Social Media and Local News in Edmonton

My favorite media/journalism/news blogger is Jeff Jarvis. His blog, BuzzMachine, is a treasure trove of information and insight on how the web is transforming the world of news media. Jeff has spent a lot of time thinking about local news specifically, a topic I am very interested in. Yesterday he wrote a post summarizing his thoughts on where local news might go. These are the highlights for me:

“The next generation of local (news) won’t be about news organizations but about their communities.”

“News will emerge from networks.”

“Do what you do best and link to the rest will be a foundation of the future architecture of news.”

“News will find new forms past the article, which will include any media, wiki snapshots of knowledge, live reports, crowd reports, aggregation, curation, data bases, and other forms not yet created.”

I encourage you to read the entire post, it’s definitely worth it.

Thinking about Jeff’s post made me wonder what local news organizations here in Edmonton are doing to prepare for the future. Are they focused on communities? Are they creating networks? Are they specializing and linking elsewhere? Are they supporting news beyond the article?

In general, I think the answer to those questions is no. An examination of how local news organizations are using social media is somewhat encouraging, however. Why look at social media? Generally speaking, I think blogs, social networks, etc., address all four areas – communities, networks, linking & sharing, and life beyond the article.

These are some of the traditional sources for local news here in Edmonton, with links to their social media activities:

As you can see, there are quite a few organizations that still haven’t gotten their feet wet with social media (unless I missed some links – one thing all these sites have in common is that they are terribly messy and hard to navigate). The Journal appears to be the most active, with a Facebook application, Twitter account, and blogs and podcasts on its site. The relatively new iNews880 is similarly active. All the organizations offer RSS feeds except for Global Edmonton, Citytv Edmonton, and SEE Magazine (the Edmonton Sun recently added feeds).

These days, I get most of my local news from four main sources:

The trend I have noticed is that breaking news starts with the traditional organizations but is spread by individuals through services like Twitter, Connect2Edmonton, and Facebook (and good old-fashioned word of mouth too). Organizations like The Journal have people dedicated to gathering the news, so it makes sense that they’d be the ones to break the news (most of the time). They could definitely be doing a better job of interacting with the community and forming networks online to spread that news, however. And they pretty much do nothing beyond the article, at least at the moment (heck the Journal won’t even hyperlink URLs inside their articles).

Take yesterday’s story about the new arena concept, for instance. I first heard about the news on C2E. I understand that Citytv was the first traditional source to pick up on the story. I spread the news via Twitter and my blog, and others did the same. Today articles appeared in The Journal, on CBC Edmonton’s site, and elsewhere, but they didn’t really offer anything new, and they didn’t provide links to the images, video, maps, or other bits of information readers might be interested in.

I like the vision for local news that Jeff Jarvis has suggested, but it seems to me that the local organizations aren’t leading the way into that future. Instead, individuals are dragging them into it. I wonder if that will always be the case?

12 thoughts on “Social Media and Local News in Edmonton

  1. Mack, while I agree that news media in this city need to do more with social media, I can understand why they aren’t able to. You have to understand the layouts, ideas, and etc… all come from the organizations corporate office. So these are people who generally know NOTHING about social media making the decisions behind this. I give media outlets almost five years before they figure this sort of thing out.

    Also, in regards to the arena… I understand CityTV had it at noon… but a full story was up around 4pm on It had the video, what happened at city council, and soon after, pictures of Gene Dub presenting as well as a picture of the plan. I believe everyone else picked up the story this morning… but the two news radio stations had it that afternoon. Just saying.

    I think individuals will always have to drag corporations into the future… because the people with the power to make the decisions in a company are usually too busy doing other things to pay attention at first. (Not that they’re slacking in any way… but sometimes it needs to be noticed.)

  2. I hear what you’re saying Brittney, but I don’t think a lack of knowledge regarding social media or central decision making are good enough excuses. These organizations have the resources to find great people and do innovative things, if they were so inclined.

    Here’s the thing – if they don’t do it, someone else will. A smaller, more nimble, and more efficient organization will come along and do all the right things. I think there’s a lot of opportunity.

    Five years is an eternity!

  3. Our local news website lacks any community section and has limited feedback capability at best. 😦 A while back my city, Thunder Bay, launched, which is “an online portal where you can share your story about Thunder Bay.”

    The copy sounds good, but in reality the site is unimpressive. The design is poor (and broken in Firefox if you have JavaScript turned off). Although the site delivers on its promise of allowing inhabitants to share their stories, photos, and videos, it does this in a very disconnected manner.

    It’s a shame that the city wasted an opportunity for what could be an excellent social networking experience. If “” were truly interactive, a forum for discussion of Thunder Bay rather than a poorly-implemented attempt at promoting the city, it would be an excellent place for locals to discuss the city and build a better sense of community.

  4. Great entry – I would like to add a few things:

    Global Edmonton does have a news feed for their
    Global Video Stories (
    While I love Global Edmonton for separating their stories individually and having a link – they really should add an embedding featuring as well.

    Metro Edmonton
    Sometimes (not too often, but getting better) some of their stories will include corresponding CityTV coverage – nice example of both print and TV media working together

    Edmonton Sun – Videos
    Not sure how often people view their news videos – but I find them to be pretty good considering they have embedding links.

    I’m still trying to learn more about social media and all its networks. I like the idea of being able to cross promote and share news and ideas on different websites.

  5. Mark:

    Great post!

    I wonder, is the news social media?

    For mass media producers,news is a means to aggregate an audience, sell time.

    Social media is a means to communicate and share.

    Anyone with an enabled device can publish to the internet. Evidenced by the Meteor story. Citizen journalists were first up with that one. ‘They’ shared it!

    First is an archaic metric media companies have difficulty abandoning. Today the value of the scoop is diminished. The value is analysis Even with extensive human and technical production resources,local mass media can’t be everywhere. Citizens with camera phones are.

    Mass media organizations need to move beyond reportage. Before ‘they’ engage social media platforms, ‘they’ need to understand how news is consumed, in chunks and on demand.

    The absence of RSS, Content Sharing and Citizen Journalism components to their web platforms suggests they don’t.

    For the most part their content remains locked down. In Edmonton, it’s still ‘their news’, instead of our news, or ‘my’ news, like you have created with the sources, feeds, you peruse.

  6. Teresa – thanks for the comment and information.

    Bruce – thanks for the comment. You’re absolutely right, local mass media can’t be everywhere. But they can be places the rest of us can’t. That’s where the “do what you do best and link to the rest” idea comes in!

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