The Council Roundup is moving to The Pulse

Taproot Edmonton is publishing the final edition of the Council Roundup on Jan. 22 as we transition our coverage of the discussions and decisions happening at city hall to The Pulse and our new website. This means you’ll see more coverage of municipal politics from Taproot, and on a more frequent basis.

The evolution of the Council Roundup

We launched the Council Roundup in August 2018. For most of its existence, the roundup included a small summary of every agenda item. While this was a significant reduction from the hundreds of pages of reports that are published each week, it still resulted in a rather lengthy email.

When the pandemic hit last year, council’s schedule was upended, and we changed the Council Roundup accordingly. It became more like our other roundups, with some original writing at the top followed by curated headlines. And instead of including a summary of every agenda item, we included summaries of selected agenda items.

What hasn’t changed is our goal of providing readers with an overview of the items coming up at council and the decisions that were recently made. That’s a public service we’re committed to continuing.

What’s changing?

You’ll now find our coverage of municipal politics every weekday in The Pulse. That includes original reporting, curated headlines, and upcoming agenda items. For example:

We think this is a better way to inform you about municipal politics while also streamlining the efforts of our editorial team.

Our coverage of city hall is moving from the Council Roundup to The Pulse.

Why are we making this change?

One of our core principles at Taproot is that we edit. Of course we edit everything we publish, but this principle extends far beyond our journalism. We strive to make "less but better" part of all of our daily activities, and we give ourselves permission to stop trying to do it all.

With the launch of The Pulse, we evaluated everything else we’re doing and came to the conclusion that we could best achieve the objectives of the Council Roundup and of The Pulse by doing some consolidation.

What about the People’s Agenda?

For those who receive the Council Roundup to receive updates on our People’s Agenda project, we’ll be offering a monthly newsletter instead. It will cover what we’ve done in our quest to provide more citizen-focused coverage of the 2021 civic election, what we’re doing next, and how you can help us hear from more people.

What’s next?

We’ll continue to edit while also being open to opportunities to better serve our community, especially when it comes to understanding our local government and its activities. As always, we welcome and encourage your feedback.

If you haven’t already done so, sign up to get The Pulse for free!

We’re merging Music into the Arts Roundup

We have made the decision to merge the Music Roundup into the Arts Roundup. The final edition of the Music Roundup will be published on Thursday, Sept. 3, 2020 and starting the following week we’ll be including more music-related coverage in the Arts Roundup. All existing Music Roundup subscribers will automatically receive the Arts Roundup instead.

The Music Roundup has actually been a key part of our progress over the last two years, so we haven’t made this decision lightly.

The context

We launched the Music Roundup in July 2018 as our second roundup. It was an important step as it helped further validate the idea behind the roundups and provided another place for us to iterate.

The Music Roundup was originally curated by Sandra Sperounes, a veteran music writer who had a long career at the Edmonton Journal and then as an entertainment columnist on CBC Radio. It was an incredible opportunity for us to learn from her.

When Sandra moved on to new things, we brought Emily Rendell-Watson on board. In addition to her interest in music and curation/writing skills, Emily quickly made herself indispensable by taking on most of the editing work for our other roundups.

In August 2019, the Edmonton Arts Council supported our efforts to offer local arts coverage by launching the Arts Roundup, curated by Fawnda Mithrush. It made sense at the time to add a new roundup rather than rebrand the Music Roundup, even though we knew there’d be some overlap.

Edmonton Kaleido Festival - 2018
While the Music Roundup is going away, our music coverage is not. The Arts Roundup already contains some of our music coverage and now you’ll find even more there. (Photo of the 2018 Kaleido Family Arts Festival by IQRemix)

The decision

As they say, hindsight is 20/20. If we were starting fresh, we likely wouldn’t launch two separate roundups! We’d launch one that covers all aspects of local arts, including music, theatre, dance, visual arts, literary arts, and more. Having one roundup for all of our local arts coverage will help us concentrate our resources.

COVID-19 also contributed to this decision. Arts and entertainment have been significantly impacted by the pandemic, which has in turn affected our coverage. While we hope for a return to "normal" in the near future, we know that the current state of affairs will continue for quite some time. Our approach needs to adapt accordingly.

What’s next

We are still committed to helping Edmontonians better understand the local music scene, and we encourage musicians, venues, promoters, and everyone else in the industry to continue sending news and other updates to us at hello@taprootedmonton.ca.

If you’re not already a subscriber, please check out the Arts Roundup!

A commitment to transparency

In early 2015, Edmonton’s City Council adopted the Open City Policy, an important document that articulates the City of Edmonton’s commitment “to bring to action the Open City principles of transparency, participation, collaboration, inclusiveness and innovation.”

Yet policies don’t implement themselves, and that’s often where the heavy lifting needs to be done. For an organization as large as the City of Edmonton (with 14,000+ employees) it’s clear that writing a set of principles is a very different challenge than applying them to everyday work. Truly becoming “open by default” requires persistence. A little public pressure doesn’t hurt, either!

