As you probably know, I don’t shy away from criticizing the Edmonton Journal (or other local media). Though I don’t always succeed, I do try to be constructive, because I think there’s incredible opportunity facing The Journal. Two such opportunities: data-driven journalism, and real-time reporting.
Props to Brent Wittmeier & Lucas Timmons
Neither Brent nor Lucas have been with The Journal for very long, and maybe that’s why they were able to succeed with the unclaimed balances story. Brent was voluntold to write about the Bank of Canada’s unclaimed balances, which he did by teaming up with data journalist Lucas to create a searchable online database for Edmonton. They put together a three-part story, but it didn’t stop there:
We also got quite the response. Dozens of phone calls and emails poured in, and I began working on a follow-up story. And then two. And now, three. Some of these other stories are even better than the original… There should be an extensive piece either later this week or next weekend.
Start with some data, and more often than not a story will emerge. Brent noted: “In truth, they ended up being far more interesting stories than I thought.”
Props to Paula Simons & David Staples
I’m glad to see that Paula and David (with some help from other colleagues such as Todd Babiak) have started a new blog focused on local affairs, called The Edmonton Commons. They used it very effectively on nomination day to share stories about the candidates and the official start of the election. They’ve also got the #yegvote hashtag embedded on the page. Though they have cross-posted some columns, I’m hopeful that their use of the blog as way to forego the print deadline will expand.
The sharpening of ideas, the accumulation of good information and the discarding of bad information is at the core of strong decision making. It’s what we hope to do here at this forum. In the past, there were more barriers in regards to entering into the great conversation of civil society, even for a newspaper writer…the conversation was largely one-way. The Internet gives us a new tool that enables that conversation to flourish.
Time will tell how successful the two are with the blog (will they still be writing as often in three months as they do now) but I think they’re off to a great start.