Tatamagouche Beacon: A Community Effort

Posted: April 18, 2011 by Joanne Goodall in News, Uncategorized

An aerial photo of Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia

Tatamagouche is a small community on the North Shore of Nova Scotia. It’s approximately a 30 minute drive to Truro which has been nicknamed the hub of Nova Scotia and a 2 hour drive from the capital city, Halifax. Its population is about 5,000 in town residents, with approximately 10,000 if you include surrounding areas. Even for a small town, Tatamagouche has a lot to offer and is very beautiful. Its residents have won community based awards from the province and even beat competition for the hit CBC reality TV show, The Week the Women Went. Though I personally could never see myself moving back to Tatamagouche to make a living, I make regular visits to see my family and walk along the shore. If I were to create a news website for Tatamagouche, it would look something like this….

The Website

Because of the small size of Tatamagouche finding breaking news stories will be difficult for reporters. The main website will feature full length documentaries on topics that are well known around the community, that are tourism based, and mainly up-beat and fun. The community is mainly made up of retirees and families on the go, therefore, stories can be both full length features for those who like to sit down to a good story, or, for those who are busy and can only read a quick synapses of the topic. Most stories will have a 700-1,500 word print article along with a 300-500 word synapses of key points, comments, and interviews. The website will also feature videos, usually 25 minutes in length. I don’t think I will include radio because the community listens to the radio stations set in the nearby town of Truro: it’s either Big Dog or Cat Country for these folks. Also CBC Radio One is available to most people. Podcasts would be useless on the site and I don’t think people would take the time to listen to them. Like a lot of people say, pictures can speak a thousand words.

The most exciting piece of news to come out of Tatamagouche would be the CBC premiere of The Week the Women Went, a reality TV

A screen shot taken by CBC Producers for the hit TV reality show, The Week the Women Went.

show hosted by CBC. The show featured 7 or 9 families in the community and documented their daily lives without their mothers, wives, female business partners, etc. The women in Tatamagouche had a beautiful week long vacation at the Algonquian Resort in St. Andrews, NB. The show wasn’t much of a reality but more of a comedy and family-oriented, focusing on issues such as equal rights, work ethics, family issues, divorce, etc. My website would have a full section dedicated to the show, including a feature length article about the show and why Tatamagouche was chosen by CBC producers of the show. Also, the website would include 10-15 minute video interviews with the families about their family, experience on the show, and what happened next. The videos would look very similar to those on the Washington Post website, On Being because I found their videos were easy to watch, fun to navigate through, quick to watch (you don’t realize you’ve watched an hour worth of footage because they are so entertaining) and the blank white background wasn’t distracting from the real focus of the story- the person/people. I’d also like to add a feature length article on how the show affected tourism- if it even did or not. Many say that due to the show, the village has received a noticeable hike in tourists during the summer months. The website would include behind the scenes footage, paid through the CBC (or hopefully donated), personal blogs from the families who participated (i.e. Blogspot or WordPress), and archive footage of 3 or 4 shows- just enough to give the viewers of the website a taste. The full box set of shows can be purchased online or you can purchase individual shows as iPad applications or for other tablet devices. I don’t think smart phones would work in this case because a lot of people complain about watching movies on a small screen.

The next topic for stories would be on the village mayor, Mr. James LeFresne. I think it’s important to add profile information about our mayor because he’s a pretty neat guy, has a fun story to tell, and our community has the right to know what our councillors, mayor, and county politicians are doing to make our community better and safer. Mr. Lefresne owns one of the most popular tourist attractions in Nova Scotia, the Train Station Inn. Guests are invited to spend the night in a caboose, as well as, eat fine dining and enjoy live entertainment. The story behind the business is interesting and I think people in Tatamagouche would read about its history and the story would give tourists inside information before booking a room. I’d also add video updates from the mayor about

Mayor James LeFresne hanging out of the train at the Tatamagouche Train Station Inn.

his day to day doings, community meetings, and what he’s going to do next for the community. Though it may be small, the community does have some issues that need to be addressed. For more information about the mayor, the website will also include his Twitter account, Facebook account, and business contacts so that community residents can easily contact him with concerns, suggestions, or ideas. LeFresne would also be invited to have a personal blog on the website as well which we would encourage him to update weekly.

Due to small population in Tatamagouche it would be really difficult to create profiles, either in print or video because people already know each other. Long feature length pieces about residents in the village would take up too much room on the website and viewers would only watch or read them for gossip. The community likes to know who is getting married to whom, whose gone bankrupt, what business closed down or opened, who the new family is in town, etc., not random information about each others lives like you would see in the On Being videos. The Times On Being videos only work for huge cities like New York, or possibly Halifax where individuals only know their family, friends, and a few co-workers. In Tatamagouche, you seriously know everyone, a few of their family members, and probably what part of town they live in. I don’t think a larger section, either than the profile videos of the families involved in the show The Week the Women Went, videos of the mayor and town meetings and/or events, would be necessary.

