EDITORIAL: New Year, New Telegraph as Rossland’s oldest newspaper (yup) rolls out some new ideas

Rossland Telegraph
By Rossland Telegraph
January 30th, 2014

Working in an online environment is a form of constant education. When David Livingstone and I started The Rossland Telegraph five years ago, we had the idea of offering something new in a new medium–an electronic forum where all right-thinking denizens of the Mountain Kingdom could air and share their views, thereby facilitating better community dialogue and, as a result, building a better community.

In some ways this has worked, but in some ways it hasn’t.

We’re proud of what we’ve achieved so far in terms of offering responsible reporting, speaking truth to power, and endeavoring to reflect the multivarious facets of life here in Rossland, but as time has rolled along and we’ve grown in our understanding of the nature of the ever-evolving web, we’ve come to realize that, in some ways, we’ve been pretty old school.

For example, up till now we’ve largely maintained the old ‘editor-writer-reader’ model of transmission journalism. And in terms of our reporting on Rossland City Council we’ve maintained the model of ‘council speaks-paper reports/critiques-reader reads’ model as well.

But none of this is very reflective of how the web really works.

The way the web works best–and the direction in which it is clearly evolving–it toward the social media model, an egalitarian world where people actively exchange information and opinions and distribute that information through their personal networks. In other words…a web, not a straight line from writer to reader.

The problem with the old transmission models is that they tend to engender passivity by making the largest group of people (“readers” or “citizens”) passive recipients of the will of the smallest group of people (“editors” and “leaders”). None of that is especially democratic in the classic sense. Citizens have come to believe that democracy means maybe voting every three or four years and then sitting back and letting elected representatives do what they want while we catcall from the sidelines. It’s also engendered, at times, an attitude from those in power that what they do is right because…well…because they do it–and that critique is personal attack.

All of this was excusable and even understandable in the past when technological limitations made more engaging processes impossible, but times have changed.

Oh boy, have they changed.

One criticism of a more egalitarian model like the one we’re about to roll out is that it can degenerate into an ‘anything goes’ playhouse where rumour competes with fact (with fact usually losing)–a place where the personal ends up ascendant over the objective (or at least the objectivity we all aspire to). We’re aware of this danger and consequently will be maintaining the positions of both editor and city reporter much as before.

That said, starting this week the Rossland Telegraph will be rolling out some exciting new innovations:

  • We’re pleased as punch to announce that Sara Golling will be taking over the often-daunting task of covering the activities of City Council in her new column, Council Matters. Sara is a lawyer with a terrific history of engagement with local issues, including her work on the Sustainability Commission. She’s more than amply qualified to take this job on and we’re lucky to have her.

  • Rather than fill our vacant lead reporter position, we’re in the process of creating a list of local writers who may want to occasionally or regularly contribute. Please see this related story. The hope is to commission and publish stories that emerge organically from the community rather than have those decisions be the sole domain of an editor

  • We’ve also committed to ongoing coverage of the new Rossland Citizens’ Council (stay tuned until next week…) as we feel this innovative series of chats will help expand citizen engagement and provide a great resource for the community. Toward that end, we’ll be posting the agenda for Citizens’ Council in advance of each Sunday meeting and posting summaries of the group’s decisions prior to the regular council meetings on Mondays.

  • We’re also making an ongoing commitment to regular coverage of the ‘non-money worlds of volunteerism and community activism. While we’ll continue to promote and cover our many fine and innovative businesses, we feel it’s important to give equal coverage to those who work just as hard but for no financial compensation. Needless to say, many of these people are also our local entrepreneurs anyway! This is a great town for getting involved in so many ways and we want to make sure everybody’s stories get told.

  • We’ll be preserving the job of editor as a paid position but with the hope of making it a rotating position with successive editors drawn from the pool of contributors.

Ultimately, the hope is these changes will result in a Telegraph that keeps the virtues of the old while incorporating the amazing possibilities of the new. Is it possible to have the best of both worlds? We’ll see!

Adrian Barnes is the editor of the Rossland Telegraph and president of Lone Sheep Publishing.

Categories: GeneralOp/Ed

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