Changes to Thecannon.ca – Opinions sought

Monday, September 15, 2008

1 Comment

Written by Scott Gilbert

This piece is meant to gauge student perceptions of thecannon.ca and reach out to the student body for input on our website, to ask for ideas on how to improve it, and to run some of our own ideas by you.

To start, we would like to welcome our new reporter Reilly Scott. She will be working alongside myself, Scott Gilbert. We were both hired at the beginning of September 2008 as the two paid staff of this website. Our website was staff-less over the summer months so we apologize if you noticed a rather slow cannon during this time.

Throughout the course of this year we plan to change the focus of the site somewhat and orient it more along the lines of an event-promotion source rather than a news agency. While many of the kinks are still being sorted out, we wanted to acknowledge that given our rather limited staffing hours (under 30 per week in total), we simply do not have the resources to compete with the Guelph Mercury or Ontarion in terms of regular news stories (the focus of the Peak is somewhat different for the Peak so a comparison here is not particularly relevant).

That being said, there are certainly areas where we excel and cannot be reckoned with. A primary example is urgent or timely news matters. If something happens on campus that is newsworthy and is particularly time sensitive, rest assured we will be the first to report on it. Our advantage is that we can post live to our site within minutes of an important decision such as tuition fee hikes, or student election results. The Mercury may not cover it, or may be a day late, while the Ontario by definition can be up to a week behind (not to diminish the work they do, just stating the facts).

The primary change we plan to implement is a shift in focus towards more event coverage. Both the Mercury and Ontarion for various reasons are rather reluctant to cover an event before it happens. A significant amount of their respective operating budgets depend on advertising revenue so covering an upcoming event in a print article removes much incentive for the host group to purchase an ad in the paper. Our site does not have these restraints because we already have a sufficient operating budget and do not even have a paid ad service. Further, since we can be more current, even a last-minute event can be posted to our site and be seen by students in time.

We want to take advantage of this edge and increase the focus of our site on providing more coverage of campus and community events such as concerts, movies, speakers, rallies and the like. When we hear of an event, receive a press release, or are otherwise alerted to something happening our editorial team will make a decision on which ones should be covered in more detail. Instead of simply posting the five W's about the event, we want to provide the valuable service of flushing it out in more detail to provide context, insight, and an in-depth look at what the event is likely to be like. This will give the student body more information for them to consider and is likely to encourage more attendance and better reception of the event. We feel it's better to cover what's happening beforehand and let attendees post a myriad of commentary about how it went down, rather than always be writing about what has already happened and only have one view of it.

Other smaller changes we hope to implement include:

-More focus on video content: you may have seen a few Youtube clips go up so far on our site – being able to embed the content right into our page can provide more context to articles, allow you to preview the sounds of an upcoming concert, watch a trailer for an on-campus film, and make the site more lively overall. (sorry the layout of the video links is not as visually appealing yet as it can be – we are actively working on this).

-Making the site more user-friendly and improving our capabilities: some suggestions so far have been making it easier to post comments, allowing the option to include photos with your classified ads, and giving students a way to reference textbook or housing ads they have already replied to.

-Providing incentives and avenues for students to contribute to our site more: Not only by writing articles and using our comment forums for banter, but also providing a “news tips” system where we can be alerted to things as they happen. Even if you don't have internet access when things happen (like in a downtown club on a Friday night) we want you to be able to text us news tips and photos immediately. After all, we can't be everywhere all the time and rely on the student body to contribute to our content. To encourage participation and provide incentives, we will be exploring a mutually beneficial agreement with the Bullring and other campus groups to offer discounts or free items in exchange for photos or news tips that result in stories for our site.

But now we want to hear from you. Have you experienced difficulties doing something on our site? Do you wish we offered something that we don't? Are we focusing too heavily on one thing over another? Is there something we already do that you very much like, and wouldn't want to see taken away? Please post your comments and feedback below so we can try to make as many changes as we can this year. We want this site to be as user-friendly as possible and offer all that it can. Let the ideas flow!

NOTE ON POSTING COMMENTS! - You MUST use an "@uoguelph.ca" email address or your posting will not show up. You can keep your email private by not selecting the "show email" box, and you can use an alias name, but your email address MUST be valid. Having other problems posting? Email me at while we troubleshoot.

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  1. Posted by: Jammin' on Feb 6, 2009 @ 1:54pm

    Quit hiring communists to run the damn thing for starters!

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