Moncton is the biggest metro area in New Brunswick, it’s home to over 126,000 residents and is still growing rapidly. Moncton boasts a population of 100,000 on it’s own while Dieppe and Riverview both have around 18,000 residents each. Moncton has a special relationship with its two neighboring communities, Riverview and Dieppe as they have a strong partnership but still a healthy competition with one another.
Moncton has been well served by it’s newspaper, the Times & Transcript and HERE magazine and other news groups but the community lacks an online presence that caters to the young, professional and internet savvy population.
My core idea is that it has to have a niche, something that newspapers can’t do and that Facebook and Twitter can’t capture. It has to be a place that will draw people in based on it’s ability to offer information on events, which is something I’ve noticed Moncton lacks online. But it also needs to draw people in because it’s esthetically pleasing and community oriented rather than focused on hard news. The website would likely rely a lot on the culture scene in Moncton, which is vibrant but often seen as underground.
We have to think about why Moncton has grown as it has and why do people like living here and what is there to offer. A lot of people point to the ‘scene’ in Saint John as far more robust and exciting but Moncton has its share of incredible restaurants, art galleries, libraries, markets, sporting events and family activities.
But a community news project in Moncton has a special challenge in that I think it needs to cater to both the French and English populations, meaning we need to generate twice the content in translating the website. The easier way would be to just omit the French community and focus on a single language but that just doesn’t do Moncton justice either. Part of the beauty and appeal of the city is that you can walk down the street and hear Acadian French mixed with English and everyone seems to understand one another.
So my proposal to address this is to focus on quality and not quantity. We as an online community group would focus less on short timely hard news stories and more on creative story telling ideas and long form investigative journalism pieces.
What I envision is a site that is picture heavy and focuses on aesthetics to draw in viewers.
The best site I’ve seen to closely match my vision would be Humble Voices , a website that caters to an artist community but the design could easily be adapted to a local online community page.
Another site that I draw inspiration from for content is the Toronto People Project.
I like the idea of capturing people from around the city and documenting what they’re doing and maybe a line or two of your conversation. It could make for a nice addition as a photo gallery and the text would be easy to translate.
With video equipment and software as cheap as it’s become, having a video section to the site wouldn’t be that hard or time consuming. I draw my inspiration from Youtube bloggers that are able to create new content several times a week with very little resources. A proficient editor could add subtitles in either French or English and have a new video ready in a short time.
I would like to see video entries like what the Vlogbrothers from Youtube do:
I think this type of video essay is appealing because it’s got an artistic component but still can be used to do some beautiful journalism. You could narrate an event, an adventure, a rant, just about anything without having to rely on much except your skill to keep a camera steady.
Another aspect to my project would be a geotagging function on Google maps to locate events and activities.
Instead of posting on a message board like Kijiji to try and bring out people, the map would allow people to see what is happening closest to them and provide all the information they need to get there. You could geotag photos using Flickr of the location or promotional videos for your events, it would be an interactive way to promote events around the city.
I would first approach the City of Moncton, Dieppe and Riverview to help fund the project as a partnership. As it’s less of a hard news site and more of an interactive online community center, it would be a very helpful tool to promote the whole area and use it for tourism and attracting business ventures.
Université de Moncton has a journalism department which may be helpful to recruit journalism students to produce material and fill some French content.
We will also have to look at securing donations from the website’s viewers. We will hopefully generate content that Monctonians value and as such are willing to contribute to keep expanding the site with updated content that is appealing to them.
Part of the reason why I chose to focus on less time sensitive material rather than news is that in the beginning it may be harder to generate content and so a project that is ongoing but not in need to be constantly updated (except for the geotagging) would allow for more time to produce quality material.
This would also cut down on the staff needed and the money required to hire those people until the operation becomes successful and can explore the idea of more frequent updates.
Being an online venture, office space isn’t mandatory but equipment will be needed. The reporters will have to be equipped with their own laptops or computers but the business should invest in HD cameras and video and audio equipment to make sure there is a quality standard.
Video editing software like Garage Band is adequate but as the business grows we would invest in the Adobe Creative Suit and train each reporter to use it so that the work that they produce is all self created and they can post it themselves with just a managing editor overlooking the project for quality.
To effectively promote the website we need to have a combination of online and offline campaigns. Online would focus on Twitter and Facebook, trying to reach as many Monctonians as possible and give them the opportunity to follow the news feed through these two sites to find out when it is updated and what new content is available. Hopefully the site stays active enough that people will visit it frequently.
Offline promotions has to include an aggressive campaign to get news stories about the site out there. Because it’s not in direct competition with TV, radio and print, it should attract the attention of the old media.
We also need to make working connections with various groups, like the artist community and the music scene so that they come to us to promote themselves but also promote us in return.