Like I mentioned above, even though Tatamagouche may be small we still have problems within the community and surrounding areas. I would include a large section for documentaries and feature length articles on certain topics that are important to a large group of people living in Tatamagouche. Locality will be very important to the website because people can easily find information about Truro by listening to the radio; or the larger cities like Halifax by watching Live at 5. The section on my website would be called “Tatamagouche Take Action” and would be important because it will allow reporters to hold local politicians accountable for work that is not being done in the community, failed projects, suggestions/ideas/thoughts that the community has for what should be done and would be the main focus for viewer engagement on the site. Topics would include agriculture and farming business, such as pesticides, herbicides, and organics; aquaculture and fishing industry, such as run-off into rivers and over fishing; hunting; transportation and the quality of roads because Tatamagouche and surrounding areas have had big problems with pot holes and dangerous road conditions, along with poor timing of ploughs in the winter season, i.e. dirt roads are normally not ploughed until the night AFTER a snowstorm leaving those residents without transportation; youth and education, especially on the quality of high

The annual Oktoberfest is held in Tatamagouche, NS during the last weekend of September to celebrate Bavarian culture...and drink lots of beer.

school education (our high school receives minimal funds, leaving it hard for teachers to buy new resources, leaving students reading used textbooks that are up to 10 years old and using old technology; we also receive less funding for sports); the lack of funding for our health departments because most of the time our emergency room is closed due to the lack of doctors in the community; and immigration and multiculturalism because our community does have a large number of immigrated families from Europe and we have a Buddhist camp for meditation as well, along with the annual Oktoberfest which is the second largest in Canada. I would work in collaboration with the Tatamagouche Centre because the centre showcases workshops on these issues, helps documenters and reporters research on issues in Tatamagouche, and would be a great resource to use.

The Tatamagouche Take Action portion of the website will house most of the public interaction because it will have forums, comment boards, and links to social media. The forums will allow people to post other concerns which they feel reporters on my website should look into and why they feel it’s important for residents to know. The comment boards will be on all stories but will be carefully monitored by editors of the site. The social media I would use would be both Twitter and Facebook. These social websites will also help with hits because people can share the stories amongst each other, will generate feedback, will generate new story ideas, and keep the community engaged. I’d also have the videos posted on Youtube where people can post video comments which will also be strictly monitored.

It would be very hard to find breaking news in Tatamagouche everyday because, well, not much happens. Most of the breaking news would be car accidents here and there during the winter months, tourism in the summer months (but that happens every year), political stories (if anything new occurs or changes are made to laws, policies, etc.), or a new store or restaurant is opening. Therefore to have daily reports on the website would be ridiculous and the work would be shabby because reporters would be scrounging around for material and a story idea everyday. Therefore, I would have weekly updates with stories but daily updates on a Community Event Calendar and the Obituaries sections. Reporters will have more time to prepare their long form stories and documentaries and more time to properly prepare, fact check, and edit them as well. If I were to “sensationalize” the news in Tatamagouche, or make them entertaining, a lot of the stories would be gossip columns on people in the community which isn’t good, truthful journalism. It would be just smut.

The community calendar would be a daily update of what’s happening in Tatamagouche. It would look like your generic calendar with links to full news releases and reports on the event. It would more useful to the community sports teams such as Titans Hockey and NCHS high school games. It could also be used for other school events, weddings, anniversaries, fundraisers, benefit concerts/dances, tournaments (cards, bingo, washer toss, etc), blue grass concerts, church events, theatre, flea markets, etc. I would also include the obituaries because most people go straight to this section when looking at a community newspaper- as mentioned above, everyone knows everyone so they want to know who died so they can attend their funeral.

Code of Ethics

Even though the news will be on a website doesn’t mean our staff can be lazy reporters. We still need a code of ethics to make sure we do our jobs properly as journalists, keeping our local government accountable, and good sense of direction. Fact checking is one of the essential parts of a journalistic code of ethics because readers and viewers rely on journalists telling the truth. There should be no such thing as common mistakes on my news website. I find quite a few news related websites believe that the Internet makes it easier to edit mistakes without people noticing and/or caring. I don’t want my community to think this way about my website but thinks about it as a reliable news source with good, fact based stories. I’d also want authenticity with sources, i.e. professional voices when they are needed, ideas and comments when they are needed, and people coming forward with their name unless there is a serious threat to their lives, family’s lives, or jobs. Editing MUST be done thoroughly- no grammar or spelling mistakes. I really liked the corrections page on the New York Times newspaper website because it was easy to navigate and I think it’s important for journalists to report on all mistakes made. We may have all the time in the world because the Internet made posting stories, video, and photos faster and easier but the time spared should be used in perfecting our stories so that what we post we can surely be proud it is our work.

