KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – A new media outlet in Halifax has made it its mission to report on everything you ever wanted to know about Halifax council and its many committees and commissions.
“Municipal politics is in a way the most important level of government, but also the one everyone cares the least about, meaning that people care about municipal issues, but they tend to think it’s someone else’s fault,” says Matt Stickland.
Stickland is one of three people behind the Committee Trawler, a website and weekly newsletter that report on all these decisions that shape our lives. Not just council meetings or the police commissioners, the kind of things everybody reports on, but the small stuff as well.
“To use a sports metaphor, when you’re watching soccer on TV, you can’t see what the eight other guys away from the ball are doing. But the coaches see the whole game and that’s how they rate their players. There is value in doing the same thing to our politicians who are accountable to us,” Stickland explains.
“To give you an example, the other day during budget deliberations (councillor) Mason asked RCMP superintendent Janis Gray whether the Board of Police Commissioners supported their budget ask. And she said yes. But I could just go back to my article and say, no, that didn’t. happen, she presented it as an information item. The commissioners asked, do we need to do anything about this? And she said, no, it’s just an information item. So you know, she lied, probably.”
Stickland intends to be more than just a minute taker. Often his writing is funny. There are opinion pieces. And already he has submitted several Freedom of Information requests, partly because of his frustration with the city’s communication teams.
So far there’s no paywall, and no charge for the weekly email updates. Like the Nova Scotia Advocate, the Committee Trawler relies on the generosity of its readers.
But for the Committee Trawler this approach may change.
“If we don’t grow our subscriber base enough, or have some sort of consistent funding from somewhere, the question becomes, what do we do in order to try and make enough money to survive,” he asks.
For Stickland the answer lies in applying for subsidies and grants when the opportunity arises, and look at different options, perhaps a metered paywall with so many free articles per month, or charge for the searchable database of articles, going after corporate subscribers while leaving individual articles outside of the paywall.
The number of weekly email subscribers is growing by leaps and bounds, and altogether the website attracts a healthy amount of traffic, Stickland says.
“People want to know how their city works, or they just want to complain about something, and they’ll read our articles.”
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