The Island Times

Posted: April 20, 2011 by stephaniekelly10 in Uncategorized
 
Rustico, Prince Edward Island

Nestled in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Prince Edward Island sits as a fabric work of small towns and villages. In many ways, PEI is a province stuck in time. While other provinces entered into periods of expansion, development and modernization, Prince Edward Island preserved the traditional nature that defines it. This is the province that still had party lines in 1989. It is the type of place where living off the land is a way of life, where everyone knows their neighbour and where being a Catholic or a Protestant is still criteria for marriage. Prince Edward Island was first known as Epewitk or “cradle on the waves,” and that’s just what it is. Its shoreline is traced with famous pristine beaches that stand alone in the evening sun.

Islanders are known for their curious nature. They want their news and they want it now. The people of Prince Edward Island are very loyal to their media and there is no shortage of outlets for them. The province has two daily newspapers: the Guardian, which covers the Eastern end of the Island and the Journal Pioneer, which covers the Western side. It also has three weekly publications: The Eastern Graphic, The West Prince Graphic and La Voix Acadianne.

PEIs two Daily Newspapers

What is missing from Island Media is one source that links all communities together. My solution is a multi-media platform called “The Island Times.” The goal of this publication would be to showcase Island culture and to provide extensive coverage of the happenings from tip to tip of Canada’s smallest province.

STRUCTURE and ORGANIZATION

The Island Times would be primarily a print source, but the online edition would feature stories from different mediums, including radio and video. The dual-medium (print and online) publication is necessary for Prince Edward Island, because it accommodates all demographics. There is a large aging population on PEI who rely exclusively on newspapers and  excluding them could have serious financial implications. Newspapers also symbolize rural Island culture and are a staple at every kitchen table and coffee shop. Newspapers create dialogue and community more than any other medium. You can hold them between your fingertips and that makes them more personal.

The Island Times would provide national, international and provincial news coverage. The News section would be divided by PEI’s three counties: Queens, Kings and Prince. This would allow for more in depth coverage of community events, including sports, arts and culture and municipal politics. There would be offices and staff in Montague and Summerside, but the headquarters would be located in Charlottetown.

Prince Edward Island's thee counties

In depth investigative journalism has not yet found a home in traditional Island media. The Island Times would create the appropriate environment to host series of investigative pieces. There are several issues that need to be addressed in the Island media. Prince Edward Island may only have a population of 140,000, but like every other province, it has its share of problems and social issues.

The following are issues that could be investigated:

*Drug abuse: many communities on Prince Edward Island are plagued by drug use. An investigation could be done on the levels of drug use among different demographics, from students to senior citizens. Research could be done on the ramifications of drug use on individuals (poverty, illness, etc.) and on the community as a whole.

*Education: the Prince Edward Island education system could be evaluated in comparison to other provinces. Studies could compare the level of education students are receiving in rural vs. urban areas, the English vs. French school systems, as well as schools located on Aboriginal reserves.

*Poverty: a series could be done on poverty levels in Prince Edward Island, with particular attention to seasonal poverty. Many Islanders work for either the tourism industry or the department of highways, which means their income is limited, based on the season. An investigation could also be made into the connection between poverty and crime on Prince Edward Island

The online edition of the Island Times would replicate the content of the print edition, however, it would have additional features including audio and video.

The website would feature an interactive map that divides the province into its three counties. The reader could select their county to get a more detailed source of local news, including community events. It would closely resemble patch.com.

The audio portion would be titled: “Island Voices .” For what the Island lacks in numbers, it makes up for in character. Every week, this program would feature the story of an interesting Islander. There are a lot of elderly people on Prince Edward Island who have fascinating stories of love, war, struggle and success.  Stories could be also done on Islanders who have unconventional professions or on interesting traditions such as bootlegging. If their stories are not documented now, they may die with them. Each story would be made into a short documentary piece, which could be subscribed to as a pod cast. The audio section of The Island Times would also include music from Island musicians. It would highlight the diversity of musical talent in the province and would feature different genres, including Celtic, Acadian, folk and more modern styles of rock and jazz.

