Just for fun, before you start reading this post, go online and google “Birch Cliff” and see what turns up. Not much. The first hit is an energy company in Alberta, followed by cottages for rent south of Algonquin Park. If you scroll further down, you’ll see a some informational websites from schools and churches as well as my favourite, a professional looking site by a local real estate agent. What you won’t find, however, is a website that provides news and information about what’s actually happening in our Toronto neighbourhood.
That changes today with the launch of Birch Cliff News.
Birch Cliff News is a community news website dedicated to covering events and issues that affect the lives of people who live in our quiet corner of southwest Scarborough. It’s a non-profit, indepedendent website where all the collaborators are volunteers. The goal is to strengthen our community by developing a strong online presence where people can find out what’s going on, share information and have a conversation.
Everybody knows we don’t get covered by Toronto’s mainstream media, beyond the odd person who falls over the Bluffs or a smattering of Quarry coverage. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have news — it’s just our news. And in today’s wired world we can cover it ourselves.
It’s successful elsewhere
The seed for Birch Cliff News was sown in the fall of 2010 when I moved to England temporarily to earn an MA in Online Journalism. The number of community news sites in the UK is mind boggling and many are quite impressive including sites in Bournville, Lichfield and Stoke-on-Trent. They even have an umbrella group called “Talk About Local” to help neighbourhoods establish a powerful online voice.
What’s the demand?
I immediately saw the potential for something similar in Birch Cliff and judging by the market research I conducted, so do you. 88% of respondents to a survey said they would visit a site like Birch Cliff News and 94% thought that others would. The breakdown of what people are interested in is as follows (in order of popularity):
- city services
- crime and policing
- the Quarry
- Birchmount Collegiate
- photo sharing
- Birch Cliff Public School
- church news
And so it begins
I would like to thank everyone who participated in the research, contributed stories, helped set up the website, and offered encouragement and support. Now we’re looking for story ideas and more volunteers. You don’t need to be a writer or web designer to be involved (although they won’t be turned away!) There is room for everyone who might like to participate and we would value the help. It would be great if you could start by visiting the website regularly and reading the stories. If you like something you see, please consider emailing it to a friend or posting it on Facebook. And if you have a story idea or want to volunteer, just send us an email.
Let’s get the conversation going.