlike some city bloggers, Hnatiuk is comfortable associating his real name with his blog. “People can make a personal connection with the things I write about.” – Garrett Elias

In these changing times it’s hard to know exactly the role blogs play and the power they wield, but they surely do help combat the apathy that so often plagues society. Below, we analyze the power of blogs in Winnipeg and beyond, and list some of our favourites.

The point of any news organization is to break news – if they’re not telling the story first, they’re not remaining relevant to their readers.

The only problem is that some readers aren’t even turning to the big daily newspapers or nightly newscasts anymore. Instead, readers are going online and turning to their favourite local blogs to gather information and opinions about the happenings in the world around them.

Blogs are changing the face of the news industry and giving an impatient and hyperactive society more options to gather information.

“People generally visit a news blog to get their daily fix of information and to weed out long articles and filler content from the wires that many other mainstream media websites publish from,” said ChrisD, who runs the Winnipeg news blog ChrisD.ca. “In the era of social media and blogs, most users prefer to read short and to the point posts to get the facts and move on.”

“Blogs take a completely different approach to how a story is covered. The mainstream media aims to not step on anybody’s toes – after all, they don’t want to blow their chances at landing an interview with someone down the road. Bloggers don’t really have that responsibility and tend to be more judgmental in their coverage and people appreciate that approach.”

Still, blogs have a symbiotic relationship with the mainstream media, said Shannon Sampert, politics of mass media professor at the University of Winnipeg.

“Mainstream media works as a news generator on which blogs will comment,” Sampert said.

Graham Hnatiuk, who runs the commentary blog Progressive Winnipeg, agreed.

“I depend on the mainstream media breaking a news story or press conference before I can comment on anything,” said the 23-year-old University of Manitoba student.

Don’t they have an obligation to their subscribers and more importantly, the citizens of Winnipeg, to report this stuff?

Graham Hnatiuk, Progressive Winnipeg

But that doesn’t mean the blogosphere can’t scoop the mainstream media.

Hnatiuk was the only person in the city who reported details from a recent public consultation held by media mogul David Asper on the new Bomber stadium – a consultation that crept by mainstream outlets with nary a whisper – which left Hnatiuk with plenty of questions on the state of mainstream media.

“Isn’t that a local issue? Shouldn’t there be a story on that?” he said. “Don’t they have an obligation to their subscribers and more importantly, the citizens of Winnipeg, to report this stuff?”

Hnatiuk is comfortable with stamping his name on his product.

“People know my real name and they can put a face to the website,” Hnatiuk said. “People can make a personal connection with the things I write about.”

Some bloggers, like ChrisD for example, choose to keep their identities partially hidden.

“Most people simply know me as ‘ChrisD’ anyway, so it’s best to leave it at that.”

He had his domain registered for personal blogging long before it became a news service.

“I began blogging about events in my every day life, then turned it into more media and news focused topics,” he said. “It snowballed from there and has stuck ever since.”

Sampert cautioned that bloggers who choose to remain anonymous, like the political blog the Black Rod, could damage their credibility.

“Being anonymous, you can say all sorts of things you wouldn’t say if you had to put it to your byline,” she said.

Anonymous blogs tend to be partisan-driven, and “one-sided and incredibly misguided,” Sampert said.

“Partisan blogs are only preaching to the converted and not saying anything that will change anyone’s mind.”

Being anonymous also increases the amount of “drive-by slander,” something that Sampert has no use for.

“A valuable blog is one that attempts to do more than just create scandal and conflict,” Sampert said. “It works on the side of fairness and balance and the values of trained journalists.”

We were unable to contact the Black Rod for comment.

Notable blogs in the city

There isn’t any rhyme or reason to the order, and we realize we’ve missed some goodies, but here’s a list of some of our favourite Winnipeg blogs. If you have any suggestions, e-mail editor@uniter.ca.

ChrisD.ca

http://www.chrisd.ca

One of Winnipeg’s fastest growing blogs, ChrisD is a perfect example of citizen journalism, where readers are encouraged to send in news tips and photos for a chance to win prizes.

