In my hometown, Corner Brook, Newfoundland, our news media includes a local radio station CFCB, CBC Radio, the newspaper The Western Star, and a local Rogers cable that is most notably known for the show The Corner Brook Cafe.
Then, in June 2010, cornerbrooker.com, powered by wordpress.com, came onto the scene. It is a glorified blog, a place where people can contribute interesting stories and events and have a conversation about it. It is made by the people, for the people. The primary contributer is Tom Cochrane, but he’s definitely not the only one.
Tom is a few years older than me. I remember that he was in a band that won Battle of the Bands one year. And he was dating my dance instructor. Now he contributes news and events to this community blog.
Cornerbrook.com started with ‘photos of the day’ from the cornerbrooker flickr group, blog posts with links to the most interesting news from the Western Star and elsewhere, pictures of interesting things happening in the city, like when the Brewed Awakening coffee shop opened a second shop. 60 pages of blog posts later, and the blog posts are starting to resemble journalistic stories, there’s information about voting, more people are taking part including history stories from the museum archives, and local videos from Grenfell’s Visual Arts program.
There is a transit map, and now a new pothole map. Corner Brook has ridiculous roads, and this is a way to make the city do something about it. There are votes like the best breakfast in Corner Brook or the best fries or sliding hill A few months ago, Cornerbrooker.com hosted a community issue forum on the Municipal by-election on March 11. The candidates attended, and people had coffee and asked questions.
Let’s back up a little bit. Corner Brook is a small city of approximately 20 000 people on the west coast on Newfoundland. The main employers are the Corner Brook Pulp and Paper Mill and the Western Memorial Regional Hospital. Grenfell is a part of Memorial University. Corner Brook becomes a legitimate city when the university students are in town. Beer is available at all hours of the night at convenience stores. The Pepsi Centre is the hockey arena, concert and trade show venue. The Corner Brook Plaza is home to Zellers, Sportchek, Coles, and a few other stores. It’s the only mall worth shopping in. The Arts & Culture Centre is the only theatre for community plays, bands, youth theatre and school concerts. It’s a place with lots of trees, twenty minutes away from Marble Mountain skiing lodge, and it’s beautiful.
If there is something happening in the community, Cornerbrook.com is on top of it.
They’ve made a good start.
But as I understand it, they have no funding, it’s completely volunteer. I could be wrong about that, if somebody puts as much work into it as Tom Cochrane has, he must be getting something out of it.
But I digress, this is a blog that has started to capture the online Corner Brook community. One must keep in mind that a huge portion of the population is elderly, and don’t even have computers.
If I was going to improve cornerbrooker.com, I’d keep all of the interactive parts. The flickr group is a terrific idea, and it’s on twitter and facebook.
But, I’d make it a legitimate website, not a blog website. There needs to be separate pages for different topics: news, events, best of, history, community contributions (stories, etc,) elections, music, extra, and including pothole map. Something like that.
The main page would be a mix of all of that stuff, the most recent, obviously. With links to the flickr page, facebook, twitter, the weather, upcoming events, etc. This is a good way to organize the site better than blog by date. There also needs to be a better way to find things, a search engine for the site.
I’d ask for donations and find sponsors in the city. Group-on has come to Corner Brook, apparently. I’d work with them to mutually advertise.
The trick with the community availability is that everybody must have access to read and contribute, so there can’t be a pay-wall. Right now, you have to be signed in to twitter or facebook in order to comment. To contribute, you have to email Tom Cochrane. Not everybody can post anything, but its very open. So that’s good.
They need some real reporters, though. Right now it’s a ‘look what happened’ kind of site. But there needs to be a few reporters to contribute legitimate news stories that The Western Star overlooks. So, money needs to be made in order to hire a few reporters to be paid per story. There’s no way that a staff reporter could be hired, because donations and sponsors only go so far. But if there was some sort on money incentive to do good work, Cornerbrooker.com has the potential to go from blog to community news website.
Like it does now, the website has to continue covering everything in the community. People have to be engaged, they want to know what’s going on in Corner Brook. So, the content needs to be kept the same, just expanded.
The site needs more than just blog posts. There needs to be video, or some audio aspects to the print+picture they’ve got right now.
Everyone can be play a part, and that’s the great thing.
But, what about the seniors who still read their newspapers every day, who don’t have access to a computer? There is a huge demographic that can’t take part in this online media website.
Keep in mind that this is a place that still uses radio classifieds.
Maybe, if Cornerbrooker.com made a deal with BOIR (Bay of Islands Radio, a new community run station.), they could work together to reach more people with similar stories and issues. That could work. They can help each other out. They are both run by volunteers, but could make money in, say, 5 years, if they work together and use advertisements and sponsors.
That way, every demographic could have access.
They could also pair up with the Rogers Cable TV show Corner Brook Cafe. The site could show clips from the show, do their own extra interview or background information. And the show could use the site for advertising and to find new stories.
A Cornerbrooker.com app would also work well. Found something interesting, snap a picture or take a video, and send it in. Check the most recent events and happenings in the community. Receive notifications when your ‘likes’ are updated or when your ‘liked’ events are going on.
The app notification sound would be the mill whistle, no question (the actual whistle, not the song).
The most important thing that this would allow for Corner Brook is the opportunity for discussion and participation. That’s really what people want, to see what is going on, to talk about it, to contribute. If the site allowed that, and managed to do some good journalistic freelance work, it’d be golden.
It doesn’t have to be perfect, and it will constantly be a work-in-progress. But if it does what the people want, which is provide an interactive forum, then it will be successful.