Linda Solomon: Last Year, Next Year
Happy New Year, VO-ers! As we're sweeping up the glitter, let's raise a final glass to the people who create the Vancouver Observer! Amidst the gang violence and political meltdowns of the last year, there's been much to celebrate. It was an exciting year at VO, as we grew and expanded. At our launch in October 2009, we started sections (Politics, Culture, City, Olympics, Life, Events, Blogs) and then kept growing (Money, Fashion, World.) We created a new way for readers to generate material on the site (Localvocal) and we improved our comments sections. We gained more VO bloggers who covered everything from politics to entertainment to popular culture to the Olympics and we made more original videos and created a Xool.tv-powered platform (VOTV) and I published a book (Why I Love Vancouver).
As 2011 begins, there are a number of people I'd like to take some time out to acknowledge. Let me start with the dynamic, talented VO team: Meghan O'Neill (Assistant Publisher), Emily Barca (Associate Editor), Anja Konjicanin (Social Media Manager), Zi-Ann Lum (General Assignments), Jacob Barker (VOTV), Paul Voykin (Food Section Editor), Nireesha Prakash (Designer), Catarina Bellon (Digital Marketing Strategies), and Mary Caros (Marketing Consultant). Special kudos to our brilliant developer David Egan (Drupal Consulting). He has created a state-of-the-art, user-friendly publishing platform we all love to use. Graphic designer Ricky Letovsky's fun and funny VO movie ads bring VO to the big screen at Festival Cinemas in a new, creative way every month. Some of the above are pictured below...
With such a powerful collection of determination and talent, it's no wonder the Vancouver Observer platform has received national awards, an ever growing audience and strong advertising base. Thanks to this team, VO fulfills its mission of reflecting the vitality of the city, helping to fill the large gap left by bigger publications in town by covering people and events that the giants simply miss.
We, in the VO office, are so proud of the caliber of people VO has attracted, and continues to attract, every day. I speak for my team in praising the regular weekly contributors who started a year or more ago. We are full of admiration for your work and it's a privilege to be engaged with such a passionate and eloquent group of writers. It's a privilege to be your editors and your friends.
So, here at the beginning of the New Year, we'd like to take a moment to acknowledge all of you. Let's start with two reporters whose work won the Canadian Online Publishing Awards for "best online-only articles." Darren Fleet and Megan Stewart tackled a mind-numbingly complex tangle of Canadian citizenship law and history to write a dramatic, accessible series of stories about how these laws and histories affected real people.
Darren and Megan were both still students in UBC's Masters in Journalism program when they distinguished themselves with these stories which have been followed by MPs, picked up by larger media outlets, and have, to some degree, resulted in citizenship being obtained for at least one of their subjects. Darren's coverage of the story will continue through the winter, so stay tuned.
We were thrilled to partner with The Tyee earlier this year for our "Best of VO" series. To David Beers, publisher, Michelle Hoar, business and operations manager, and all our friends at The Tyee, we thank you for your collaboration and your outstanding coverage of British Columbia politics, lifestyle and culture. By sharing our highest quality writing and reporting, we reached a wider audience and, we hope, made a greater difference in the city's life.
Now where would we be without Steve Anderson, OpenMedia.ca's National Coordinator? Steve's commitment to innovative, accessible and democratic media puts him at the centre of the independent media community in Vancouver. We've been honoured to attend events presented by Steve and OpenMedia including ReMixology! and Media Democracy Day. We so value Steve's ability to track government policy decisions that will make or break the future of independent online media like VO.
About our regular columnists....
We are proud to have one of the best movie reviewers in Vancouver, Volkmar Richter, a 30 year veteran of CBC. We rarely go to a movie, without first consulting Volkmar's review and when we do, we almost always regret not having consulted him first. Volkmar is an exceptional professional. But he hates having his picture taken. So, we'll start showing off our writers' lovely faces with the beautiful Kristina Campbell, our highly valued education blogger.
We are so proud of Kristina, who knows what's going on inside the schools to such an extent that her work is often sourced by larger media outlets within days or minutes of her posts. She is sensitive to the issues faced by both parents and teachers and administrators inside the system and she has her pulse on what matters to kids, as well. Kristina has produced broad and extensive coverage of our schools over the last year that has helped shaped the city's thinking about education.
We are bursting with pride over columnist Terry Lavender who writes about technology from the point of view of an insider whose wonderment at the creativity happening in Vancouver's tech community never wavers. Terry manages to keep abreast of the coolest cutting edge tech entrepreneurs in the city. Not only that, we can count on him completely to let our readers know what's hip and on target and fresh on the shelves. Furthermore, Terry's interest in local politics makes him a valued occasional commentator on what's going on inside the social psyche of the West End community he calls home.
