Media and fans of a blog come out to wave goodbye
It's been a day of mixed emotions after it was decided by me to retire the City Caucus blog after 3 1/2 years. What has been exhilarating is the response to our leaving the stage. Firstly, "City Caucus" was trending across Canada yesterday morning on Twitter. That was a jaw-dropper. It was followed by appearances on the Bill Good Show (I was booked to join the civic affairs panel, but we opened with a discussion about the blog), coverage in The Province, Georgia Straight, CKNW News, Metro News and 24 Hours, and finally an interview on CBC Radio On the Coast with host Stephen Quinn. There is more coverage coming, I believe, but this is a sample of the pieces published so far. I'm extremely grateful for the coverage and the support we had for City Caucus – thanks!
Popular City Caucus blog retired
By Erica Bulman, 24 Hours
The NPA has lost one of its strongest online voices after the City Caucus blog — a lively source of commentary, political scandal and breaking news — was retired Tuesday, after three and a half years.
Co-founders Daniel Fontaine and Mike Klassen decided to call it quits after 1,304 days, due to the long volunteer hours without the financial reward.
“It is with a heavy heart that we are announcing the end of the City Caucus blog,” said Klassen, who was a 24 hours columnist prior to becoming an NPA council candidate in the 2011 elections.
CityCaucus.com was one of a few B.C. political blogs with obvious party allegiances, and has been compared to the more left-leaning online publication Vancouver Observer.
Klassen and Fontaine — both longtime politicians and supporters of the NPA — brought a fat rolodex and “the x-ray specs you need to see through some of the politics of the issues,” said Klassen, who served as vice-chairman of the Vancouver City Planning Commission from 2007 to 2009 when the NPA last governed the city, while Fontaine was the former chief of staff to former Vancouver mayor Sam Sullivan.
The duo was eventually dubbed the “unofficial opposition” to Vision Vancouver and became a chief thorn in Mayor Gregor Robertson’s side.
“In any democracy you want a variety of voices, be it right, left or centre, the more voices there are, the better so when one of those voices goes silent it’s a bit of a shame,” said Peter Walton, who runs SFU’s New Media Journalism certificate program.
While their platform couldn’t secure Klassen a council seat, nor help NPA mayoral candidate Suzanne Anton usurp Robertson, Walton said political blogs have an impact, and in some ways are taking the role of newspapers.
“In the old days, the 19th century, newspapers had a very political slant and supported a political party or a political ideology. Blogs are sort of the modern version of that,” Walton said. “They’ve stepped into the role of newspapers of the old days when newspapers traditionally broke stories. There’s less of that happening and more and more online world because that’s where the consumers of news have migrated.”
One of Klassen’s many thrills was breaking a story after an internal June 2010 memo leaked to him showed city staff unhappy and fearful of Vision Vancouver’s aggressive implementation of its agenda.
“I recall getting a brown envelope with an internal memo … it showed the morale of Vancouver city staff was going into the dumper,” he reminisced. “When we got that story and featured it, it was front-page news everywhere. It was the kind of story that rocked city hall and got them to start to get very concerned about the changes they were making, how it was affecting staff.”
Since launching the City Caucus blog in 2008, the website — which also included commentary from contributors — had almost 2,400 posts, generating nearly 26,500 comments.
But after surpassing five million page views over the long weekend, the pair decided to call it quits on a high note.
“While we both have enjoyed creating a venue for so many unique and diverse points of view, I know the amount of time Mike has put into the blog uncompensated over the years and respect his decision to move on,” said Fontaine, who continues to write a weekly civic affairs column for 24 hours.
Klassen and Fontaine said they would still comment on politics and news of the day through other platforms. The CityCaucus Twitter account and Facebook fan page will remain active for news links and other updates.
City Caucus goes out on a high note
by Chelsea Altice, Metro News
No longer will politically baffled British Columbians be able to turn to oppositional source at City Caucus for civic news and policy updates. After three and a half years co-writers Daniel Fontaine and Mike Klassen published their final posting Tuesday agreeing the blog was too time-consuming.
