'We need someone here' Guelph political blogger Adam Donaldson says of council coverage

Adam Donaldson blogs about Guelph politics and says residents can and should care about the local issues going into the Oct. 22 municipal election.

'You can be more engaged. You don’t have to sit passively by,' Donaldson says

Adam Donaldson runs the blog Guelph Politico. (Craig Norris/CBC)

Adam Donaldson is happy to tweet sometimes mundane details from Guelph city council meetings.

In fact, he'd like to do more of it.

But running your own political blog isn't lucrative, so he has to work another job so he can continue to do his passion project of Guelph Politico.

He receives some donations from community members through Patreon, a crowdfunding website for artists and writers to get paid for the work they do. But it's not enough to make it his full-time gig.

It's an interesting spot Donaldson finds himself in: he's become for many in Guelph a go-to for political coverage after the daily newspaper, the Guelph Mercury, closed its doors in January 2016. This is the first municipal election since that closure and Donaldson says he can see a difference.

There are some media options in the city of more than 130,000. But Donaldson says with independent outlets popping up and groups taking to social media to push agendas, the baseline for neutral news sources that existed with a daily newspaper is now becoming blurred.

"I think we've seen a couple of different groups pop up that are selling a narrative about left-wing takeovers and slates and all that. And that kind of gets away from the issues themselves. It becomes about partisan politics which is supposed to be non-existent at the city level," he said.

Investing in local media

About a week ago, Donaldson was at an all-candidates debate at Guelph City Hall. The Guelph Mercury-Tribune reporter at the event live-streamed the event, but received criticism because the quality was at times not great.

Donaldson pointed out the council chambers have cameras installed, but they belong to Rogers, which didn't broadcast the debate.

On Twitter, Donaldson called out both Rogers and Torstar, which owns the Guelph Mercury-Tribune. He said the two media companies are not investing in local media.

He also noted people can't expect to get the news for free.

"Guelph's people seem to have very little inclination to invest in media themselves, so why should legacy media companies?" he wrote. "Shouldn't anyone doing the work of covering council and keeping them accountable be paid?"

In the same thread, he also admitted he recently debated whether to shut down his blog due to costs.

"Right now, I can't even pay myself for my time," he tweeted.

'You can be more engaged'

He says people may complain on social media, but if they want local media coverage, they need to demand it.

"I think what people have to get over the hump of is that, you can be more engaged. You don't have to sit passively by," he said during an interview with The Morning Edition host Craig Norris while sitting on the benches outside city hall.

Local issues are so important to him, Donaldson said, because what happens at the city level impacts people directly.

Not all topics are sexy, he said. Sometimes, it's a new manual for build form standards. People might find that boring, but he notes if a 14 storey building goes up in your neighbourhood, then people care.

"Like, nine of the 10 things that are going to affect you on a daily basis: how you get to work, whether your garbage gets picked up, where you play, where you shop, a myriad of issues, where you park downtown. That is decided right inside those doors by the 13 people around the horseshoe and we need someone here," Donaldson said.

With files from CBC's Craig Norris