A Funny Thing Happens When You Show Up, You Sometimes Get a Story

By Joey Coleman // @JoeyColeman
Published: Jan 14 2017 (6 months ago) // Last Updated: Jan 14 2017 (6 months ago)

I covered today's Hamilton Seniors Advisory Committee meeting at City Hall, I do my best to cover as many public meetings as possible - no matter how small or seemingly non-newsworthy.

(I often note my coverage of the pension sub-committee as an example, the agenda is hundreds of pages of detail financial data and jargon which I can't get in advance, and there are only two regular viewers of the meeting - a pension lawyer, and a pension advocate)

Just prior to the meeting, the chair of this citizens committee came up to me, introduced himself, thanked me for all my coverage of City Hall (saying he likes seeing what is happening for himself), and we conversed about my work.

He asked what keeps me motivated and drives me to cover so many meetings, including advisory groups such as his.

I told him that it is extremely important for journalists to be connected to the pulse of the community, and not be trapped into relying on official sources to provide the news.

"News doesn't happen in my office", I started. "Nor, does it happen on the phone in a newsroom".

I spoke about how the public doesn't trust journalists because they rarely see them, and even when the public does, they parachute in with a specific story in mind (agenda is the term people use for this) which does not build trust. Fundamentally, the crisis facing journalism is one of lost trust. Reliance on "official sources" is another.

(Before anyone gets too pompous, the public wants to read stories which are more interesting than regular reality. People complain about sensational headlines and language in stories they have a stake in, but love reading when they are not involved. You don't pay for news, advertisers who pay by the click do, and boring news doesn't get clicks)

Our conversation continued with him asking what items on the agenda had peaked my interest.

I told him I didn't have a copy of the agenda (The City refuses to give me a copy), that my role as a journalist is to be present and aware of what is happening at City Hall, and just knowing what the issues discussed by seniors on the committee will better inform my coverage, enabling me to better inform readers.

City staff showed up to present to the seniors on a new City project - the City is creating its own "corporate app" for Apple and Android devices. It's a small story, but definitely peaked my interest.

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