We are so proud of Alfred DePew (above). An outstanding writer whose text arrives in the editor's cue nearly perfect, Alfred loves language almost as much as he loves people. Alfred writes profiles that illuminate the humanity of under- appreciate Vancouver personalities, the kind of under-the-radar superstars who make the city so special, from artists to consultants to ministers working on the Downtown Eastside. His voice is full of humour and compassion. It is as original and profound and full of love for Vancouver as those he covers.
Wendy Dallian (another writer who isn't fond of showing off her very beautiful face) continuously stuns us by seeming to show up nearly everywhere you can find a talented film director and managing to snag an interview with them. We love her prolific series of question and answer pieces with film directors and the other entertainment industry personalities she introduces us to. From international superstar Terry Gilliam to local superstar Ann Marie Flemming, Wendy's work showcases Vancouver's rich film culture. We highly value her work, which she unbelievably manages to turn out in the midst of getting a film degree.
Now let's talk about the amazing John Tanner. John keeps the Indie Music reviews coming and they're always fresh and unusual and the groups he covers are on the cutting edge.
How can we thank Christabel Shaler? Her coverage of Vancouver youth dazzles us whenever it comes in and we're always left wanting more.
Edward Ngai, at 16, our youngest blogger, has brought his unbelievably well-developed skill as a writer and his sharp and inquiring mind to a variety of topics and made us all so proud we want to shout about him off the balcony of our 15th floor suite. Hey, Vancouver! Big new talent in town!
And we are also very proud and excited about our more recent additions: Ian Reid, who has written about city and provincial politics in our Political Junkie column.
Morris Chapdelaine blasted onto VOwith Big Gay Blog!, our wildly popular column about LGTB issues...
Andrea Rabinovitch who brings a strong voice, a depth of experience and a credible critical eye to arts reviews.
Daniel Veniez brings a powerful new voice to the site. His eloquence and insight have added weight to our political commentary. We appreciate his dedication to tackling important issues, his courage in the face of controversy and his in-depth analyses of federal politics.
Anne Watson has brought her creativity and experience to our video production and writer development. She has also assistaed in the Lost Canadian series.
Kei Baritugo (left) and Amalia Nickel (right) rocked our world with their coverage of the Junos, both on video and in written posts. Their idea to grab a shout out for VO from each Juno award-winner resulted in stuff like this:
Jasmyn Pozzo celebrated the hottest Canadian talent in the entertainment industry. Her blog, Canadian Star, has made us proud of our home-grown celebrities.
Beverley Pomeroy, the Backyard Philanthropist, inspired us to open our hearts and minds and give back however we can. Her new series of video profiles will feature unsung heroes of the community.
Loretta A. Cella taught us to live with passion and to dream big. Loretta has brought us stories from her work with troubled young women who are making positive life changes.
Jarrah Hodge (pictured above) turned her sharp eye on the social impact of sex and gender in The Gender Files. Fellow blogger Ben Milne provided critical commentary on the intersections of politics, nation and gender.
Candace Plattor's honest and gently motivational writing has shown us the power of reflection and healing. In her blog Psyched, Candace offers words of wisdom and hope.
Jonathan Hanley provided extensive coverage of arts events in such detail that he made us feel like we were there ourselves, when we read his pieces. He did so many great pieces last year that it's hard to single one out, but his coverage of the Vancouver Twestival was a favourite of the VO team. Jonathan's interests are vast and he understands the power of letting people tell their own stories, providing them the space to speak into his recorder and then posting short audio pieces of artists, creative thinkers, and people about town.
Well, it always seemed like Christmas when "Uncle Weed," the richly creative storyteller Dave Olsen got in touch to say he had a story he would be posting soon. He took us on journeys by train up and down the West Coast to Microbrews, or treated us to Remembrance Day memories, or took us over the summer to "small-ish" musical festivals across B.C. Perhaps most wonderful, however, was his "creating the People's History," a call to action for anyone with a camera or a recorder to participate in documenting the 2010 Winter Games.
Psychic Cassandra MacLeane gave us insight into our future with her weekly numerology cycles. Her uncanny accuracy keeps us coming back every two weeks to find out what she has to say about our "number." Cassandra has a special gift. Not only psychological insight. Writing. Cassandra loves language and her pieces are sometimes poetic and always compelling.
