Joey Coleman's commitment to free and open news, focus on information that matters and dedication to citizen engagement enrich our community are worth supporting.
By Gavin Schulz
Published March 11, 2013
Once again, Joey Coleman is raising money to continue his independent journalism in Hamilton. I want to tell you why Joey and his work is important to Hamilton. I hope that you will strongly consider giving to Joey's campaign and helping him continue his journalism in this city!
Some people may question why we need to fund an independent journalist when we already have news organizations like the Hamilton Spectator, Ancaster/Dundas/Mountain News and others. Certainly these organizations should be enough to keep tabs on our government and keep us all informed with what's going on in our city, no?
For me, the most important distinction, both practically and philosophically, between the major papers and Joey is his commitment to free and open news for everyone in Hamilton, whether or not they have funded his work. He believes that journalism is a public good and no citizen should be denied access to the resulting output.
For the past few months he has worked tirelessly to post agendas, livestream council sessions and report from around the city all without erecting a paywall or shutting out those who did not fund his initial campaign.
Other news organizations have been less committed to this principle with the Spectator erecting a metered-paywall and YourHamiltonBiz offering its content exclusively to paid subscribers.
While every organization is free to decide for themselves what their business model should be it is clear a broadly informed citizenry will not be achieved if news is only available to those who pay.
Secondly, Joey has put his commercial competitors to shame many a time by focusing on important issues and events while his competitors have either neglected to cover these events or instead redirected their resources to less important events.
The best example of this is a nursing home fire that occurred and Joey was on the scene in short order livestreaming, tweeting and disseminating information from fire officials, while the Spectator's reporters were live-tweeting the filming of a movie a few streets over. The difference in priorities could not be more clear!
Joey was also the first journalist in the city to livestream council, police board and school board meetings and continues to do so on a regular basis. Everything that is said in these meetings is now permanently archived on the internet and that means elected officials can be held accountable with no shadow of doubt over what was said in the past.
With just a few thousand dollars, Joey was able to give everyone in Hamilton access to the full proceedings of every meeting while other news organizations have made no attempt to do this in the past.
A few weeks ago, Joey streamed the Mayor's annual address to the Chamber of Commerce so that anyone could hear for themselves the full text of the Mayor's address. Traditionally, anyone not invited to the event could not have heard first-hand what was said by the Mayor, instead having to read a filtered down version of his speech in an article the next day.
Third, no one works harder than Joey to engage with citizens and answer their concerns. Without a doubt social media is the most important communications platform for the general public and in this arena Joey has really been shining.
He is probably the most active Twitter user in Hamilton and does far more to disseminate and collate news than any other journalist in this city. Whenever an issue or event crops up, you can expect Joey to be tweeting about it and curating the tweets of others.
He is relentless about responding to citizen's questions and concerns over the affairs of the city government and makes every effort to answer them as fully as possible.
But Joey has also done a lot of work in moving the city toward being more open and transparent; work that has largely gone unnoticed by most people in Hamilton but from which we all benefit.
He has been pushing for more transparency not only through his livestreaming but also his work with freedom of information requests, posting council agendas online and advocating for open data.
As just one example, I want to talk a little more in depth about Joey's work on the open data file in the city as this is the issue on which I've had the fortune of working with Joey over the last two years.
Joey has been relentless in working with elected officials and bureaucrats alike to get the city to not only adopt but embrace open data. He has worked tirelessly on the HSR real-time transit feed issue, and his work paid off recently when Don Hull, the director of the HSR, announced that we could be expecting real-time HSR feeds in the near future.
Joey has also worked to inform citizens about the benefits of open data both by speaking and blogging about it but also by building apps on top of open data sets.
Not even a lack of programming knowledge has ever gotten in Joey's way. When he went to map out all the water spots in the city two summers ago he taught himself about Google Maps and Fusion Tables in order to build a mashup which became Dowsing. He manually scoured the city's website to find all parks, pools, lake and splash pads in Hamilton.
He single-handedly mapped out all the political boundaries (wards, provincial and federal ridings) in the city for use in WardRep. All of this relentless work for no reward but the satisfaction of making life easier for us as citizens.
I hope you can see why Joey Coleman is so important to our community and that you will consider donating to his crowdfunding campaign and join so many other Hamilton residents.
First published on Gavin Schulz's tumblr.
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