Taproot does some more pruning

Taproot Edmonton is publishing the final edition of the Media Roundup on Feb. 15. From time-to-time you’ll still find coverage of media in Edmonton in The Pulse and on our website.

The evolution of the Media Roundup

We launched the Media Roundup in July 2018 to cover media, public relations, and communications in Edmonton.

I had been writing a blog series called Media Monday Edmonton since early 2011 and it made sense to bring that into Taproot when we started developing our roundups. We expanded the purview of the roundup and added events and job opportunities.

In June 2019, Linda Hoang came on board to take over the Media Roundup and she did a great job. But with her own growing online empire, Linda decided to step away and wrote her final edition last month.

Photo by Mark Tegethoff on Unsplash

Why are we making this change?

Linda’s departure accelerated discussions we were already having about how the Media Roundup fits into what we’re building with Taproot Edmonton.

We continue to strive for "less but better" and just as with the end of the Council Roundup, we think this change will help us focus on other efforts, such as The Pulse.

There’s a popular quote in writing circles that "you must kill your darlings." Originally attributed to William Faulkner and popularized by Stephen King, the phrase refers to characters, paragraphs, chapters, or other bits of writing that we’re fond of and want to keep, even if they get in the way of serving the reader.

It has been ten years since I posted the first entry in Media Monday Edmonton. Paying attention to and writing about the media so regularly definitely factored into the creation of Taproot. I’m grateful for that, and I’m ready to let it go.

What’s next?

As appropriate, we’ll include media and communications-related items in The Pulse, the Arts Roundup, Business Roundup, and other publications so please continue to send us your suggestions and tips.

We are always open to opportunities to better serve our community and welcome your feedback.

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

Meet our new Health Innovation Roundup curator

We’d like to introduce you to Hiba Kamal-Choufi, who started curating the Health Innovation Roundup a few weeks ago.

Hiba has been keeping a close eye on what’s going on in the health innovation space. As you can imagine, the past month has been quite a unique time to take over this particular roundup! Hiba has done a great job of curating the latest COVID-19-related news as well as other updates from the sector.

Hiba Kamal-Choufi, our new Health Innovation Roundup curator

Hiba started her career as a news editor in Beirut, covering stories that involved a range of topics, including the Arab uprisings in 2010 and 2011. After moving to Edmonton, she joined Shaw TV and has since held a number of communications positions. She has a master’s degree in communications and technology (MACT) from the University of Alberta and holds an M.A. in international relations and B.A. in journalism from Beirut, Lebanon. Hiba is currently the Director of Jobline and Email Marketing at IABC Edmonton.

The Health Innovation Roundup launched in the fall of 2018 with Catherine Griwkowsky as curator. We’re grateful to Catherine for all the work she did to keep readers informed and to help grow the roundup, and wish her all the best.

We’re thrilled to have Hiba on our roster of roundup curators who pay attention to what’s going on and distill it to its essence to make sure you are informed. Here’s the whole crew:

Be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss an edition. You can get up to two of these roundups for free if you join as a Taproot Reader.

If you become a Taproot Member, you can get as many roundups as you like, along with other perks. Plus you’ll be helping us pay for high-calibre local journalism from our curators and the freelancers we commission for original stories. We’re building what comes next — join us.

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!

Tech Roundup Review: September 2018

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.

September was an exciting month for us as we added our first sponsors to the Tech Roundup! Their support enables us to chronicle Edmonton’s tech sector each week. We also launched a new roundup focused on Health Innovation. Here’s our look back at the month of September 2018 as captured by our Tech Roundups.

September 4 – Avenue Edmonton puts the spotlight on AI

The first edition of the month had a big focus on artificial intelligence as we highlighted Avenue Edmonton’s three features. The September 2018 edition of the magazine talked about the context of Edmonton’s position in the world of AI, featured Edmonton.AI as a community initiative to grow the industry, and looked at how robots will change your job,

September 11 – NAIT’s new Productivity & Innovation Centre

NAIT’s newest facility is the $83.4 million Productivity and Innovation Centre (PIC). The building houses manufacturing labs, acceleration spaces, and a hub for applied research activity and is described as one of North America’s largest innovation spaces. This edition also featured a bunch of AI-related news, such as Folio’s feature on machine learning and research. People were also talking about an Edmonton Journal article that suggested the improvement in downtown’s office vacancy rate is the result of tech companies.