Yukiko Onley makes a singularly exceptional contribution to VO with her museum-quality portraits of the city's cultural creatives. Her short stories contain deep insights into her subjects from Wayne Ngan to Christopher Gaze. And many more. It's deeply gratifying to provide a platform for Yukiko's work.
Taylor Wilde has made a Canucks fan out of everyone at VO with his weekly review. Taylor keeps the stories coming, providing his unique take on the games. We look forward to finding out what happened on the ice through Taylor's eyes.
Olivia Bevan makes us laugh and always gets us talking with her fantastic writing and unusual pieces about extreme sports, sexy celebrities and beauty. We are so excited when we see she has posted a story, because we KNOW it's going to be good.
Cathi Atmadjaja seems to be everywhere, digging up stories about stuff as radically unusual as Che's daughter giving a talk in Vancouver to where to get dosas in the middle of the night. She has an ability to cut through the spin right to the heart of things and her curiosity about the world comes through in every piece. We are always surprised by what Cathi turns up.
Special thanks to Olivia Fermi who started our rich Earth Matters column. She has brought intelligence and wit to a wide variety of issues, from bees to beyond. And she has cultivated a variety of writers to continue covering sustainability issues, like garbage, gardens, and city policy.
Huge accolades to Carrie Saxifrage who arrived in town a few months ago and began weekly coverage of green issues for Earth Matters. Her stories are remarkably well-written, carefully researched and fun to read. Her attention to building a narrative arc creates a wonderful reading experience. She takes us through complicated issues painlessly and keeps us reading. It's like we know we are settling in with a good New Yorker-type story when Carrie's work comes onto the site.
And how about Cristina Peralejo? Christina's Milk Fish and Garlic column is always a delicious read. Our mouths water as she describes her eating at restaurants around Vancouver, many of them so small we've never heard of. By the time we're through with Cristina's story, we just can't get there fast enough. Some of us would never have known about the extremely comforting and nourishing qualities of congee, or that you could find an extremely inexpensive and delicious bowl of it, at the Congee Noodle House, if it weren't for Cristina.
And speaking of food...
Kari Chellouf has tempted us an array of recipes and delicious writing in her blog Chef's Kitchen. After reading Kari's rundown of preparing cookies or other treats, we just have to try it ourselves. She makes it sound so easy, and worth the effort.
Ashley Crause is living proof that living with celiac disease doesn't have to mean living a less satisfying life. Through her Wheatless in Vancouver blog, Ashley has shared tasty, gluten-free recipes that are amazingly popular with our readers. Keep 'em coming, Ashley!
Thank you to Parks Commissioner Sarah Blyth for sending us photos and updates and to Vancouver Education Trustee Mike Lombardi for his occasional contributions to our pages on matters to do with the schools. Thank you also to Noel Herron for his compelling posts about provincial policy and education.
And thank you to Elianna Lev for her "I'm a Good Story" blog. Elianna brings a combination of literary excellence and attitude to her writing that makes it completely unique and compelling.
Three irregular, awesomely talented posters whose work we can't get enough of: The Green Mama herself, Manda Aufochs Gillespie (above), who teaches us how to make our lives more sustainable and still have fun, Barry Saxifrage, who brings us his brief updates on global warming through Climate Snapshots, and Kris Krug whose stunning documentary photographs from Bolivia to the BP Gulf oil disaster have taken our pages over the top. Thank you to each of you for your contribution to the Vancouver Observer. Each of you make us so proud.
Financial whiz Petra Remy, MA, CFP, encourages us to get smart our money with her practical advice. We hope to hear from her much more in 2011.
Sean Bickerton's Kulture Clash column promises to be one of our best read political columns.
Merete Christiansen and Kate Barron's The Art Market column, based on their popular website of the same name, will be blogging about the art scene in Vancouver. They're full of creative ideas and practical advice for connoisseurs and novices. If you want to bring more beauty to your environment, these ladies will show you how.
Our newest writers took us on a whirlwind tour of the city, from Fashion Week to Pecha Kucha.
Claudia Goodine lifted us up with her concert reviews. The ever-stylish Angel Cheung and Alexis Greskiw took us behind the scenes at Vancouver Fashion Week. Adrian McCavour's cool music writing kept us tuned into the hottest concerts in the city. Kelsey Ehler got us thinking about how to make Vancouver a leader in the local food movement.
Adrienne Watt inspired us to transform our wardrobes with her coverage of Eco Fashion week. The multi-talented Hilary Mandel opened a window on the queer community and taught us where to get a great haircut in the process. Thomas Lamothe's breathtaking images spoke of beauty and tragedy. Lisa Craveiro taught us how to pronounce Pecha Kucha and had us jumping onto our desks with her concert review.
