Sunday, November 20, 2011

#bcmuni2011 Blog Competition Continues #SurreyBC #Burnaby #NorthVancouver

Congratulations to all participants in yesterday's municipal elections across British Columbia -- candidates, campaigners, media, voters, and election administrators!

It ain't over: The VoterMedia B.C. Municipal blog contests will continue -- rules & (free) entry form here.

When we launched this competition, our plan was to fund each of 5 cities for 50 days x $20 = $1,000. No one entered in West Vancouver or Richmond, so we plan at least to fund the other 3 cities for $1,000 each.

North Vancouver got its first entrants on October 4, so it's funded for 50 days starting then. Last funded day will be November 22.

Surrey will use up its $1,000 on November 29.

Burnaby started later, and will not use up its $1,000 by November 30. As you can see in the rules, we only committed to funding through November 30.

However, we aim to keep the contests going forever in some form, with the goal of encouraging blogger coverage of any issues of interest to the community. So even without funding, the ballots will stay open. New entrants can come in, links will show their blogs & posts, people can vote on them etc. Shares will continue to be calculated daily, but with no funding it will be e.g. 47% of $0 = $0.

There are several possibilities for more funding:
- I might donate some more, and keep it going at $10/day for a while.
- We plan to solicit donations/sponsorships from readers &/or city governments &/or media organizations etc.

So I've updated the contest descriptions on the website to reflect these developments. Will post again here if/when there is more funding.

I welcome any advice, questions etc.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Should journalists endorse election candidates? #bcmuni2011

My opinion:

Yes, journalists should endorse election candidates. Reasons below. Comments welcomed!


We are now at the height of the election campaigns for all municipal governments in British Columbia. Voting day is November 19. is sponsoring competitions for blogs covering the elections in Burnaby, Surrey and North Vancouver. (Info & entry form here.)

My reasons:

My main reason is having watched the UBC student union elections for the past 5 years, the endorsements of candidates published by bloggers covering those elections seem to have been helpful information for voters. Voters who did not want to spend much time doing their own research (i.e. most voters), could find well reasoned endorsements to help guide them to choose candidates that would serve the voters' interests well. (Here's an example.)

It's important to note, however, that those 5 years of elections were held in the context of bloggers being rewarded via a VoterMedia system, where voters allocate funds to blogs they found helpful. I designed that system to give journalists a stronger economic incentive to build reputations for serving the voters' interests. Once they have built those reputations, they can endorse candidates without worrying so much that their endorsements will automatically be viewed with suspicion.

Journalists working in other incentive contexts have good reason to worry. There is widespread suspicion (probably justified) that many media organizations have incentives other than the broad public (i.e. voters') interest. For that reason, I think, many excellent journalists avoid endorsing. Many of those who publish endorsements (often non-journalists) are partisan, explicitly or implicitly campaigning on behalf of those they endorse, and often paid for doing so. Perhaps to avoid that taint, some journalists believe they should maintain "objectivity" by not taking sides.

Limits on my opinion:

So perhaps I should limit my opinion to the context of bloggers in VoterMedia competitions. I don't understand the incentives of mainstream media journalists well enough to have a strong opinion for them. And in the VoterMedia context, I should further limit my opinion by emphasizing that this is only my advice to bloggers and voters, but they are free to ignore it. I'm used to having my advice ignored!  ;-)

I believe more strongly in freedom of the press and democratic choice by voters than in my own opinions. But I also believe in free speech, so I feel free to express these opinions.

What are your opinions? Express below or by email to mark[at]

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

#bcmuni2011 $5k Blog Competition Update #RichmondBC #SurreyBC #Burnaby #NorthVancouver #WestVancouver

There's still time to enter and vote in the 2011 VoterMedia BC Muni Election Blog Competition -- entry form here. We're offering up to $5,000 in awards for blogs covering the November 19 elections in:
Press coverage of this contest:

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Media Democracy Days in Vancouver this weekend #MDDVan

Media Democracy Days this weekend, Fri Sat Sun, Nov 11 12 13: Free events but reservations recommended & filling up fast. (Sorry I didn't post this sooner!) Info at

Panel on The Future of Journalism, Sat Nov 12 1pm-2:20pm at Vancouver Public Library main branch (Alice MacKay Room) is very timely since top B.C. independent political journalist Sean Holman just gave up blogging for lack of $ -- see Tyee article & my comment. Great panellists:

DAVID BEERS is founding editor of The Tyee. He has won national awards for his journalism in Canada and the United States, writing for The Globe and Mail, Vancouver Magazine, The New York Times Magazine, Harper’s, and many other publications. He edited the “Fate of the Strait” environmental series for the Vancouver Sun, which received Canada’s National Newspaper Award for Special Projects.

PETER KLEIN began his career as a radio reporter for National Public Radio, covering the Bosnian war and the fall of communism in Eastern Europe. In 1999 Klein joined CBS News’ 60 Minutes as a producer remains a contributor to the program. Klein joined the faculty of UBC in 2005, and in 2008 he launched the International Reporting Program, Among other prestigious awards, his 2010 class’ Frontline/WORLD documentary, Ghana: Digital Dumping Ground, earned him an Emmy for best investigative newsmagazine.

CHARLIE SMITH has been editor of the Georgia Straight for six years. Before that, he was the news editor at the Straight for 10 years. He has also worked at CBC Radio and CBC TV and taught investigative journalism at Kwantlen Polytechnic University for seven years back in the days when it was known as Kwantlen University College. These days, most of his writing appears on, but some find its way into the print edition.

KAREN PINCHIN is the founding editor of OpenFile Vancouver, a community-powered collaborative news website. She has reported and edited for The Canadian Press, Maclean’s and Newsweek, and freelanced for outlets including The Globe and Mail and The Walrus.

& moderator:
LINDA SOLOMON is the founder and editor-in-chief of the Vancouver Observer, which was the winner of the 2010 Canadian Online Publishing Awards for “Best online-only articles” and took second place in “Best overall online-only site”. She is also the founder and director of The Vancouver New Media Foundation and is CEO of Observer Media Group. Linda was the recipient of the United Press International award for Best Investigative Reporting.