Colin joins Taproot as a reporter to help us publish original stories about what’s going on in our city. He was previously an editor at Avenue magazine in Calgary, served as co-editor-in-chief at The Calgary Journal, and worked at BeatRoute magazine. Colin studied journalism at Mount Royal University in Calgary.
"My favourite thing about being a journalist is that it gives you permission — nay, encouragement! — to be as nosy as you like," Colin says. "I’m half-kidding, but I am glad that being a Taproot reporter gives me a licence to become an expert on all things Edmonton."
Originally from Nova Scotia, Colin has called both Calgary and Edmonton home. He enjoys the off-leash areas of Mill Creek Ravine with his two dogs, cycles as his preferred mode of transportation (he describes himself as a certified NUMTOT), and is a big fan of the chicken from Seoul Fried Chicken.
"I love that Edmonton has several pyramids," he adds.
We’re declaring the experiment we started last month a success. Now when you open a roundup, you’ll find a message from a member of our team pulling some threads together in the Taproot way — with curiosity and desire to understand our community better.
Thank you to everyone who provided feedback. Here’s a sample of the things we heard:
"I love the new roundup format."
"I really like the new opening perspective from the editor."
"I’m writing to tell you I’m enjoying the new format of the roundup. I think it’s a great addition."
We’re grateful for the evidence that this approach is working!
Our previous format was to include a story at the top of the roundup, which meant there was duplication between the roundups and The Pulse. We want to encourage you to subscribe to The Pulse for a daily look at what’s happening in Edmonton, and to the roundups for deeper dives into what’s happening in tech, food, health innovation, the region, the arts, and business. The new format makes that more likely.
We think the new format makes the roundups themselves more engaging. Instead of dropping you right into a story, we greet you in a more conversational way without any unnecessary preamble (as we always strive to save you time). I’m reminded of Meg Ryan’s character in You’ve Got Mail, who writes to Tom Hanks’s character, "I like to start my notes to you as if we’re in the middle of a conversation."
One of the things we’ve learned through the experiment is that this format is a useful way for us to connect the dots. While each edition of a roundup is informative on its own, paying attention to a topic over time yields greater benefits. We notice patterns, connections, and trends that we can share, and the new format is a good way to do that.
We’ll still write stories about our roundup topics even with the new format in place, and you’ll still find them curated into items for the roundups they fit best. Those stories will also make it into The Pulse. But the new format provides us with some operational flexibility that we’re excited to take full advantage of.
We’re working on additional improvements to the roundups, The Pulse, and our website, and we’ll have more to share on that soon. If you have any feedback on what would make the reader experience even better, please let us know!
And as always, if you’d like to help us go further faster, become a Taproot member or sponsor. You’ll be helping us build what comes next in local journalism.
We’re trying something new at the top of some of our roundups, as part of our continuing quest to build a sustainable, tech-enabled media business that helps our community understand itself better.
Instead of a story at the top of the Jan. 17 Food Roundup and the Jan. 18 Health Innovation Roundup, you’ll see a message from the editor pulling together some threads in a meaningful way. We pay a lot of attention to these topics, and sometimes we notice things that aren’t really stories and aren’t really items, but are still worth attention and context. That’s what we’d like to provide at the top of the roundups, in a way that’s more conversational than our usual editorial voice.
We’ll try this again with a couple of other roundups next week to see if we’ve hit on a format that will stick. We’d love to know what you think — send your thoughts to email@example.com.
Why are we doing this?
Change is the Taproot way. We started with long-form features inspired by readers’ questions, and we published them as soon as we had the time and money to put them out, which in the early days was at a pretty slow cadence. Then we introduced roundups, our weekly newsletters gathering items on specific topics, serving readers’ curiosity in a different and more frequent way and opening up a new revenue stream via sponsorship. Their format has evolved over time.
Two years ago, we launched The Pulse, a weekday newsletter that distributes our stories and curates news and items from other sources to help Edmontonians get on with their day in an informed way. That product has become the centre of our editorial work, and its readership is much higher than that of any roundup.
When we started The Pulse, it made sense to distribute the stories that we wrote for the various roundup beats in that newsletter, along with elements that are only distributed in The Pulse, such as some of our city council coverage, our weekly moment in history, and our event listings.
Now we’d like to differentiate the content of The Pulse from that of the roundups, partly for some operational flexibility but also because we think it will be a better experience for readers. We want to encourage you to subscribe to The Pulse for a daily look at what’s happening in Edmonton, and to the roundups for deeper dives into what’s happening in tech, food, health innovation, the region, the arts, and business. You may have a greater incentive to do that with less duplication.