Edmonton Journal columnist Elise Stolte has demonstrated again and again her commitment to this work. Most recently, she shared a “win” involving the construction of the Valley Line LRT. Stolte asked the City for the non-conformance reports it files to track TransEd’s performance, but the City refused to provide them. She appealed to the City’s freedom of information co-ordinators and was again rebuffed. So she appealed to the provincial commissioner, who determined Stolte is right and the City should release the reports.

Unfortunately, she still doesn’t have the reports. Facing a leave of absence that will take her out of the city, Stolte concludes that “transparency cannot depend on individual journalists, especially now that newsrooms are smaller, and it can’t depend on this formal, legal structure with deadlines, extensions and co-ordinators.”

Stolte concludes:

“A city that shares information freely is admitting it will never have everything perfect. When it shares, it’s inviting the rest of the community to come along. It’s an act of humility that builds bridges.”

Stolte’s persistent effort on behalf of Edmontonians is incredibly important work. Others deserve recognition here as well, such as CBC Edmonton’s Janice Johnston who led the effort to have Edmonton police share the names of homicide victims.

We’re doing our part too. While live-tweeting Executive Committee on Monday, it became clear that councillors were going to move an important discussion about role clarity in Edmonton’s innovation sector to the November shareholder meeting, which is private. I tweeted my dissent to a few members of the committee.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.jsThe next day, Councillor Andrew Knack and Mayor Don Iveson agreed the discussion should be public.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.jsOn Wednesday afternoon, Councillor Knack filed the following notice of motion:

“That EEDC work with TEC Edmonton, Health City, and other stakeholders and report back on the status of the recommendations in the YEG Innovation Compass Report. This report should specifically address opportunities to reduce overlap, clarify roles and governance, accelerate the technology economy, and better serve the municipal innovation ecosystem.”

Assuming his motion is carried at next week’s council meeting, a report will come back providing the public with more information and importantly, another opportunity to participate in the discussion.

I know I wasn’t the only one who reached out to members of council to let them know how important it is that this discussion be held publicly. And that’s the point. It’ll take the persistent effort of all of us to ensure that the City of Edmonton and City Council adhere to the principles of transparency they’ve articulated. We’ll keep at it.

Tech Roundup Review: January 2019

Every Tuesday morning we publish the Tech Roundup, a newsletter full of the latest headlines & happenings in Edmonton’s technology community. In addition to the curated, easy-to-scan lists of news and events, each edition includes one or two featured items which are the updates highlighted below. Sign up here to get the Tech Roundup by email each week.

Here’s our look back at the month of January 2019 as captured by our Tech Roundups.

January 8 – BioWare co-founders appointed to the Order of Canada

BioWare co-founders Dr. Ray Muzyka and Dr. Greg Zeschuk were the only Edmontonians among 103 new appointments to the Order of Canada in December. The two co-founders were named Members of the Order of Canada for their "revolutionary contributions to the video game industry" and as developers and co-founders "of an internationally renowned studio." In this edition we also highlighted the selection of the founding members of the Edmonton Advisory Council on Startups (EACOS), the refinancing and shareholder consolidation announced by Yardstick Software, and an Alberta Venture feature on Testfire Labs.

January 15 – Alberta AI Business Plan funding ask submitted to Province

The Alberta AI Business Plan, developed by a steering committee made up of local investors, entrepreneurs, service providers, and academics, was released outlining a vision to make AI "a billion dollar industry in the province by 2025." A funding ask was submitted to the Government of Alberta to "kickstart the accelerator and pre-seed funding". In this edition we also highlighted Amii’s announcement that it will host the Deep Learning & Reinforcement Learning Summer School this year, the selection of Testfire Labs as a finalist in the AI category for SXSW Pitch, and a development from the University of Alberta that could make a new generation of lithium ion batteries with 10 times the charge capacity of current batteries.

January 22 – Chris Lumb steps down as TEC Edmonton CEO

After nearly ten years with the organization, Chris Lumb has decided to step down as CEO of TEC Edmonton, effective June 30, 2019. “With outstanding staff and management, a strong culture and excellent client outcomes, TEC will continue to do outstanding work helping to grow emerging technology companies in the community,” he said. In this edition we also highlighted Arden Tse’s move from the Venture Mentoring Service to Yaletown Partners’ Accelerate II fund, the news that Rising Tide’s Ashif Mawji was inducted into the 2019 Alberta Business Hall of Fame, and that Testfire Labs and AltaML were added to the Government of Canada’s list of qualified suppliers for artificial intelligence.

January 29 – Applied Quantum Materials receives funding to turn windows into solar panels

University of Alberta spin-off company Applied Quantum Materials was one of 29 successful projects in the Climate Change Innovation Technology Framework (CCITF) – Clean Technology Development program, receiving a $420,000 grant from Alberta Innovates to use nanomaterials to turn windows into see-through solar panels. In this edition we also highlighted F12.net’s acquisition of BC-based Level4 Technologies, the City of Edmonton’s new online system for managing recreation program and facility bookings, and comments from UCP leader Jason Kenney on cryptocurrency.