Musicians would be featured weekly on the Island Times radio pod cast

The website would also feature video tutorials. Prince Edward Island is famous for its agriculture and for its cuisine. Video tutorials would be called “Flavours of the Island,” and would feature traditional meals. The project would be partnered with students at the Holland College Culinary Institute. Videos would follow a very simple pattern and would look like this recipe for baked haddock.

The Island Times, online edition would also showcase photography from around Prince Edward Island. Members of each county could submit photos of people, landscapes or events from around their community. The best ones would be selected by local editors and put online. The website would also feature photographs and video from Islanders who are travelling, which would be accompanied by short entries describing the history and context.

FINANCING AND LOGISTICS

As mentioned, the Island Times would be divided into three offices, with the central one being in Charlottetown. The Editor in Chief would be in the capital city and would be responsible for overseeing the news and assignment editors for each of the three counties. There would be approximately 3-5 reporters in each county, along with freelance reporters. Regarding financial sustainability, the Island Times would charge for its print edition, but not for its online content. Journalists are still experimenting with online media, and until more news outlets go online, individual papers are at risk of being left behind the competition. The Island Times would be distributed to every part of Prince Edward Island and would appeal to more Islanders than any other news publication before it. The business would make profit not only through sales, but through advertising as well.

Tourism is one of Prince Edward Island’s biggest industries. The summer season draws nearly one million visitors every year from around the world. Tapping into this industry will open up doors to a plenitude of advertising opportunities. This includes restaurants, hotels and major tourist attractions such as PEI’s famous Old Home Week and the Cavendish Beach Music Festival. During the winter months, the Island Times would gain revenue from advertising  local businesses throughout the province, as well as organizations like The University of Prince Edward Island.

Crowds at the 2010 Cavendish Beach Festival

Some argue that there is no money to be found in online advertising. Businesses are not willing to invest in a medium that holds the reader’s attention for just a few seconds. One solution to this problem is to guarantee a constant stream of traffic to your website. Brent Payne is the In-House Director of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Payne is responsible for helping online newspapers increase their traffic flow in competition with other news sources. He helped The Tribune Company increase their number of monthly hits from 14 million in 2007 to 34 million in 2009. The key to his success sprouted from his “keyword research.” This research suggested that the use of language in headlines is the major determining factor in attracting readers to an article. By leading readers to the website, you increase their exposure to ads, which makes them more valuable and increases the chances of ad sales in the business community. Keywords are words that target and capture the attention of your audience. This allows your particular headlines to appear first in search engines such as Google.

Payne describes Keyword Research as the selling point of your business that makes it stand out from the competition:

“Consider the news stand of today. Even though you write a great article, if no one sees that article it doesn’t really matter. Online you can take a news stand and put it in the middle of Times Square by doing good SEO, or you can take your news stand and stick it in the middle of Kansas by doing no SEO. It’s your choice.”

CHALLENGE, SUCCESS and the COMMUNITY

As with any new project, one will encounter the challenge of competing against ones that already exist. This would be the main obstacle for the Island Times. With two daily newspapers and a population known for their resistance to change, this publication would have to uproot Islanders from their loyalty to the Guardian and the Journal Pioneer. To be successful, The Island Times would have to stress its vision of unity. The mandate, after all is to unite communities from across Prince Edward Island by informing them and by showcasing Island culture. By amalgamating two main publications into one, Islanders will have one, centralized source of news that is reliable, consistent and in tune with their needs. Success would be measured not only by the number of visits to the website or amount of revenue gained, but by the dialogue it generates. Journalism, should bring communities together in a healthy forum of discussion. If that’s what this project achieves, I would be very content.

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Comments
  1. sharonfawcett says:

    Stephanie, you made a very good point about the aging population in PEI and the need for a physical newspaper. I didn’t have that in my platform but I think it’s worth considering. Although my 82 year-old father-in-law reads the “paper” online, most seniors probably don’t. (P.S. Sorry I posted first again…I couldn’t help myself. 🙂 )

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