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Apt613: Discover Ottawa Through Digital Media

By Katrina Marsh.
Photo credits: Michael Aide

It’s been ten years since Apt613 launched on a cold January day in 2008. From the outset the mission of the website was to get Ottawans to get off their couch to discover their city. By getting the community to write about itself, we doubled the site’s impact by not only letting people know about new and exciting artists, businesses and events, but also providing them with a different and fun way to support their community. We’ve worked with hundreds of amazing contributors throughout the years, from moonlighting public servants to aspiring young journalists and folks just looking for another way to connect. 

To better support our community of volunteers, we launched 613U, a sister site to apt613.ca. 613U is intended as a collection of resources to allow Apt613 contributors and anyone with an interest in blogging or digital media to learn new skills. Initially supported by the Ontario Trillium Foundation, 613U entered a new phase this summer when we received a grant through a Community Leadership Program, co-sponsored by the U.S. Embassy in Canada and Fulbright Canada, to expand 613U into the real world. We held a series of four workshops on digital skills at Impact Hub Ottawa.

The most popular workshops were held by local media personality, Adrian Harewood, co-host of CBC News Ottawa, which drew a sell-out crowd. Adrian focused on interview skills, an essential (perhaps the essential) skill for any aspiring blogger or community journalist. 

Two of the workshops were given by Paul Adams, a respected professor of journalism at Carleton University and former Globe and Mail and CBC reporter. Paul focused his first session on the basics of telling a story and how to find stories citizen journalists or blogger would want to write about. He followed up with a session on the basics of storytelling. This session laid the groundwork for 613U’s seventh mini-course. 

Veteran Apt613 editor Katrina Marsh held the first initial workshop on the blogger’s toolkit, three non-traditional ways of providing information to readers, such as the use of maps, quizzes, polls and slideshows.

Aside from the workshops, the Fulbright Canada funding allowed Apt613 to pull together a digital media kit for citizen journalists. This basic audio-visual equipment, such as microphones and tripods, will be used by volunteers to experiment with new ways of telling their community’s stories through local podcasts and short video series. 

The support of Trillium and Fulbright Canada helped Apt613’s encourage community engagement, especially needed in an age of declining local media with several sources of information closing down. Armed with the workshops and the new equipment, we’re excited about what Apt613 contributors and other community bloggers will pull together in 2018!

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