Popular Clicks

These were the top 5 most clicked on items from the month:

That’s a wrap on January! Sign up here to get the Tech Roundup by email every Tuesday morning.

Thank you to our Tech Roundup sponsors: Advanced Technology Centre, Amii, EEDC, Startup Edmonton, Stormboard, TEC Edmonton, Jobber, Testfire Labs, VMS, Instamek, and CompuVision.

Help us do better beat reporting in Edmonton

Two weeks ago we published our latest story, a look at EEDC’s proposed Innovation Hub. Written by Eliza Barlow and edited by Therese Kehler, the story was well-received and widely read. Last week, City Council voted to request that EEDC pause work on the project, pending further review and engagement.

We first shared news of the Innovation Hub in an edition of the Tech Roundup in August, not long after we began work on the story. It takes time and effort to do the quality of journalism we strive for, and we wanted to make sure it would have an impact when we published it, so we set Edmonton Startup Week as the deadline. We got lucky that innovation was on the agenda at City Council to start the week too! We followed the story up with an episode of Speaking Municipally in which Troy Pavlek and I spoke with Eliza and Therese in more depth about the story and how they did their reporting. I also live-tweeted City Council meetings on October 15 and on October 23 where the Innovation Hub and related reports were discussed. We did a follow-up in Episode 12 of Speaking Municipally, and this week’s edition of the Tech Roundup. We’ve been on the case for a while, and will continue to provide updates through the Tech Roundup and future stories as appropriate.

We didn’t stumble into the story by accident, nor did we get lucky in the timing of its publication. Both were made possible because of the attention we pay to the tech beat here in Edmonton. We launched the Tech Roundup in early June, and already it has become the must-read publication for anyone interested in Edmonton’s technology sector. Every week we curate the latest local tech headlines & happenings, and that focused attention, alongside engagement with our community, allowed us to recognize there was a potential story on the horizon. It also gave us visibility into when Edmonton Startup Week was happening and when the topic of innovation was scheduled to be discussed by City Council.

We think beat reporting, especially local beat reporting, is critical.

Having fewer reporters on beats leads to “shallower stories, and a public with a shallower understanding of important issues and institutions,” Toronto Star reporter Daniel Dale told the Ryerson Review of Journalism in 2013. But in the nearly five years since that article was published things have gotten worse, not better. More than 250 Canadian news outlets have closed since 2008, and countless others have slashed the number of reporters they employ. According to the Canadian Media Guild‘s tracking of layoffs and buyouts for the past few decades, “the total is in the order of 12,000 positions lost.”

The reduction in stories being told reflects this, and it’s newsroom beats that have declined the most. According to the Public Policy Forum, the number of newspaper articles produced over the last 10 years has shrunk by almost half. Their report suggests that newsrooms may be “concentrating limited resources on covering civic affairs at the expense of other topics.”

The shrinking coverage of other topics is alarming and we’re working hard to do something about it.

Our work on the Innovation Hub story is illustrative of what we can do, even with limited resources. We’re optimistic about the future and the great local storytelling we’ll produce. But we need your help to do it. To be clear, we’re not a charity, and we’re not looking for a handout. We’re focused on delivering value to you, and we’re asking for you to invest in us so we can do even more great work. We hope you’ll join us.

Use the code INNOVATION before November 30 and save 10% on your first year of membership!

Welcome to our first Tech Roundup sponsors

Today we’re excited to welcome our first sponsors to the Tech Roundup! Thank you to the Advanced Technology CentreAlberta Machine Intelligence Institute (Amii)Edmonton Economic Development Corporation (EEDC)Startup EdmontonStormboard, and TEC Edmonton for supporting the work we’re doing to chronicle Edmonton’s technology community.

We launched the Tech Roundup in early June with the goal of creating an informative, interesting, and timely resource to highlight the latest headlines and happenings in the tech community. The feedback we’ve been receiving is encouraging, and suggests we’re on the right track. Readers have told us they are happy to have a single place to look at for the latest news. And they have told us that before the Tech Roundup, they didn’t realize just how much activity there was week-to-week. It’s a positive start and we’re excited to build on that.

The Tech Roundup is free for everyone to read. You can get it by email or you can click through from our social media updates each week. Taproot Members receive the Tech Roundup first and have unlimited access to all of our roundups – learn more here.

Our sponsors are contributing to the sustainability of Tech Roundup. Editorial independence is important to us and to these sponsors; they have no say over what we put in the Tech Roundup, and we won’t let their sponsorship alter our decisions about what we round up and how.

Our initial sponsors all care deeply about Edmonton’s technology community and we’re grateful for their support:

ATC Amii EEDC Startup Edmonton Stormboard TEC Edmonton

If you’re interested in joining them as a sponsor of the Tech Roundup, we’d love to hear from you! We currently offer two levels of sponsorship: Cultivators ($100/month, billed annually) and Pollinators ($50/month). Have a look at our sponsorship page for more information and please reach out via email. We look forward to working with you!