September 18 – New funding for Computing Science students

The University of Alberta is adding 25 additional students to its computing science after-degree program thanks to new provincial funding as part of the Growth and Diversification Act. We also highlighted a video feature on Frettable, which uses AI to provide transcriptions for instruments and songs.

September 25 – Hendrix.ai launches, Improbable expands to Edmonton

Testfire Labs officially launched its flagship product, Hendrix.ai. The product aims to improve meetings by providing automatically transcribed summaries and action items alongside other insights about users’ meeting history. Also making headlines at the end of the month was the announcement that former BioWare GM Aaryn Flynn will lead the Edmonton office of UK games tech startup Improbable. We also linked to the recap of DemoCamp Edmonton 42.

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

That’s a wrap on September! Sign up here to get the Tech Roundup by email every Tuesday morning. And in case you missed it, here’s our review of August 2018.

Introducing the Health Innovation Roundup

Today, we’re excited to share our newest roundup with you: the Health Innovation Roundup, sponsored by Health City.

Each week we bring together the latest headlines & happenings in Edmonton’s health innovation sector. You’ll get the latest on the research, technology, companies, and people changing healthcare for the better in Edmonton. Sign up here to get the Health Innovation Roundup delivered to your inbox.

As with our other roundups, the goal of the Health Innovation Roundup is to save you time, keep you informed, and satisfy your curiosity. We sift through all of the information that’s constantly being shared to determine which is important and worthy of your time. Then we add some context to help you make sense of it all.

Why health innovation?

Edmonton is rich with all the ingredients necessary for a thriving health innovation sector. Our city is home to Alberta Health Services (AHS), the largest fully-integrated health system in Canada, a rich source of health-related data. Edmonton is also home to the Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute (Amii), a world-leader in the science of machine learning and artificial intelligence. The opportunity before Edmonton, to combine health data with artificial intelligence algorithms to develop solutions that improve health outcomes, reduce costs, and increase economic activity, is unrivaled.

According to Health City, Edmonton is already home to more than 50% of Alberta’s life sciences companies, and organizations like Startup Edmonton and TEC Edmonton are working to help new entrepreneurs turn their ideas into thriving, scalable companies that can compete on the global stage. With increased attention from political leaders, new investment from both public and private sources, and greater supports for innovators at all stages, activity in Edmonton’s health innovation sector is sure to accelerate.

The Health Innovation Roundup will chronicle Edmonton’s health innovation sector, to amplify the efforts already underway, help attract new interest to the sector, and keep everyone informed about the latest developments.

The Details

We’re thrilled to have Catherine Griwkowsky on board to curate and write the Health Innovation Roundup. She is an Edmonton-based journalist with a decade of experience. Her work has appeared in the Edmonton Sun, Edmonton Journal and StarMetro Edmonton. You’ll benefit each week from her experience and keen interest in health.

We’ll publish the Health Innovation Roundup for Taproot Members and subscribers first, each Wednesday morning, with social media shares to follow later. You’ll also be able to find highlights from each edition on Health City’s website.

Health City

Health City is “a cluster-led economic development organization that leverages Edmonton’s tremendous health assets to create a fast, competitive and lucrative health innovation ecosystem.” They act as a central connection point for the sector, and we’re very grateful for their support in making the Health Innovation Roundup possible. You can read more about their support here.

If you’d like to join Health City in sponsoring the Health Innovation Roundup, we’d love to hear from you!

Read & Feedback

Here is the latest edition of the Health Innovation Roundup. Let us know what you think! Your feedback will help us improve the roundup and make it even more useful. If you have a suggestion for something we should include in a future edition, send it along and we’ll consider it. Here’s how to get in touch with us.

You can read the Health Innovation Roundup for free, because we believe good stories should reach as many people as possible. Taproot Members get it first though, and will have access to the full Health Innovation Roundup archive and other benefits. You can join Taproot as a paying member or a free subscriber here.

Tech Roundup Review: August 2018

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.