Will we still have stories on our roundup beats?
Many of our story ideas emerge from the topics our readers want us to pay attention to, so we will naturally continue to cover stories that fit our roundup beats, whether this new format sticks around or not. Those stories will continue to be curated into items for the roundups they fit into, as is our practice now.
This gives us the flexibility to publish daily stories that aren’t necessarily related to or timed with a particular roundup. We think this could improve the quality of our work.
We’ll experiment with this for a couple of weeks, then make a call on whether to keep doing it. If we do, that will likely lead to some other changes we’re considering to improve the experience for readers and paying members.
As always, if you’d like to help us go further faster, become a Taproot member or sponsor. You’ll be helping us build what comes next in local journalism.
Speaking Municipally’s annual Jeopardy episode will be coming to your podcatcher just in time for Christmas. Be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss councillors Anne Stevenson, Ashley Salvador, and Michael Janz squaring off on Edmonton trivia.
For the past eight weeks or so we have learned about many aspects of building and managing a team. Planning for growth, hiring, onboarding, employment policies, management, and addressing and avoiding burnout were all among the topics covered. While much of the information was familiar to us given the stage we’re at, we also took away several new ideas and insights that we have already been applying. For example, we have adopted the use of user manuals, a helpful articulation of how someone likes to work and collaborate with other people. Participating in the program also caused us to follow-through on some work already underway, such as improving our employee handbook and onboarding process.
We enjoyed meeting with and learning from the other publishers that participated in the program. Most of all, we are grateful for the chance to work with our coach, Bene Cipolla. As the former editor-in-chief and publisher of Chalkbeat, we knew she’d have a wealth of experience and knowledge to share. Every week we looked forward to hearing her advice and guidance on the issues we were tackling. Bene’s engagement, enthusiasm, and expertise made the program an impactful and enjoyable experience for us.
During our summer break we identified growing our team as a key priority, so the timing of the program was great. We hear regularly from the communities we serve that our work is having a positive impact, whether you start your day with The Pulse, listen to one of our podcasts while doing the laundry, or you receive one of our briefings through your employer. With a thriving team, we can continue to grow and improve our ability to help communities understand themselves better.
As was the case last summer, Taproot Edmonton is taking a publishing break. This time, we’ll be off for two weeks, from Aug. 22 to Sept. 5.
We’ll resume publication on Tuesday, Sept. 6, after the Labour Day long weekend, feeling refreshed and energized for the rest of the year. The Pulse will return to inboxes on that day, and our weekly roundups will resume their usual schedule that week.
We have put together a few things to keep you informed in the meantime:
Mack Male and Troy Pavlek have been paying close attention to city council on Edmontonians’ behalf since August 2018. It’s wonderful to see all of their hours of watching meetings and combing through agendas rewarded with this recognition, as it was when the show was nominated last year.
The Canadian Podcast Awards are voted on by other Canadian podcasters. If you happen to be one of those, you could cast your vote for Speaking Municipally in this category: “Outstanding News & Current Affairs Series.” Voting closes on Aug. 10, 2022.
Without amendments, Bill C-18 risks disproportionately benefitting large news organizations and shutting out digital startups and independent media.
When the Liberal government announced its intention to support Canada’s news industry, the reasons given were to sustain local journalism, support innovation in news, and ensure diversity in the news industry. Bill C-18, the Online News Act currently before Parliament, guarantees none of these things.
Four key changes are needed if Canada is to have the vibrant journalism citizens need for a healthy democracy.
We are a coalition of independent Canadian news publishers, pushing for amendments to C-18 to ensure the bill lives up to its promise to strengthen Canadian journalism. We represent over 100 outlets serving communities coast to coast to coast and employing over one thousand journalists. Taken together, our readers and listeners number in the many millions. Many of us have risked personal capital, fundraised from our communities, and built newsrooms from scratch to reach underserved audiences, many at the local level.
Collectively, we represent Canada’s most innovative digital news media, local news outlets, both French and English language media, and BIPOC-led news media — we are the innovative news organizations that are rebuilding the local news ecosystem. The Online News Act represents an opportunity to accelerate this innovation and progress.
We have come together to ask for basic fairness in Bill C-18.
The centrepiece of Bill C-18 is a funding model aimed at mandating large web platforms like Facebook and Google to compensate Canadian news organizations for posting content on their platforms. Unfortunately, as it is currently structured, Bill C-18 does not specifically direct funding towards supporting the critical work of journalists. The bill also lacks robust transparency mechanisms and, most importantly, it risks leaving out small, medium size and independent publishers.
