West Edmonton Local is about to be reincarnated again, so this seems like a good time to explain and explore this gift to MacEwan journalism students, created last school year by Archie McLean and Lucas Timmons.
I call it a gift because journalism is learned by doing. To have a real-life news website to work on, with a real community to serve, is a tremendous opportunity, as Archie explained well to Mack Male when the site launched in February.
West Edmonton Local has changed since then, and will keep changing, which is a good reflection of the state of journalism itself. When the semester ended last spring, West Edmonton Local was kept going by Mathew White and Trevor Robb. Trevor then got a job at the Edmonton Examiner, leaving Mathew to hold down the fort, which he did ably through the summer. Meanwhile, Archie has returned to the Edmonton Journal full-time, where he is now the assignment editor.
Now Mathew is about to move on to a job in Osoyoos. So, starting Sept. 26, West Edmonton Local will be in the hands of students in their second year of the journalism diploma program at MacEwan. I teach senior reporting to these students, and Lucas and I teach them news production, so between those two classes, we are creating a newsroom.
It’s a slow-motion newsroom, as we want to make sure we learn along the way. It’s hard to resist making sacrifices to the news production gods (listen to Jay Rosen’s conversation with Mitch Joel on that subject if you want to know what I’m on about). Our story cycle, from story pitch to publication, takes about 12 days. In a normal newsroom, it takes about 12 hours.
So it’s not a breaking news site. It has had breaking news and event coverage through the summer, under Mathew’s direction. But now, West Edmonton Local’s content will be more like what you might find in a weekly, but taking advantage as much as possible of the other opportunities afforded by online news: links, interactivity, multimedia.
This is all a learning experience for me, too. My only online journalism experience was at The Journal, where we dealt with a custom-built content management system and a much different editorial setup. West Edmonton Local is run on WordPress and requires some knowledge of HTML and CSS, which I’m learning alongside the students. Talk about being thrown in the deep end. But that’s sometimes the best way to learn.
Monday is our first day taking over West Edmonton Local, so have a look and tell us what we could do better. You can comment directly on the stories or email me at unlandk(at)macewan.ca. You can also interact with our community engagement editors on Twitter and on Facebook. If you’ve got any good west-end story ideas, send them our way!
That’s enough log-rolling. Rounding up a few more things I noticed this week:
— Kikki Planet, an online magazine dedicated to celebrating young, community-focused movers and shakers in Edmonton, launches on Sept. 30. Get your tickets here for the launch party at the Daffodil Gallery. And follow Kikki on Twitter for updates.
— Dave Cournoyer’s daveberta.ca has been on fire of late, what with the Liberal leadership vote, the first round of the Conservative leadership vote and the coming Round 2, plus some entertaining intrigue around the Liberals’ interest in the Alberta Party’s Michael Walters. If you like geeking out on politics — and I do — there’s plenty of great stuff to chew on.
— The Edmonton International Film Festival’s 24/One Filmmaking Challenge is on now and will conclude Sept. 25 at 11 a.m. That means 40 soon-to-be sleep-deprived teams are working on making a movie in one day, which sounds crazy to me. Watch the fun on the #24One hashtag on Twitter. Also, go see a movie — the festival is on until Oct. 1.
— It’s Western Canada Fashion Week, too. You’ll find coverage at City and Dale and Adventures in Fashion, among other places, as well as on Twitter at #wcfw.
That’s all I’ve got time and space for today. Comment, tweet or Google+ at me if I’ve missed anything. There always more media news on Mack’s Media Monday.