Robbie McFarland made us proud to be a nation of hockey fans. Carina Clark invited us to Christmas celebrations around the world. Sheila Blacklock kept us healthy, happy and fit over the holidays. Average Joe Cyclist wrapped up the year with a thoughtful and thorough review of cycling in Vancouver.
Dr. Chris Shaw took us up to the Olympics and through them with a relentless eye on provincial spending, security, and human rights protection.
His critical voice infuriated some and educated others and we felt privileged to provide a platform for his voice and to create a forum for discussion and commentary about the questions he raised.
We felt privileged as well to provide a place for Olympics Tara Ciecko who was absolutely thrilled about the Olympics and all the Games brought to the city. Her updates and previews kept us and our readers informed about what to do and what was happening throughout the event.
And we loved publishing stand-up comic Lalo Espejo's satirical pieces on the Olympics. He kept us laughing and delighted thousands of other readers as well. His story on Amy Goodman was one of our top three traffic drivers over the last year. It landed on the homepage of Democracy Now's website and remained there for weeks, driving traffic to VO.
We so appreciate the contribution Anna Ling Kaye made during the Olympics with her very funny open letter to Stephen Colbert. It was funny then and has outlasted it's moment. It can still make us laugh, although it's no longer current and that's the mark of a great writer.
The Olympic medal winning recipes created by Charles Macurdy were truly delicious and imaginative.
Kathie Wallace made us proud through her in-depth coverage of sex trade workers and the Olympics and her writing about other aspects of the Games. Slavery Isn't Sexy was one of her more outstanding pieces. It went viral, receiving thousands and thousands of readers from all over the world. Kathie also had a special perspective about the power dynamic between the International Olympic Committee and the City, which she wrote about in a way that stimulated a passionate discussion, with voices participating on all sides of the debate.
So many others contributed to our Olympic coverage and we are grateful to all of them...Brad Cran, Jason Hall, Randall White, Erica Frank, Megan Stewart, students from universities all over the city...Vanessa Yee became a highly valued editor during the months she volunteered with VO, Esther Chetner provided editing support on Why I Love Vancouver, and penned a great article on Senator Larry Campbell. Danielle Lim provided invaluable support in public relations.
Last summer we were fortunate to work with 30 talented volunteers who contributed their writing, design skills, legal expertise and social media savvy to VO. The volunteers we had last summer were too numerous to mention but we are so grateful for the support and enthusiasm they brought to the site. We look forward to another fun, rich summer of mentoring young and evolving writers, editors and social media managers in 2011.
If I've forgotten to mention your contribution to VO, please email me and let me know ASAP! There have truly been so many remarkable contributions this last year, that I just know I'm forgetting someone or something amazing, so please don't be shy. We'll get you in here immediately!
And, how about those businesses whose graphics you saw in banners or boxes on the site for the last year? Offering such powerful digital marketing strategies, we have become a favourite site for local businesses wanting to expand their branding and business. We have been thrilled to serve the following businesses and non profit organizations:
John Chow, Credential Securities investment advisor
Vancouver International Dance Festival
Eric Posen, Naturopathic Doctor
Martha Abelson, Cortes Island realtor
We look forward to tripling this list this year to meet our goal of monetizing local media by providing an exciting array of online promotional opportunities to businesses. These opportunities range from written advertorials to video advertorials to bringing our top design talent to creating beautiful and compelling eye-catching graphics to increase brand awareness for businesses and non profits. We stay on top of what's possible online and keep bringing that home to you.
Finally, Dear Reader, thank you. Our readers make every day at VO compelling and rewarding. Thank you so much for giving us your attention and time. We know you could be looking in many other directions online. We value your presence and are always excited to see your comments and get your feedback and suggestions for how to make VO even better.
If you want to help out more, thank you. You can help through a very simple act. Send an email to your list with a link to VO's newsletter. Suggest to your friends that they subscribe. It's free, and it gets our coverage out to more people on a regular basis.
If that's too time-consuming, word of mouth is also invaluable. Keep us in mind when you talk to people about what's happening in Vancouver. Let them know that they can find it all here. The larger our audience, the more great coverage we can bring to you. From the street. From events. From inside schools, government institutions, from the road that takes travellers across beautiful B.C. If you're there, we want to be there, too. Look for The VO!
So, here's to a joyful, interesting, safe, just, rewarding,and peaceful 2011 for Vancouver and the world.