The cooler temperatures are unmistakable: fall is arriving. It won’t be long before the river valley is beautifully yellow, orange, and red! But before we say goodbye to summer, here’s our look back at the month of August 2018 as captured by our Tech Roundups.

August 7 – Making Edmonton a global hub for AI

We began the month with a recap of the second YEG AI Hub workshop that aims to make Edmonton one of the top 5 centres for artificial intelligence (AI) in the world. The goal of the draft business plan is to attract $150 million of investment to accelerate efforts already underway, and to undertake new activities in support of the vision.

August 14 – Artificial Intelligence Improv at the Fringe

With the Fringe festival approaching we highlighted the work Kory Mathewson has been doing on artificial intelligence and improv theatre. He performed in a couple of shows this year, including HumanMachine. We also noted that EEDC selected Derek Hudson as its new CEO. He touched on the importance of the tech sector in an interview with Global Edmonton.

August 21 – EEDC introduces its Innovation Hub concept

We shared the details on EEDC’s proposal for an Innovation Hub downtown. Aiming to grow the “innovation ecosystem” in Edmonton, the new building would act as an entry-point for entrepreneurs and investors. It comes at a cost though: Startup Edmonton would move out of the Mercer Warehouse and into the new building. We also wrote about the new Talent Advisory Council on Technology, setup by the provincial government as part of the implementation of the Growth and Diversification Act.

August 28 – Edmonton joins Startup in Residence program

Edmonton has been selected as the first Canadian partner to join Startup in Residence (STiR), which is “a 16-week program that brings together government agencies and startups to co-create technology solutions for civic challenges.” Startups can register their interest in participating now, with the first challenges to be issued on September 25.

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

That’s a wrap on August! Sign up here to get the Tech Roundup by email every Tuesday morning. And in case you missed it, here’s our review of July 2018.

Fringe Roundup Review: 2018 Edition

The 2018 Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival, known as Fringe ‘O’ Saurus Rex, took place August 16-26 and featured more than 1600 live theatre performances across 38 venues. It was another record-setting year with more than 817,000 visits to the festival grounds (up 9,000 from 2017), 133,276 tickets sold generating $1.46 million in box office revenue (up 10% from 2017), and 419 sell out performances.

“I think the numbers truly speak for themselves this year, with record setting ticket sales, our efforts to put the theatre back into the festival have clearly resonated with Fringers,” says Artistic Director Murray Utas. “We work hard to create a space for artists to get their work to the masses, in an inclusive environment that celebrates diversity and we think we’ve done that. We are thrilled with yet another successful year and can’t wait to explore more incredible theatre headed our way in 2019.”

Here’s what the growth in Fringe ticket sales looks like over the last 15 years:

Once again, Taproot published a daily Fringe Roundup during the festival, written this year by Mel Priestley. In addition to highlighting the reviews and headlines as they came in, Mel featured a different Fringe topic in each edition. She also made use of the festival’s Randomizer button to select a new show to review each day.

Here’s a look back at our coverage for 2018:

August 16 – The Fringe has begun!

The festival kicked off with the opening ceremonies at 7pm at the ATB Financial Outdoor Stage. The ceremonies were be hosted by Fringe Theatre artistic director Murray Utas and artistic associate Hunter Cardinal, and featured 20 Fringe artists and taiko drum group Booming Tree.

August 17 – KidsFringe expands

This year, KidsFringe moved a few blocks east to the Strathcona Community League (10139-87 Avenue). Mel’s first review was of Big Ol Show, “one of the Fringe’s more popular shows, and one that received a lot of early buzz.”

August 18 – Fringing on the streets: outdoor performances

Everyone’s first Fringe show is probably an outdoor performance. In this edition, Mel reviewed Beers About Songs, “Ryan Adam Wells’ heartfelt musical storytelling show.”

August 19 – Eat your way through the Fringe

The Fringe received about 50 applications from food vendors, about half of which made it in. From Mel’s review of Maybe Baby: “What starts out as fun voyeurism quickly starts to feel not so fun, maybe even wrong.”

August 20 – Daily Discount tickets

The Daily Discount Booth was introduced a few years ago as a way for people to see shows for less than the usual price of a ticket. Every day of the Fringe, tickets to a different set of shows are available at discounted rates. In this edition, Mel reviewed Buyer & Cellar, “the Edmonton debut of Jonathan Tolins’ off-Broadway hit.”

