Arts & Life

What once was old is new again

It was supposed to be different. And it is. It was supposed to celebrate the Prairies in a way that hadn’t been done before. And it does.

But it could do these things better. Spectator Tribune could do all these things better, filling the void it initially sought to fill; the void that still exists in Prairie’s-based media.

It’s about to. In minutes, perhaps.

Today is a milestone. We’ve been working towards it for a while.

At some point during the day on Monday, July 20, 2015 once the servers finished doing what they do, the Spectator Tribune will have shed its once current, once smart design for clean lines, white space, and intuitive usability. All of its features will now work as intended. Content will now look sharp, read sharp, and appear often. It’ll be a better experience for those reading and those writing.

In the fall of 2012, from the months leading up to the launch of to the moment it became a living and vulnerable thing, this new website claiming to celebrate all that makes the Prairies extraordinary was to become a publication unlike any other in Winnipeg and the west.

You can write in the first person here. You can swear within the fluid confines of good usage here, too. You can say things here. And in the beginning there were about 50 writers on board who had something to say. The traffic would come. The ads would follow. The money would come, and the Spectator Tribune would set precedent as a smart, online publication that pays its writers competitive rates.

Shortly after its success in Manitoba, writers from Saskatoon, Regina, Calgary, and Edmonton would begin contributing similarly edgy, smart content about their cities. The model was simple. It would work, without a doubt.

But ad sales lagged, and writers unable to sustain a career in writing or journalism on the promise of payment sometime in the future began finding new, paid work.  The site began to slow down. Traffic went from numbers worthy of lucrative ad campaigns to something much more modest. People were still visiting and writers were still writing, but the operation started to get clunky.

In the summer of 2014, the site started to fall into disrepair, and for some readers using certain hardware it didn’t work at all. Expert coding needed to happen and immediately. It didn’t, and the site spent a few months limping along, unable to display ads, barely able to display stories.


He drew everything out, as if accessing some prescient understanding of how I comprehend information. It was beautiful. It made sense. From his Ontario home, he had been following the Toronto Standard while I was there as managing editor, and since moving to Winnipeg, he had been keeping a close eye on Spectator Tribune, as well. He loved it and wanted it to succeed.

The page now Spectator Tribune board member Matt Carreau was drawing on was full of connecting circles, scribbles, names, all detailing the short-term business structure that the site needed to implement and the long-term structure that would the site’s reach to slow extend west.

He mapped out what the board would look like, giving names of potential members, and the duties they would be responsible for. And it worked. He was right. More than just one person was needed to run this thing, and the people he thought would be interested, were.

Since then, we’ve been meeting often, usually over pints at the Good Will, discussing what the site needs, how to fix its immediate sluggishness, and how it will function as a publication once all the coding and design has been fixed.

We were planning for today. Our ad sales will now have a local focus, our writers, some who have stayed with us and others who have lay dormant until things smoothed out, are ready to contribute excellent content, and some of the features the site was exciting about at its conception, like events, videos, and its daily ticker, will now work and be able to adapt, thanks to an in-house web developer.

Enjoy the site. Write for us, if you have something to say. Send us your comments, if you think we could do better.