With the new year approaching, it’s time to take stock of another year of Guelph Politico. Here’s where we’ve been, and hopefully where we’re going.
The Year in Review.
There was a moment this summer when I though about shutting down Guelph Politico.
It’s not an easy thing to give up something you’ve put so much time and effort into, but I was feeling the stress of balancing Politico stuff with a part-time job I wasn’t a fan of, while feeling the paradox of knowing that the product I was making was good, and that many people thought it was a necessity, but still very few people thought it was worth paying for.
Honestly, I do still sometimes have those thoughts. GuelphToday is hitting you pretty hard to subscribe when you visit, and it’s clear that the Guelph Mercury Tribune is getting ready to raise a pay wall. These two big media outlets already divide the ad revenue from digital and print in town respectively, which pretty much left the direct funding model for me, but now that’s no longer true.
I’m not saying it’s good or bad, that’s just how it is. We’re all trying to figure it out, and there’s no such thing as a right answer right now.
Admittedly, I was braced during the election when it seemed like people finally started to listen about the money side. I was also braced by all the people that told me that they depend on Guelph Politico to keep them informed, how much they appreciated the in-depth candidate questionnaires, how Politico gave a lot of time to the school board candidates too, and how they were occasionally entertained or educated through the Politicast.
Going into 2019 I feel renewed, and not just by the work of Politico.
In 2018, we saw the tendrils of the alt-right wiggle its way into town, we saw the opening of Facebook groups that claim to be about political discussion, but are really thinly veiled platforms for hate speech, and anti-left propaganda. They say they love Free Speech, but they’ll block you if you don’t think the *right* way.
A new Guelph “news” site was born out of this, calling themselves an informational site, but posting press releases around their opinion posts about the evils of liberals, and sharing propaganda videos from the party that’s formed the provincial government does not make you a news site.
They’ve hit Facebook advertising pretty hard, and while I would never censor them or advocate for their shutdown, I would add that I don’t think this website’s concept of “news and information” is what most of the people wanting more news in Guelph are thinking of.
Guelph Politico will aim to be better in 2019.
There was some cool stuff this year, that bolstered some of that doubt.
In February, I was asked to speak at the Ontario Good Roads Association annual conference in Toronto, and then interview the provincial party leaders. Andrea Horwath had a last minute conflict, but sitting next to Kathleen Wynne, Vic Fedeli and the NDP’s Wayne Gates and interviewing them before a thousand people was fun, challenging, and daunting all at the same time.
In the spring, I moderated a debate of provincial election candidates at the University of Guelph-Humber, and even though the PC candidate didn’t show (it was Simmer Sandhu), it was still a fun experience.
During the election, I broke a story that got me some attention on both Press Progress and QP Briefing, the CBC even called and asked me for comment. And yes, I did get a chance to appear on CBC K-W during the municipal election, being interviewed by Craig Norris for his morning show, to talk about Guelph politics, which was fun.
I’m going to be starting a very exciting new collaboration in the new year, which I will share more information about when the time comes. Obviously, I will also be continuing with my “Market Squared” columns in GuelphToday. (Now going into it’s third year!)
Thanks to everyone that has contributed over the past year, and is continuing to contribute on into the new year. Contributions to Politico went up 33 per cent over the last year thanks to several generous new subscribers, and if we can get a few more, we’ll be well on our way to giving the site the sustainability it needs to be, at least, a competitive media outlet in Guelph. Thanks again to all of you for your faith, encouragement, and yes, your money!
We finally did it! Guelph Politico has finally moved to a new home, a dedicated web page with its own handle “guelphpolitico.ca.” There was a lot of work to get it done, but I wanted it in place before the Municipal Election, and it’s made sharing and posting material a heckuva a lot easier. If there are any ideas out there on how to improve interactivity, or make things easier to find, suggestions are welcome.
Expanding the Podcast!
One of the things I’m looking forward to over the next year, is using the Guelph Politicast in different ways, and that effort has already begun. Doing a monthly segment called “Guelph Stuff” with Eli Ridder has been one of those directions, and first thing in the new year, a new quarterly segment called “The Transit Pass” will air, and it will feature discussion about local transit issues with members of the Transit Action Alliance of Guelph, or TAAG. I’ve been thinking it might also be fun to do a Toronto Mike thing, and bring on some Guelph “celebrities” to talk about their life and times. Maybe I should take requests…
Previewing the Year Ahead.
One of the things that came up during the campaign was people asking me if I had a compilation of votes from the previous term of council. I did not. But I will now! With the new session of council just a couple of meetings old, Guelph Politico will be building a vote tracker that you will be able to refer to in a quick and easy way to see who voted for what and when. Keep an eye out for it coming soon.
One of the things I’ve been dying to do is expand the live coverage of meetings. There are numerous committees at city hall, not to mention the Police Services Board, and local school boards that are a priority too. The next one I want to tackle though, I think, is the main council meeting of Wellington County. There are a lot of things that effect Guelph that are actually the responsibility of the county – social housing being one – and I think it behooves Guelph to have a regular eye there.
I think one of the things that Guelph Politico needs to set itself apart is more reporting. There are a million stories in the naked city, so to speak, and I think Guelph Politico needs to get out there and tell some of them. There is, presently, one story in the pipe, a long-form feature that I hope to post sometime in the middle of January that I think will be quite insightful, but thanks to some newly (sort of) hired help, it should be possible to get some of this very important reporting done.
Following a model being used by a media start-up called Block Club Chicago, and a helpful suggestion from a friend, I would like to move in a direction of doing neighbourhood reporting, recruiting local residents to write and post about issues and points of interest going on in their area. I realize that a lot of these plans involve other people, and I’ve always said I didn’t want to bring other people on unless I can pay them, but I have received several offers of eager assistance. I hope that by showing people the breadth of capacity for Politico that more people might eagerly contribute to keep it coming.
How about a sassy newsletter? Something that can distill the headlines from around Guelph, and maybe the region, into one, smartly written and straightforward package that comes right to your inbox in the morning or evening? It’s an idea I’ve been toying with, and it may start with a regular post on Politico a couple of times a week, and depending on the interest, it will expand out from there.
Open Sources Guelph.
We’ll continue to have our local politicians on the show, the Big 15 (the 12 city councillors, the mayor, the MPP, and the MP), but instead of just the once a year visit we’ve been running, we’re going to try and step it up for twice a year. For the other 22 shows, we’ll have to dedicate some of them to the Federal Election candidates, but we’ll also bring you some guests of provincial and national interest too. Plus, we’ll try for an exit interview with retiring Police Chief Jeff DeRuyter, who appeared on the show in 2017. Stay tuned because OSG is now going into its fifth year!
2019 Federal Election.
As mentioned above, we’ll be dedicating several episodes of Open Sources Guelph in the fall to profiling the candidates running in Guelph. Could we expand that to Wellington-Halton Hills too? It’s something that Scotty and I have talked about, and we’ve had the present MP of the area, Michael Chong, on the show twice. If there’s one thing I’m hoping for, it’s to avoid another proverbial knife fight with the Conservative candidate about appearing on the show (see our struggles with Ray Ferraro earlier this year). I’ve said it before, but our 2015 interview with Conservative candidate Gloria Kovach remains one of my favourite. Can it be topped?