August 21 – Fresh and fabulous Fringe finds

Part of the charm of the Fringe is browsing through all the artisan tents scattered throughout the grounds. There were over 40 artisan vendors at the Fringe, some of whom have been Fringing for years and others who were brand new to the festival. Mel reviewed Balls of Yarn, an “unapologetically odd” show that “you can send your friends to if they want to see something more out-there.”

August 22 – Imbibing at the Fringe

Grabbing a drink in the beer tent between shows is one of the best parts of the Fringe. There were three booze tents on site. From Mel’s review of One Thousand Flowers Blooming: “Putting my phone in a microwave was a Fringe first for me.”

August 23 – Browsing books at the Fringe

Books probably aren’t the first thing that come to mind when thinking about the Fringe, but the festival actually has some great options for bibliophiles. In this edition, Mel reviewed Thunderprov, which is “long-form improv punctuated by a number of mini, non-sequitur scenes riffed off some aspect of the main event.”

August 24 – Digging through the festival archives

Fringe ‘O’ Saurus Rex was the 37th incarnation of the Edmonton International Fringe Festival. The first festival was held in August 1982 and was founded by Brian Paisley, who was the artistic director of Chinook Theatre at the time. From Mel’s review of An Anthology of Ghastly Tales: “The first bit is definitely the spookiest and I would have enjoyed a couple more honest attempts for a good scare, but the campiness was fun too.”

August 25 – How much does it cost to do a Fringe show?

Staging a Fringe play costs more than you might think. Even a simple one-man show requires a fairly big chunk of cash, so performers need to budget carefully. In this edition, Mel reviewed WASP, “a play written by Hollywood funny guy Steve Martin.”

August 26 – Holdovers make the Fringe last a little longer

Every year, the Fringe selects a half dozen shows for its Holdover Series and gives them an extended run for another few days after the end of the festival. This year’s holdovers run from Wednesday, August 29 to Saturday, September 1. Mel’s final review was of Eddie Poe. “Even if you haven’t read a word of Poe, there’s a lot to like about Eddie Poe,” she wrote.

That’s a wrap on the Fringe Roundup for 2018. Thanks for reading along. Enjoy the holdovers!

Introducing the Tech Roundup

Today, we’re excited to share our latest initiative with you: the Taproot Edmonton Tech Roundup.

Each week we bring together the latest tech headlines and upcoming events to help you stay up-to-date on what’s happening in Edmonton’s tech community. You’ll get the latest on the entrepreneurs, investors, startups, incubators, and everyone else helping to shape the local tech ecosystem. Sign up here to get the Tech Roundup delivered to your inbox.

There’s lots of information being shared every day, via email newsletters, on Twitter, in news releases, on LinkedIn, and elsewhere. But how do you find it all? How do you know what’s trustworthy? What’s important to know and what can be skipped? That’s where the Tech Roundup comes in. Our goal is for the Tech Roundup to save you time, keep you informed, and satisfy your curiosity.

As you might know, we have experimented with roundups already. Last summer we published the #YEGFringe Daily Digest, and in the weeks leading up to the municipal election, we published the Edmonton Election Update. The feedback on both was positive and encouraging! Combined with the experience we have writing roundups elsewhere about media, blogs, podcasts, food, and general news & events, we know that a collection of updates on a topic of interest can be very useful indeed.

Roundups are another way for us to provide value and tell curiosity-driven stories. We’ll continue to publish local stories based on the curiosity of our members as resources allow.

The Tech Roundup is currently being curated and written by me, Mack Male. We’ll publish it for Taproot Members and subscribers first, each Tuesday morning, with social media shares to follow later. You can see the latest edition here. Let us know what you think! Your feedback will help us improve the roundup and make it even more useful.

You can read the Tech Roundup for free, because we believe good stories should reach as many people as possible. Taproot Members get it first though, and will have access to the full Tech Roundup archive and other benefits. You can join Taproot as a paying member or a free subscriber here.

We plan to roll out roundups on other local topics in the months ahead, so stay tuned.