“Myself, and the other bloggers who write for the site, do cover a lot of the same stories as the mainstream outlets do,” said ChrisD, a former University of Manitoba and Red River student who runs the blog. “We’ll often go out with our own cameras to newsworthy events or press conferences and put up footage showing a different viewpoint, often shining the spotlight on the media.”

That spotlight on the media has resulted in plenty of bloopers from local TV news, becoming a popular staple of the blog. A clip of a Winnipeg sports reporter flubbing a tennis player’s name has over 30,000 views, driving traffic to the site, he said.
ChrisD works as an Internet marketer and website designer, but said maintaining the blog has quickly turned into full-time commitment.

- Matt Preprost

Progressive Winnipeg

http://progressivewinnipeg.blogspot.com/

It took Graham Hnatiuk awhile to find his blogging voice. What started as a local environmental blog blended with his passion for music, spawned into a larger commentary of the state of Winnipeg.

Hnatiuk seems to want what every Winnipegger wants – a rational, cohesive and progressive plan for the future of the city.

“I was thinking of names,” Hnatiuk recalls. “I wanted something witty, maybe a bit smart-ass and with meaning. One day it came to me, ‘Progressive Winnipeg.’ I thought, ‘what a great oxymoron.’”

Progressive Winnipeg is non-partisan, and Hnatiuk admits that he’s one of the youngest bloggers in the city.

“I’m a politically active person in a generation that is by and large completely apathetic to politics, locally or otherwise. I don’t support any one political party, and I think that makes my voice important because I’m not looking at things through a filter. I’m using my voice to get my opinions out there just on what I think is the right thing to do.”

- Matt Preprost

The Black Rod

http://blackrod.blogspot.com/

The identity of this blogger remains a myth, but rumours abound in both the blogging community and the mainstream media on this anonymous, popular and controversial blogger. Some speculate it’s a disgruntled former Free Press employee. Others think Marty Gold from the Great Canadian Talk Show on KICK FM.

Either way, this blogger remains in the shadow as he continues to light flames underneath the feet of politicians and local media.

Posts on the Black Rod, however, tend to read like condescending lectures. To make things worse, if you manage to finish reading the lengthy essays, you aren’t even given the option to comment, effectively shutting off any sort of public discourse. This, unfortunately, leaves the impression that the Black Rod is always right, and everyone else is always wrong.

- Matt Preprost

Winnipeg Love and Hate

http://www.winnipeglovehate.com/

Winnipeg Love and Hate shows us the city through the lens of photographer Bryan Scott, and it shows some of the city’s most beautiful, and ugliest, sides.

“In one word, I guess I’m trying to capture the soul of Winnipeg, a soul at least I see,” he said.

Scott, a 35-year-old graphic designer, has been blogging at Winnipeg Love and Hate for just over a year.

“It was through photography that I really started loving the city,” he said. “When you point a camera at something, you have to find something worth taking a picture [of].”

Scott believes it’s easy for people who live in Winnipeg to miss the beauty.

“Lots of the things about Winnipeg are easy to hate, especially compared to larger cities,” he said, citing the weather, bugs and poverty.

Nonetheless, there is a magic about the city that comes through on the blog, which between 120 and 140 people view per day.

- Stacy Cardigan Smith

West End Dumplings

http://westenddumplings.blogspot.com/

West End Dumplings is an assortment of thoughts from Winnipeg West Ender Christian Cassidy.

“It’s just kind of like dim sum, I do an assortment,” he said.

Before he started West End Dumplings, 41-year-old Cassidy would frequently contribute to local forums. He started his blog out of a desire to form something more permanent.

“You’re kind of creating an archive of ideas and opinions and interesting links,” he said of blogs.

With an interest in urban studies and history, Cassidy said he looks through Henderson Directories – old phone book-like documents that list people’s occupations – for fun.

There is some relationship between such old directories and blogs, but Cassidy realizes an online archive is more fickle than the old Henderson Directories.