Tatamagouche is a rural community, therefore, not a lot of people have access to high speed Internet. It is a pain in the butt to try and load videos on dial up Internet and many users don’t even bother because it will only make them impatient and frustrated. In order to make my website a success and easy to use, I have to make sure all residents in Tatamagouche have equal access to the website. I would try and have a company, like Barrett Explore, come into the community and hook up every home with high speed internet for a small cost, or free if we can have the cost subsidized. I’d also have CAP sites available, along with, an Internet Café. Everyone has the right to know what’s happening in their community and to share their ideas among one another.

I would also hold monthly workshops on how to use the computer and Internet effectively, about Internet etiquette, and how to navigate through social media and the website. As mentioned above, a lot of people who live in Tatamagouche are retirees, therefore, many don’t know how to use computers. This will help with the equal access to the local news site, allow everyone an equal opportunity to write letters to the editor online and to discuss on the public forums.

The Tatamagouche Take Action section of our website will keep our local government responsible for their promises made in the past and to keep track of what has already been done. The comment boards on this section will be strictly monitored by editors for foul language, slander, bullying, adult content (i.e. risqué photos, videos, etc.), revealing names of anonymous sources or youth protected under the Young Offenders Act, threatening comments or those that could jeopardize someone’s life, etc. I don’t want to restrict people’s right to free speech but I want the website to be free of as much gossip and slander as possible.

Finances, Links, and Finding New Viewers

Because I want locality to be top priority, allowing only a few stories relating to Colchester County as a whole and most stories being directly related to Tatamagouche, finding sponsors and funds shouldn’t be difficult. I wouldn’t have a pay wall because most people are low-middle class and can’t afford another expense on top of their monthly bills. Instead, I would rely heavily on merchandise that can be bought online, local sponsors, and local ads.

Merchandise: I would sell t-shirts, hats, book bags, pins, mugs, and other tourist like merchandise online with the Tatamagouche logo or the name of the website (lets call it the Tatamagouche Beacon for now) or The Week the Women Went on the front. This type of merchandise is very popular among tourists and residents who live in Tatamagouche and local businesses have made money off of it. I think it would be a great investment and a great way to have “live advertising”: people will travel around with their new Tatamagouche Beacon book bag or t-shirt, people will ask what and who they are, and people will start a conversation about the website- which equals to more interested consumers! I’d also sell the complete box sets to Week the Women Went show.

Local Sponsors: There are a few “wealthy individuals” in Tatamagouche who love to support community projects. I would ask them to be an annual sponsor for the site, using the funds to pay reporters and editors, as well as, up keep to the site.

Local Ads: Our local businesses in Tatamagouche are very generous towards community projects as well. I would lower the price for

Local businesses on Main Street.

advertising compared to the competitors (i.e. Truro Daily Newspaper, local radio stations, Rogers cable, etc.). By doing this, more local businesses will be able to afford ad space on the website. I would also make suggestions towards viewer coupons, for example if you were a member of the Beacon website you will receive a 10% discount on your groceries at Mike’s Foodland, or, you will receive an extra 1lb worth of your choice in meat at Houston’s Butcher Shop, etc. Everyone likes a good story and a good deal! The local businesses will be happy they have customers, residents in Tatamagouche will be happy with the deals and keeping up to date with stories on the website, and we will be happy for the flow of viewers.

To help keep the flow of viewers and to increase numbers, I would create links to Twitter, Youtube, and Facebook, along with the Tatamagouche Centre’s social media sites and their personal website, as well as, The Light- our local newspaper. When people start to talk amongst each other, allowing a free flow of ideas and some controversy, people in Tatamagouche would be eager to keep checking the website and telling their neighbours to check it too! It would be a complete domino effect: once one’s hit, the rest follow after.

I’d also have a 99 cent download of the website onto your iPads, other tablets, and smart phones. This will allow us to keep up to date with new technology and to be more creative with multimedia options on our webpage. I would include interactive maps and graphs for stories relating to budgets, the economy, or locality (i.e. forest fires). I would have videos posted in relation to a written feature or post the full interview made with a source. The website would be bright, full of life and colour, include tons of pictures of local people, and be pretty to look at because the community and landscape is very beautiful too.

Success

I would measure my success on the number of members (log-ins, no fees) who register and their ratings (done by surveys and questionnaires), not on how much money I make. Tatamagouche is too small to make a huge fortune off this business but it is a place where people do want to be engaged with one another and know what’s going on. They don’t have the money to spend on monthly pay walls or downloads but want something quick, easy to navigate, fun, lively, and beautiful, just like the community and its residents. To try and make a fortune off of these working people would be greedy and a complete waste of my time. As well, all of our local news are free: free access to radio if you own a vehicle or radio in your home, free monthly newspaper called The Light, and free blogs keep popping up all over the Internet from people who live in Tatamagouche. My website, the Tatamagouche Beacon, would primarily be a community project to keep people informed of events, what they government is up to, and to interact with one another on issues they feel is important to address. I really liked The Patch concept of citizen journalism and the contributions a community as a whole can do is unbelievable.

 

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