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Four years of LWC: We’ve come so far, with so far left to go

Today (June 4), LiveWire Calgary celebrates four years in operation.

While I say celebrate, it’s really taken me some time to wrap my head around what it is exactly we’re celebrating.

I don’t say that glibly; I’ve never wanted to make this about LiveWire Calgary or me. You could say that after four years we should be happy to still be around, I suppose. That’s enough to celebrate on its own.

The mission when Brodie Thomas and I launched LiveWire Calgary on June 4, 2018, was to make sure that the stories of Calgarians and their neighbourhoods didn’t get lost in the seemingly endless crescendo of political drama, half-told stories and the chasm between the so-called left and right.

In short, we wanted to shine a light on the small things communities do to make life better every day in Calgary. We wanted to talk about the people and the issues; we wanted to dig deeper and provide more context when warranted.

It was important to tell the tiny stories – yes, that sometimes includes rewritten press releases. Often, that’s the only way some of these businesses, non-profits and civic groups get their word out. We’re happy to help amplify their voices.

And, we wanted to tell these stories with objectivity that’s tough to find in media today, particularly independent media.

I’d say, overall: Mission success.

Evolution of an indie news outlet

As cast-offs from the since-failed Metro Calgary newspaper (remember, the one that at one time, with a certain editor, was the most read Calgary daily newspaper Mon-Fri and was the most profitable operation in the Metro Canada chain… yeah, that one), we brought with us that DNA.

We replanted it in LiveWire Calgary, and now it’s taken on a life of its own.

While Brodie Thomas is no longer at LWC, the fingerprints of Metro are still there. We find niche stories and deliver them with gusto. We’ve stayed committed to the community.

We’ve grown though, and we’ve experimented with different things along the way.  Now, we’re diving into intense data, live video feeds, investigations, live audio shows, a daily micro newspaper – and more. We may have a few more tricks up our sleeve, too.

Of course, with Aryn Toombs joining the team, we’ve elevated our visual elements to compete with all of the daily news operations in the city. (And I’d say, surpassed them in many ways.)

We’re also still heavily committed to the ongoing development of young journalists – many of whom wouldn’t get the chance to learn the craft of journalism without the entry through LiveWire Calgary.

(In fact, it was our current practicum student, Hajar, who encouraged me to shout the LWC story from the rooftops as we celebrate four years.)

There’s been a lot of learning along the way, too. Personally, I’ve become adept at cutting audio, video, doing graphics and photo illustrations, laying out news pages and fine-tuning my writing and editing skills.

Still, the learning never ends.

Room for continued growth

LWC Editor Darren Krause (right) at a city hall scrum in 2022. ARYN TOOMBS FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

While there’s been so much knowledge built up, there are gaps. There are challenges.

It’s easy to say lack of resources is a challenge – but that’s never an excuse I’ve used. I refused to use it at Metro and I refuse to use it today.  It’s tested our ability to work smarter and look for opportunities to exploit the weakness of legacy media.

This reflection on four years is a start to further address some of those gaps. I was challenged by Hajar to write something that shared with people the journey of LWC and to raise awareness about who we are, what we do, and maybe most importantly, what we stand for.

I’m not really good at doing that from a business perspective. It reminds me too much of the idiom where businesses get caught up in their sizzle and have no steak.

(Steak is where it’s at.)

I need to better serve those loyal Calgarians who support us. It’s an ongoing challenge to balance the needs of the members and still ensure we provide readers enough high quality information. We plan to do a better job for our members. In fact, it will be a focus.

It’s high time for me to blend a little more media business with the journalism. We need to shore up business development, marketing and partnerships with other community stakeholders. It’s time to grow up and be more than just a glorified news blog site.

Today, we celebrate

There is a lot to celebrate as I look back on the past four years.

LiveWire Calgary has done some remarkable things. We firmly believe we’ve had an impact on changing the face of our city with each story we tell and photo we take.

I imagine that very few thought we’d last this long.

We take pride in giving legacy media a run for their money. I personally relish publishing a story that I know other newsrooms will be forced to chase in one form or another.

I smile when I think of the young journalists that have come through LiveWire Calgary and continued to carve out a career in this increasingly important job (looking at you Azin Ghaffari, Omar Sherif, Kirsten Phillips).

It’s also important to celebrate untapped potential. We still dream every day of how far our daily independent media outlet can reach. There’s still more work for us to do in telling the story of Calgary.

Yes, it does bring an ask.

If you got this far and I’ve reached you on some level and shared with you the power and importance of local journalism, it’s critical that you support our work.

For us to continue our mission to provide a high-quality local news source, we need to grow. We don’t rely on advertising; it’s there to provide an underpinning of revenue to keep the site operating.  The bulk of our funds come from members and virtually every penny goes back into the journalism you see.

As we celebrate four years, I ask you to join in to supercharge the next four years. We want to add more journalists and build the business around it so we can be here well into the future.

We appreciate you celebrating the success with us. On to year 5!