“Technology can change and you can take it all away.”

Cassidy attempts to take a largely positive look at the city in his blog, which he started about a year ago and has had about 23,000 hits to date.

It’s easy for people to criticize the city, and many do, he said.

“There’s lots of places to bitch, but it’s nice if you can get a blog and kind of point out interesting things.”

- Stacy Cardigan Smith

The Breakfast Connoisseurs

www.breakfastwinnipeg.com

Wondering where to go for breakfast? The Breakfast Connoisseurs have got you covered.

Breakfast Winnipeg started after buddies Leif Norman and Andrew McMonagle decided they needed to expand their inventory of Winnipeg breakfast locales.

“We just really enjoyed going out for breakfast and realized we were going to the same places all the time – [mainly] The Nook – and wanted to expand,” said McMonagle, who is a Uniter staff member. 

The guys started their blog in June of 2007 and expect to write their 100th review in the late fall.

They have received quite a bit of publicity for their website, with a regular spot on CKUW’s Eat Your Arts and Vegetables, and interviews with CBC radio and the Winnipeg Free Press under their belts.

They rack up about 900 hits per month on their website, and have a about 250 friends on their Facebook group.

“We’ve got a very long list of places to go on our Facebook group and people are always writing us and telling us places to go.”

- Stacy Cardigan Smith

Winnipeg O’ My Heart

http://www.winnipegomyheart.com/

The trials and tribulations of three newcomers to Winnipeg is the topic of Winnipeg O’ My Heart.

Aaron Fitchette, 28, Emma Wood, 28 and Laurel Fulford, 29, friends from the West Coast now blogging about their lives in the heart of the continent, have quickly won their way into ‘Peggers’ hearts. Since starting their blog in February, they’ve been featured on CBC Radio and interviewed by Bartley Kives, Ace Burpee, and filmmaker Paula Kelly.

“Things are going really well,” said Fitchette. “To be honest, I think that most people blog negatively, not positively.”

This positive outlook is what Fitchette believes draws people to the blog. But for this reason, some people have charged them of blogging for Destination Winnipeg and other booster organizations; Fitchette is adamant the Hearters blog for themselves.

“We don’t accept money for what we do because we enjoy it.”

Compared to the West Coast, Fitchette said many Winnipeg blogs seem to focus on the wellbeing of the city.

“It comes back to an introspective side that Winnipeggers have. It’s the Guy Maddin thing.”

“Maybe blogging is just a creative expression of the musicians and the artists.”

Much of the blog’s traffic comes from their Tweets on Twitter. They are one of the only blogs in the city to utilize Twitter, Fitchette said.

- Stacy Cardigan Smith

The Rise and Sprawl

http://riseandsprawl.blogspot.com

The Rise and Sprawl is one of the city’s most authoritative blogs on urban living and development. Robert Galston, a regular Uniter contributor, started blogging back in January 2005. Since his early posts, he has found a voice and a lot of power in the city – breaking news stories, scooping the mainstream media, and getting quoted by many journalists.

“The blog has mostly been commentary, rather than looking for stories myself,” he said via e-mail.

Some of the stories he has broken, however, include the West End Mark mural in the summer of 2008, as well as various development issues.

This 27-year-old practices what he preaches, raising his young family in North Point Douglas.

- Stacy Cardigan Smith

PolicyFrog

http://policyfrog.wordpress.com/

PolicyFrog is a smart, sleek and sophisticated “dissection” on the political climate in Winnipeg and Manitoba, as well as the mainstream media. The blog has a good number of followers, capable of continuing discussion on topics in a civil manner and is one of the most followed blogs in the city.

- Matt Preprost

City States

http://citystates.typepad.com/ius/

City States is no stranger to the blogosphere. Writing posts on urban planning, the economy, and architecture since March 2005, this local blog is run out of the Institute of Urban Studies from the University of Winnipeg. It’s smart, critical, and incredibly well researched on developments in Winnipeg.

- Matt Preprost

Published in Volume 63, Number 29 of The Uniter (July 16, 2009)

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