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WFP publisher suppresses stories while lobbying for government subsidies


It was a year ago this month that Winnipeg Free Press publisher Bob Cox began his campaign for federal government subsidies to newspapers whose advertisers have abandoned them.

Since then we've learned all about fake news---that's when reporters make up facts then write stories based on their invented truths. But what about fffake news---news the papers want to conceal from the public and do it by not publishing them?

The Winnipeg Free Press is currently sitting on two doozies, both about lawsuits --- against the Winnipeg Free Press.

In one, the newspaper is accused of stealing the research of a prominent Winnipeg scholar and cheating him out of royalties from a book t
hey told him they would never publish, then did. To add insult, they submitted the book for journalism awards.

In the other, the (former) editor of the Free Press used libel chill to silence a radio talkshow host whose critical reporting on the Winnipeg Free Press she didn't like. Her backroom campaign enmeshed the president of Red River College, the college lawyer, a faculty dean and college staff in a conspiracy to kill the host's show and hide the reason from angry listeners. 

Copyright infringement. Censorship of a citizen journalist.  Topical issues you would think the local daily would love to publicize and explore.  Not.

Dr. Frank Albo teaches History classes at the University of Winnipeg. But back when he was working on his master's thesis, he uncovered a true-to-life Da Vinci Code-style secret in the heart of the city.  The architect of the Manitoba Legislature had incorporated clear Masonic symbols into his building!  

The Winnipeg Free Press partnered with Dr. Albo on a book (The Hermetic Code) based on his discovery. It became a best-seller and earned Albo $200,000 in royalties.

That's the undisputed part of the story.

In 2011, Albo came across a "second startling discovery", as the lawsuit puts it. It was "a hidden master plan for the City of Winnipeg". Apparently "city elites sought to transform Winnipeg into an urban utopia based on an international philosophy called The City Beautiful Movement."

The Movement called for the use of architecture to be used as a control device "to correct social order and instil moral and civic virtue amongt citizens."

In September, 2013, Albo delivered the keynote lecture at the Heritage Winnipeg Ball, where Winnipeg Free Press publisher Bob Cox was in the audience.  He proposed a partnership with Albo. Step one was a two-hour presentation in the WFP newsroom the following month about his findings re: the hidden master plan for Winnipeg.
Albo began working with newspaper editor Paul Samyn and reporter Randy Turner, says the lawsuit.  

But very soon afterward, Samyn informed Albo there would be no book and no royalties flowing from their collaboration.  Albo would be paid an hourly rate for his work.

Imagine his surprise when, less than a year later, he spotted the announcement of the launch of a book published by the Winnipeg Free Press with the Manitoba Association of Architects, titled "City Beautiful. How Architects Shaped Winnipeg's DNA".

The Albo lawsuit is just the sort of story that would have been reported on The Great Canadian Talk Show on KICK-FM, if it was still around. But both TGCTS and Kick-FM, the community radio station hosted by Red River College, are long gone, thanks to former Winnipeg Free Press editor Margo Goodhand.


In October, 2010 a weeping Melissa Martin sat in editor Margo Goodhand's office to explain why she didn't do a story. (Sounds like a theme, here, doesn't it.) Ross Eadie was running for a seat on city council and at a public forum he declared (according to multiple witnesses) that he was getting financial support from the NDP in order to afford to run.  Problem.  Funding of campaigns by political parties is illegal. 

Martin didn't write a word about Eadie's confession.  But it was well covered on the internet, including by The Black Rod.  The tearful Melissa didn't like what people were saying about her.  Don't worry, Margo Goodhand told her.
Goodhand blamed Marty Gold, the host of TGCTS for saying not nice things about Melissa Martin's decision not to report a major political story.  

First, she gave Red River College president Stephanie Forsyth an earful about it. Then she sent a follow-up email to Forsyth, and her message was unmistakeable.

Gold was setting journalism students a bad example by defaming her reporters, she said. She had, she said, run his blog posts by a lawyer who told her so. (She admitted at trial for the lawsuit that she never listened to his radio show.)

Something had to be done -- hint, hint. The implication was clear. If nothing was done -- hint, hint --- the Winnipeg Free Press could sue Red River College and, boy, would that cause embarassment. And the newspaper could refuse to hire graduates, which would damage the reputation of Red River's journalism program. And she could badmouth the college to colleagues across the country and, well, you know. Hint, hint.

Forsyth got the hint.  She immediately called a meeting.  The attendees left the meeting knowing what they had to do.  Dig up dirt on Marty Gold, then cancel his show.

Two weeks later, just before a scheduled nomination committee meeting of the radio station board of directors, a few of Forsyth's underlings met informally and agreed, formally, to cancel TGCTS.  

A couple of days later, they informed the station manager of their decision.  He was unhappy. Programming was his job. He saw no defamation. And he could address Margo Goodhand's concerns in other ways. But his bosses said no.

The station manager sent Gold a heads-up message: the president wants you fired. 

The next day the FP's on-line editor got wind of the station manager's recalcitrance. He told Margo Goodhand.  
She immediately sent a furious email to Stephanie Forsyth, the gist of which was "What the Hell?"

On her next day at work, Forsyth convened another meeting in her office. Her message: "What the Hell?"  

Within hours, Marty Gold was informed his show was cancelled and he was out of a job.

But Red River College wasn't prepared for the blowback from dedicated listeners of the show. RRC offered various explanations as to why the show was cancelled, none of which mentioned Margo Goodhand.

They eventually told the court that it was a policy change, to give students more time on air.  They overlooked the obvious: the alleged policy change only affected one show and one host, and coincidentally it was the exact show and exact host that Margo Goodhand had complained about.  Go figure.

When listeners asked who made the decision to kill TGCTS, college officials winced, swallowed hard and said it was "the executive committee" of the radio station.  Except that there was no "executive committee."  

The radio station bylaws said the board may create committees, but there was no record of any creation of an "executive committee" that year, or any year prior.  Or any minutes of any meeting of said committee ever.

The college officials were claiming a committee that didn't exist, with no designated members and no outlined powers, could usurp the power of the official board of directors whenever it wanted about whatever it wanted. Oh, what a tangled web they weaved.

But it was reciprocated.  When the National Post contacted Goodhand for her side of the story, she emailed her boss, publisher Bob Cox (remember him?). 

She asked his advice for what to say because "I don't want to throw Stephanie under the bus."

So, Goodhand lied to the Post and said she knew nothing about the cancellation of TGCTS.

Just as readers of the Winnipeg Free Press know nothing about these lawsuits. Until now.

Both of them have already gone to trial and are awaiting decisions.

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