Linda Solomon Wood on why she started National Observer

Starting a national online news site is a big undertaking. Why did you get into this?

LSW:  I got into it because our coverage of energy and the environment here on Vancouver Observer had gotten increasingly national in nature.  International, at times.  And VO is a local brand.

How did this happen when you were a local site?

LSW:  The proposed Enbridge pipeline that would have cut through from Alberta's tar sands through the Great Bear Rainforest to meet tankers in the Douglas Channel became an international issue.  It was such a big, compelling story that we decided to cover it in as much depth as possible. Things evolved from there.

Was it an easy choice to start a new publication?

LSW:  No.  I was thinking about it for at least 2 years very seriously before I made the decision to actually do it.  It required a major financial commitment just to design and develop the new site. 

I got together with Codename Design's Marc Baumgartner maybe a year before for dim sum, and we created the strategy waiting for a lunch that seemed like it would never come. Later that month Marc did the initial mock-ups. 

I think it was frustrating to everyone that I didn't just move forward after that.  I was like, wait, let's think about this.

It took me months to take the leap. It was a lot like doing a ropes course when you climb the tree and you're standing on the little ledge looking way down and it's an 'oh, sh*t' moment.  You're assessing what you've gotten yourself into. I'm the type that takes a long time to make that assessment before jumping.

What pushed you over the edge?

LSW: The federal election.  The Vancouver Observer rose to prominence during the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.  I believed the National could ride the traffic wave in the federal election and leverage that to get on the map in the same way.  I had to do it, or I felt I had to give up the idea.  It was now or never.

Was it successful?

LSW: Yes.

How do you measure that?

LSW: Let's talk about that next time.

 

Part II coming soon.

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