Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Welcome to Guelph Beat

In the spring of 2008, I was wrapping up my tenure as Editor-in-Chief of the University of Guelph student paper, The Ontarion, and looking for new writing opportunities, so I responded to an ad in Echo Weekly looking for news writers. Now I had written for Echo a couple of times before, and after a lunch meeting with then-editor Ryan Farkas, we came up with the idea for "Guelph Beat," a weekly column covering news and politics in the City of Guelph. 

A lot of what I've done since has sprang from that one meeting: the By-Election Blog in 2008 that became Guelph Politico, subsequent appearances on CFRU including "Beyond the Ballot Box" and "Gang of Four," even being a quasi-expert on the robocall scandal last year. I owe a lot to my exposure in Echo, which is why when it folded in 2011, it was more than a little disappointing. 

More than that though, when Echo Weekly closed up shop, it also closed up its website. For me, what it meant was all that work, all those columns, interviews, tidbits and editorials were lost in the ether. Nearly 200 in all. So what was I to do? The solution is presented here: archive them on my own. The project took much longer than I expected. Writing an 800 word article is easy, posting and formatting some 170 articles one after the other is somewhat more time consuming (and daunting). Below are all the "Guelph Beat" articles I could find on my hard drive. Unless I'm mistaken, at least a couple of them are MIA, but for the most part, the entire collection is represented here. 

But before you dive in, allow me a moment to eulogize Echo. When I first came to Guelph, Thursday was a great day. Not because it was the day of the week for the weekly pub crawl, but because that was the day of the week when both the new Ontarion and the new Echo came out. I came from a town with one weekly newspaper, so all this regular reading material around Guelph was something akin to heaven. This probably should have been an early sign of my interest in writing and journalism, but hindsight it 20/20 as they say.

Time caught up with Echo. As the print industry took a hit around the time of the economic crash in 2008, Echo's parent company took gradual stages to reign in costs: cutting staff, moving offices, shrinking the size of the paper. As it turned out though, the more the paper cut, the less it could do. It's hard to cultivate a regional paper for the Guelph/K-W/Cambridge area when the head office for that paper is in Hamilton, and in the end, Echo Weekly died a quiet, unremarkable death in October 2011.

I miss the weekly grind of writing for Echo. I also miss the distinction of being one of the ink-stained wretches. Something was definitely lost when Echo stopped printing, and try as we might to fill the void with websites, to me at least, it just isn't the same as getting that fresh from the presses copy of Echo every Thursday morning.

So without further ado, let's take a walk down memory lane.