Edmonton's local media should embrace the web

Post ImageEarlier this evening I attended a panel event called Edmonton’s Image in the Media: A Fresh Perspective. The event was put on by Next Gen Edmonton, and took place at City Hall. I find myself becoming more and more interested in the Next Gen project, so I decided to check out the event. The panelists included: Bridget Ryan from CityTV, Mari Sasano from the Edmonton Journal, Jason Manning from Sonic FM, and Ted Kerr who is a freelance writer/photographer. Allan Bolstad from MacEwan moderated.

The subtitle was the only place a “fresh perspective” could be found at this event. I went in hoping for some great insight from these professionals, and instead I heard a bunch of mainstream media representatives who simply don’t get it. I twittered my disappointment – not that I’d expect any of the panelists to have a clue as to what Twitter is. I completely understand that Twitter is a fairly niche product at the moment, but the panelists talked about email like it was a brand new invention. It took over 45 minutes before anyone mentioned the web – Ted talked about blogs and websites in response to an audience question.

Some of the questions the panel was supposed to explore incuded: Is Edmonton portrayed fairly in the media? How could we improve Edmonton’s image to the outside world? Do Edmontonians themselves need to be educated about their city? What could the media do to help?

I took some notes during the event; here are my thoughts:

  • Jason loves Edmonton but apparently isn’t capable of answering a question without referencing “the music scene.”
  • Bridget thinks the media is doing a great job and is afraid to walk downtown alone at night.
  • Mari wants you to do her job for her – send her information about your events! She also was extremely annoying to listen to.
  • Ted claims his “online reading capacity” is no more than a single page.

Event organizer Daniel Eggert asked the last question, and it was about what kinds of media the “next generation” uses and trusts. He explained he was thinking about the web – “blogs, YouTube, Wikipedia, and others.” The panelists did an excellent job of not answering his question. Such a waste.

In my opinion, the biggest problem with Edmonton’s image in the media is that Edmontonians themselves don’t know enough about the city. How many Edmontonians, for example, know that Edmonton is the cultural capital of Canada? Probably not very many. I think the only way to solve this problem is through the web. Television and radio are great, but audiences are slowly disappearing, and the “next generation” spends far more time online. Newspapers are considered archaic by myself and many others my age (note to newspaper companies: move the content online, ditch the horrible format).

The local media and the city itself both need to embrace the web – they simply aren’t doing their jobs if they don’t. The Journal launched blogs a couple months ago and dropped the pay-wall, but there is lots of room for improvement. The City of Edmonton website contains lots of information but is a complete mess. In addition to fixing what’s already there, why not explore the unknown? Here are a few ideas:

  • Create a City of Edmonton sponsored group on Facebook and use it to create events. There are, after all, over 140,000 Edmontonians on Facebook.
  • Even better – endeavour to make one de-facto online event calendar.
  • Build a local news aggregation site – kind of like TechMeme for tech.
  • Learn how to use RSS effectively to monitor what’s going on in the city.
  • Make it easier for citizens to submit photos, videos, and other content all using the web.

To be fair, online local news and resources are a big problem everywhere (except for huge cities like New York). Embracing the web would not only educate Edmontonians and improve our image around the world, it might even make us a leader and trendsetter.

What do you think? I’ll post more on this later after I’ve given it some more thought.

9 thoughts on “Edmonton's local media should embrace the web

  1. Great Post Mack…glad attending this event was not a complete waste of your time, loved your perspective and ideas to improve the city’s media image! It would be great if the right people were reading your blog, like some of this panel but obviously they have no idea how to utilize the web to improve their media image and work to their advantage nor were they the least bit interested (or so it seemed!) which is so sad. BTW your notes (which were awesome to read…insightful, and to the point!) expressing your thoughts proves to me that this discussion panel was not only not prepared for this panel event but were perhaps not truly interested in finding a solution to the city’s media image. Again, interesting post Mack, I look forward to reading more about this issue. Thanks!

  2. Thanks for the comment! I guess some of the responsibility falls on my shoulders – its one thing to write about issues and quite another to do something about them. I am going to try to take part in more next-gen events and initiatives. That’s not to say I’ll stop posting about them tho 🙂

  3. Good ideas in regards to increasing Edmonton’s web presence. I think Edmontonians themselves don’t like Edmonton very much. For example, I’ve come across many Facebook profiles that list their Hometown as "Deadmonton".

  4. That’s true Shermie, but I think they list that not because they truly dislike Edmonton, but because they don’t know enough about it! There’s a ton of stuff going on in and around the city, it just usually is communicated as well as it could be. I suspect the situation is similar in a number of cities that are roughly the size of Edmonton.

  5. A) I like newspapers. And books. And writing on paper.

    B) I think that a lot of the responsibility to educate people about our city comes from those people themselves. We can do all we want to spoon feed the information to people, but until they make it something that they’re actively interested in, that information will go in one ear and out the other. Also, the number of ‘things’ a person can do in the city is severely limited by the fact that there are usually 7 or 8 things going on at the same time, making it difficult to particpate in more than one, and the fact that if you’re not into the performing arts or visual arts, there aren’t really a lot of options.

  6. A) Irrelevant! Young people are increasingly spending their time online – MSM needs to follow.

    B) True, part of it is people taking an active interest. Lots of things going on at one time isn’t a valid excuse for "having nothing to do" however, no matter how you slice it.

  7. Hey Mack,

    This is a good post with good thoughts. Are you going to E-mail this post to the people who were presenting that night? It might help contribute to making things better.

  8. Hey Mack,

    It sounds like you have some interesting ideas for the City of Edmonton as well. I know they are always looking for ideas. So hopefully when you say that you have sent the appropriate ideas to the people that means them as well. 🙂

    Awesome Post!

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