How the media almost lost us a key Winnipeg development

By Dorothy Dobbie (photo courtesy of True North Sports & Entertainment Ltd.)

I am a huge fan of Mark Chipman for his courage in stepping up to the plate for the Winnipeg Jets, and for what he has done to support downtown Winnipeg.
I have worked with, admire, and consider Curt Vossen a friend, and know that he genuinely cares about what happens to this city.
I have worked with Ross McGowan and respect his creative deal-making genius and consider that he was a fantastic get-it-done guy for CentreVenture Corp.
And I respect and support Brian Bowman as mayor because I personally know his courage and I believe in his passion for doing things right at City Hall and making good things happen for Winnipeg.
For the past month these four people – great guys that I admire, respect and enjoy – have been at very public loggerheads. How did this happen? They are all white hats and very sincere. They should be each other’s best friends.
Answer: the media
Unfortunately, the local media has had a huge part to play in stirring the pot, creating dissension and “dragging this thing though the mud.” The motivations vary from personal to political, but the sad thing is, this media frenzy hurts us all and it really hurt the four proponents on a very personal level.
I carefully read and listened to everything that was reported. What I heard reported as fact was often very different from what I heard actually being said. Words were taken out of context, comments were spun in a twisted way; it was made to look as though the Mayor was calling the integrity of the other guys into question, when what I heard was his concern about the optics and the process.
And when the issue about process was being made, I heard reporters deliberately steer the topic back to personal vendetta issues.
Here were three very media un-savvy guys – Bowman, Chipman and Vossen – being manipulated by some pretty experienced and somewhat cynical people.
I have reason to know how this works; a mike is shoved in your face and you are asked the “When-did-you-stop-beating-your-wife?” kind of question that you can’t answer without a denial, which makes you look guilty.
The other trick they use is to lob a question at you that leads to a specific answer – maybe the topic isn’t even in play, but no matter how you respond, the question puts words in your mouth.
Or they will quote an out-of-context comment from the opposing side that is designed to elicit an angry reaction.
By the way, not everyone in the media agrees with these tactics and some of them have shared their concerns with me. They also underlined the personal context that shaped much of the reporting in this case.

Advice to the Mayor and the businessmen
If something such as this ever comes up again, guys, here’s what should happen.
You need to call together a closed-door meeting. Yes, sometimes you do have to meet behind closed doors to clear the air and get things done. Twenty minutes of straight talk between you would have sorted this out.
What should not have happened was the continued rising to the media bait, which only escalated the miscommunication and hard feelings that were put into play. It’s time now to put aside all this crap (I use the word advisedly), and move forward.
Mark, you aren’t going to pull the True North Square project. Brian, you have to be pragmatic about the need sometimes to find creative ways that are not bruited about in the media. And Curt, CentreVenture needs to continue to do the exciting and creative things that have been making a real difference in our downtown. We need the leadership of all three of you and we need you all to be in sync.

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