“Whenever you’re driven by passion it needs to continue to be enjoyable and the enjoyment factor was being limited by the time it took,” Klassen said.
The duo affiliated with Vancouver’s Non-Partisan Association often spent around two hours a day updating the blog, considered an alternate voice to B.C. government and media.
“I think good reporting from mainstream media made our work better and vice versa,” Klassen said.
Klassen discussed the decision with Fontaine mid-June and when the site reached a milestone five million page views over the weekend, it signaled the time to throw in the towel.
“We will continue to write but not on this venue,” he said.
While the blog retires, the pair will continue to update the City Caucus Twitter and Facebook accounts.
“We’ve created a political brand and now have close to 6,000 followers on the sites combined,” Klassen said. “We will continue to share news and information, political matters of day but not devote as much time.”
Daniel Fontaine and Mike Klassen retire City Caucus blog
By Charlie Smith, Georgia Straight
For three-and-a-half years, Daniel Fontaine and Mike Klassen, along with the occasional contributor, cranked out nearly 2,400 posts on the City Caucus website.
But today, the two backers of former NPA mayor Sam Sullivan have decided to give it a rest.
They've announced that their blog—which regularly skewered Vision Vancouver politicians—is being "retired", which means it won't be updated.
"It's part of a larger trend involving Sean Holman's Public Eye Online and Vivian Krause's site," Klassen told the Straight, referring to two other public-issues-oriented blogs that were discontinued after a few years. "It's difficult to try to carry these things through. I sort of agonized with Daniel a little bit over it. We just both agreed that it was best to kind of leave on a high note."
As an NPA council candidate in 2011, Klassen came 13th in the race for 10 seats. He was 779 votes behind Green candidate Adriane Carr, who came 10th.
Klassen added that he enjoys writing and hopes to continue commenting on public issues in the future. "If there will be editors that will have me and Daniel, we'll continue to show our faces," he said.
Fontaine was formerly Sullivan's chief of staff in the mayor's office. Klassen was a vice chair of the Vancouver City Planning Commission when the NPA last controlled city council.
When asked about his favourite stories, Klassen paused before saying: "I must admit, getting our hands on some interesting FOIs and even occasionally getting a brown envelope dropped off at the front door unmarked was always kind of a thrill. I remember when we got the report about the internal polling done about management at the City of Vancouver. Their morale going into the dumper became front-page news."
He also suggested that the City Caucus blog played a positive role in shedding light on municipal campaign financing.
Fontaine, a resident of New Westminster, wrote his posts while maintaining a full-time job. Klassen, a consultant, said that he had planned to make changes regardless of the outcome of the 2011 election.
"Obviously, I'm really interested in public policy and so hopefully, I can put myself to use somewhere," he stated.
Mike Klassen and Daniel Fontaine retire City Caucus civic affairs blog
By Jeff Green, The Province
After three and a half years, the City Caucus blog is calling it quits.
Co-founders Daniel Fontaine and Mike Klassen made the announcement Tuesday morning through their blog, which has been a source for news and comment for civic affairs in B.C.
Earlier in the month, City Caucus editor Klassen was reported to be a likely candidate to shoot for a spot on Vancouver city council with the vacancy of Geoff Meggs, who is seeking the provincial NDP nomination in Vancouver-Fairview.
In their post, the bloggers cited “the considerable personal time and effort running the City Caucus website could no longer be justified.”
Klassen is a former civic affairs columnist with 24 Hours Vancouver, communications officer in the Mayor’s office, and was a candidate in the 2011 municipal election.
Fontaine, a 24 Hours Vancouver columnist, is best known for his role as the chief of staff to Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan. Fontaine took over as editor of City Caucus when Klassen made a run for office.
The City Caucus Facebook and Twitter pages will remain active but the blog will no longer be updated.
There was also a very nice mention in Open File Vancouver titled "Lamenting the end of the City Caucus blog".