Normally on Boxing Day, I get on my high horse and look down on the people that line-up for Boxing Day bargains. But in the spirit of buying stuff on December 26, I want to suggest a possible investment in an endeavour that's not new, but is definitely different. After almost eight years, the time has come to expand Guelph Politico into a media entity in its own right, more than a blog, and it will require the help of you readers to do it.
There were a couple of things that drove this decision, one of which is purely monetary. One has a powerful need to eat, and have somewhere to live, and everything. The other is that while Guelph Politico's done some great things, there's still the feeling - for me anyway - that it's still sometimes a hobby. It's supplementary, which means that it has to sometimes take second, third, or fourth place to other things going on, other work, and that doesn't seem good enough anymore.
The first hint was last year during the municipal election. I had some different articles planned, like a profile of first time voters, but it was shown to me that there was an appetite out there for more coverage of the school board races, the politics of which was ignored to a certain extent by me, and the local mainstream media. There are stories that matter to people more than the horse race or the antagonism of politics, and that was one example.
But while it's part of a reporter's responsibility to find stories, it's also their responsibility to provide information. Some of the biggest hits on this blog come from when it provides basic information, like the time and whereabouts of debates. As the Federal election began, people wanted to know when they might see the candidates face-off head-to-head, and there was no central gathering point for where people could get that information, except Politico.
Outside of what has been done on Politico, is what I want to do with it. I've been taking a lot of long walks lately, and during those constitutionals I've walked though parks named after interesting and accomplished politicians, and past sites with weathered signs about pending development. There are stories here, good stories, and they deserve to be told.
And finally, there was my recent experience live-tweeting from city council meetings. From the immediate reactions on social media, to the number of hits from people that followed or reviewed the experience on the live blog, there was a definite appetite for that kind of reporting. On the first night of council deliberations about the budget, the Rogers coverage didn't kick in until 9 pm, four hours after the meeting started, and while the articles written by the Guelph Mercury and Guelph Tribune were excellent, people want immediacy in both the coverage of the facts and of the analysis there in.
The lesson in all of this is that people in Guelph are hungry for news and insight beyond the two main newspapers, the five minutes of news per hour on the local radio stations, and the occasional interest in Guelph things from CTV in Kitchener. It shouldn't have come as a startling revelation, as many people have tried to create an online digital news source: Andy Best tried it with the Guelph Citizen, but then he got a job trying to put those lessons into practice at City Hall; Scott Tracey tried it with Guelph Today, but he was rather interested in making the news than writing about it.
Those experiments had their merits, and the fact that they're no longer updating is not an indication of some kind of failure. Indeed, they prove the necessity of such an online presence, but sometimes the necessity of the service and the necessities of life come into conflict. In other words, if one of these new media projects is going to succeed then it needs to be sustainable. Money needs to be made, and as of yet, there's still no surefire way of making money online.
Enter crowd-funding. Raising money from the people is working for all manner of creative projects through Kickstarter, and it's built a small media empire out of Canadaland on Patreon, now crowd-funding is being used to augment the sustainability of established outlets like Rabble and the Torontoist. On the local level, it's already being done, and I'm thinking of Joey Coleman's site dedicated to all things at Hamilton City Hall, The Public Record. So in their spirit, I've been considering taking Guelph Politico to the next level, by crowd-funding to get there.
So what would you get with a crowd sourced Politico?
*More original content. There are a lot of stories in Guelph, a lot of people doing good work, from neighbourhood groups to city staffers, and that should be highlighted. Conversely, there are some problems in Guelph too, ones that require time and effort to investigate, or even ones that just require the time to make a couple of phone calls. As they say, time is money, so you need to have one to get the other.
*More live tweets from council meetings, and indeed more coverage of council and committee meetings period. That's where the real meat and potatoes news of city business happens, so that is where I want to put in some more effort. Am I promising to be at every single council meeting? Hardly, no matter how much money you're paid, it's an impossible expectation. But to go several of them a month is definitely worth doing.
*More regular podcasts, and professionally-produced podcasts. Many crowd-funding projects have levels of achievement: reach goal X and you can fund project A, reach goal Y and you can fund project B, et cetera. Doing a podcast once a week is part of the plan for the new year, but actually being able to pay someone with actual money to do it professionally is another part of my plan.
*More voices. It would be nice if Politico was more than just me, and if it's going to be more than just me, then it would be nice to offer those people some compensation. So once the new crowd-funding structure is set-up, one of the goals will be to have some extra money to offer in to contributors.
That's a completely off-the-cuff, unofficial list of what to expect with Guelph Politico over the next several weeks, and once I start to move forward with the crowd-funding campaign. That is, if there's enough interest to go that way. I think that there is. This is a statement of intent, and my intent is that by the time the next municipal election rolls around in 2018, Guelph Politico will be one of the preeminent news sources in Guelph, and I'm willing to admit that I can't do it alone.
So to bring this back to the question at the top of the page, Would you help pay for Politico? Feel free to let me know.