Edmonton’s online coverage got a little bit richer last July when The Wanderer officially launched. Described as “Edmonton’s premier daily online magazine,” The Wanderer was born at the University of Alberta but aims to reach beyond campus by highlighting local politics, culture, science, sports, and more. I sat down recently with Emerson Csorba, one of the site’s founders, to learn more.
Emerson is entering his fourth year of Sciences Politiques at Campus Saint-Jean after spending a year working for the Students’ Union. Last spring he started throwing around the idea of starting a newspaper or magazine with some friends. “We wanted to highlight Edmonton a little differently,” he said, citing influences such as The Atlantic, Gawker, and GOOD. The wanted to provide an alternative to The Gateway, but also didn’t want to be restricted to covering university-related news. The other founders included Sansitny Ruth, Dongwoo Kim, Katrina Regino, Skye Oleson-Cormack, and Sydney Rudko. In the summer they decided to make it happen.
Emerson and the team recruited about 20 writers and started posting content, with the site officially launching on July 5, 2012. Today they’re up to about 70 contributors, 20 of whom contribute regularly. All are volunteers. “We run off gratitude,” Emerson told me. “Thanks for contributing!” Emerson is hoping to have some professors start writing for the site consistently too, perhaps talking about their research. And another challenge is to find a core group of younger students who can contribute. “We want to have a reunion 20 years from now!”
The goal is to publish something new every day. Contributors have quite a bit of autonomy, though usually a piece will get bounced off at least one other person before going live. The site runs on WordPress and contributors are granted “editor” privileges. For the most part this works well, though it can backfire occasionally. The satirical paragraph about northsiders in this piece didn’t come off well, Emerson told me (nor did his piece on Plastiq). Still, they didn’t take it down. As of April 15, a total of 847 articles had been published on a variety of topics.
The name of the site was a suggestion from Sansitny. “At first I didn’t like it,” Emerson admitted, adding that it has grown on him since. It’s meant to capture the idea that students are wanderers, experimenting as they work to find their path. Other names that were considered included “Butterdome Republic” and “Rutherford Post”.
I have really been enjoying the content at The Wanderer, especially lately. Interviews with Omar Mouallem, Edmonton Opera’s CEO Sandra Gajic, and Mayor Mandel have all been great reads. An earlier project that received a lot of attention was The Wanderer’s list of the Top 100 Undergrads. I asked Emerson if he considers himself a journalist, but he shunned the label. “We want people to write about things they’re involved in and passionate about,” he told me.
As for what’s next for the site, Emerson says “consistency is the goal,” at least in terms of posting content. Watch for podcasts and videos in the future, as well as enhanced visual arts coverage. Emerson is also hoping to have The Wanderer branch out into events. “Maybe we can do a half day conference on education,” he mused. “Tie all the levels of education together.” Another area of interest is community leagues, and how to engage more youth (Emerson served as president of the Parkallen Community League for a year, so he knows a thing or two about that!) There’s clearly a lot of energy and ideas flowing. I think their recent “Thank you, readers” post captures the possibilities well:
The Wanderer honestly doesn’t have an end-point in mind; we evolve based on our writers’ ideas. We provide autonomy to our writers and tell them to basically “go for it.”
The Wanderer is off to a great start, with a Yeggie nomination in the “Best in Edmonton” category (if that wasn’t proof enough that The Wanderer is on to something, a website called Ualberta Green Onion poked fun at them recently), and more than 60,000 unique visitors and 200,000 page views since launch. Add to that a large team of contributors producing quality content, and you’ve got a local site to keep an eye on!