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....