Even before it was tabled, Bill C-18 has resulted in winners and losers in the news industry. There have been a series of secret, backroom deals between Big Tech and the largest newspapers in Canada, along with a handful of small- to medium-sized publishers. An unintended but likely consequence of Bill C-18 as currently structured may be to cement these inequities and this secrecy, which threatens the public’s already-frayed trust in journalism.
To be clear, we support the goal of creating a sustainable news industry. It is not too late for the current legislation to address the needs of the Canadian news media ecosystem. We want it to be amended to ensure the following:
A transparent, fair funding formula
A universal funding formula should be applied consistently to all qualifying news organizations. This funding formula should be disclosed, and the public must know which news organizations are receiving money from tech companies.
Support for journalists
Compensation from tech platforms should be based on a percentage of editorial expenditures or the number of journalists that work for an organization, inclusive of freelancers.
Bill C-18 may exclude dozens of important news innovators by demanding employee thresholds that news startups often don’t reach until their 3rd or 4th year of operation.
Bill C-18 currently includes vague and poorly-defined criteria allowing for “Exemption Orders” that could let Big Tech off the hook, benefitting a few large news organizations and shutting out hundreds of legitimate small to medium size newsrooms.
While we recognize the reality of the wider news crisis, our organizations represent rays of hope, and are proving that there is a future for a dynamic, inclusive news ecosystem in Canada.
Bill C-18 is modeled after Australia’s News Media Bargaining Code. It must not repeat the mistakes of that legislation. In Australia, an estimated 90 per cent of negotiated revenues flowed to the three largest media companies.
We encourage the government to revisit and improve Bill C-18.
As small, medium size, and independent news publishers, this new legislation is too big, and too important, to fumble. Bill C-18 will have a massive impact on the future of journalism and news in Canada.
This is an annual award that recognizes news organizations that "power journalism’s future through digital journalism." It was our coverage of the 2021 municipal election that caught the eye of the jury.
We are shortlisted with the CBC for its Black On the Prairies interactive series, and New Canadian Media for its collective membership model, a capacity-building project with the Canadian Association of Journalists and National NewsMedia Council.
I had the pleasure of leading the tremendous team that pulled this project off, with development by Mack Male and Meenakshi Chaudhary; data analysis by Madeleine Stout; editorial work by Emily Rendell-Watson, Jackson Spring, and Troy Pavlek; session facilitation by Chris Chang-Yen Phillips; and advice from Elise Stolte and Rob Houle.
Many thanks to everyone who participated in this project. The real reward was, of course, the knowledge that we sent thousands of Edmontonians into this election with a better understanding of what the issues were and which candidates aligned best with their values. But it’s nice to get some external validation.
We’ve been pretty heads-down in 2022, doing the work that you’ve come to expect from us, but it’s time to look up and celebrate a couple of honours for that work.
At Digital Alberta’s 2021 Ember Awards, Taproot Edmonton was named Best Digital Publication.
Last year saw huge changes at Taproot, with the launch of The Pulse, powered by a revamped website that reflects our efforts to help our community understand itself better. We were also recognized for our People’s Agenda project, in which we asked Edmontonians what issues were important to them, put those questions to the candidates, and crafted a matching engine to help voters discover who aligned with their values best.
"It was truly gratifying to be able to have such a positive impact in such an important part of our community," co-founder Mack Male said in his acceptance speech.
It was Mack’s developer chops that made all of this possible on the technical side, assisted by intern Meenakshi Chaudhary. We also pulled on his deep knowledge of city hall on the content side, alongside tremendous efforts from editorial lead Emily Rendell-Watson, data analyst Madeleine Stout, reporter Jackson Spring, listening-sessions facilitator Chris Chang-Yen Phillips, and everyone else who helped the project succeed.
Many thanks to Digital Alberta and award sponsor Communo, and congratulations to all of the amazing people and organizations recognized for their excellence.
The work Emily did on that show laid the foundation for Taproot’s new weekly podcast, Bloom, in which Emily discusses innovation in Edmonton with co-host Faaiza Ramji. We’ll share more about this project in the coming days, but in the meantime, check out the episodes so far, and subscribe so you don’t miss the next one.
It takes resources to make award-winning journalism, and we’re grateful for the opportunity to keep making more. If you’d like to help, become a member or a sponsor, or pass this on to a friend. Such contributions make a big difference.