the edmontonian was a multi-author web log covering all aspects of the city of Edmonton from 2009 to 2011. It spawned a 6 part series on Shaw, and won See Magazine’s 2011 Award for Best Blog.
the edmontonian was created by Jeff Samsonow and Sally Poulsen; it launched on June 15, 2009 and posted its last item September 9, 2011.
When Jeff and I started the edmontonian, it was kind of a tumultuous time. I was working in broadcast television, and lots of big corporate buyouts were going on. It had become a theme over the last few years; Corporation ‘A’ buys Corporation ‘B’ and fires a whole bunch of folks in an effort to cut costs. Bit by bit, I watched as friends and colleagues lost their jobs and local TV hours were cut, until eventually, I was the guy on the chopping block.
Don’t get me wrong, I understood that these companies were losing money on the local productions they were doing. But it was always clear to me, to Jeff, and to any number of folks that I worked with that the reason money was pouring out the door was not because people didn’t care about local content – but because the method of delivery had become largely irrelevant. “Local content” today is pretty close to what it was 40 years ago. Sure, there are more outlets – though, oddly, fewer productions – but despite massive changes in the way we communicate and interact as a culture, “keeping up with the times” was considered by many, as of 2009, to be tantamount to “having a blog on your website.” There was little to no innovation, just a lot of the same homogenized news content – different people, sometimes standing, sometimes sitting – but nothing to really bring people back. Yet every day, I sought out content like the Daily Show, visited Videogum, used Facebook and Twitter – and none of this culture was being reflected in the local broadcasters I was watching or working for.
Anyway, a few months before losing what wound up being my last TV job (I’ve since changed careers and become a web developer), Jeff and I decided to launch the edmontonian. It was an idea we’d been kicking around for awhile. We did it for a couple of reasons; one, that Jeff, ever since I’ve known him, has been what I would call a “real reporter” – an old timey, Edward R. Murrow type, who loves doing investigative stories, reading books on ethics and communications, and was often butting heads with news directors in the places he worked. He too had left broadcasting, to work in the non-profit sector, and it seemed a shame that a person so passionate and talented was using the majority of his nose for news explaining basic current events to me (I read at a second grade level, FYI). Two, we spent so much time bemoaning the state of broadcasting, we figured it was time to put our complete absence of money where our internet was. Or something.
I got a copy of “WordPress for Dummies” from the library, we bought a 60$ WordPress theme, and thus was born the edmontonian. We started it for about 200 dollars, and we started it because we really believed there was a place for hyper-local content delivered by normal people, having a good time, without having your hands tied by corporations or demographics or the often debated journalistic concept of “objectivity” (for the record, we favour transparency). Our first month, we got 100 visitors. Last month, we got 12000.
Today, we do our best to make and post content that we would want to consume ourselves, and we do so with a pretty vigilent eye for our own biases and personal accountability. We’re not perfect, and we’re hardly reinventing the wheel – but we believe in this City, we believe in our community, and OMG, how much do we love you guys. What an unbelievable honour it is to be a part of your day.
So that’s how we started our little business (wait a minute, business=no money, right? Okay, good). Though, to be honest, the edmontonian stopped being ours a long time ago. It’s become clear over time that while we may be the ones who feed the monster, delete the spammy comments, and post a lot of the fart jokes, the whole thing really belongs to you. Every time somebody visits, comments, reads a story, watches a video, buys an ad or man alive! – submits something for posting – you’re proving what we suspected all along – that local still matters, that everyone has a story worth telling, and that if you really, truly care about something, you will always find allies in it.