I remember sitting in a news meeting at the Edmonton Journal when the subject of Mack Male came up. This was a few years ago, before I had met him. The editor pitching the story mentioned that Mack was 25.
“Mack Male is not 25,” I said with certainty.
Completely unfounded certainty, as it turned out. I just couldn’t believe that someone who had accomplished so much online and was so engaged in civic affairs could be that young. (Also, I was judging by his avatar and not that studly portrait in Avenue’s 40 Under 40. Addendum: I stole the picture above from Mack’s website.)
I tell this story partly as penance for my past dumb self and partly because he had indeed accomplished a great deal by that young age and he just keeps on doing so. Mack recently enumerated some social media milestones. It is an amazing catalogue of creative effort, all done on his own time for the love of it.
It’s not just the volume of his output, it’s the quality. Take the number-crunching he did on Edmonton’s homicide rate. This adds valuable perspective to the current panic.
I would love to see a journalist team up with Mack and parse the data further. How about a city-by-city comparison of the circumstances of these homicides over the past 30 years? How many are gang-related, alcohol-fuelled, domestic, random, what have you? Maybe then we could really get at what sets Edmonton and Winnipeg apart, and what might solve it. Maybe then we could come up with solutions more likely to work than the usual hire-more-cops-and-maybe-ban-knives thing we usually try.
Mack also makes me think about Clay Shirky’s brilliant post on why the current chaos in the news industry is a good thing. Shirky points out that monoculture is bad for the news and for the society it helps to make work.
It’s a good thing if some of our news comes from people like Mack – people who love it so much they do it for free in their spare time. Not all of the news can or should come from “amateurs” (and I don’t use that term pejoratively), but not all of it should come from newspapers, TV and radio either. A healthy news ecosystem requires diversity and symbiosis. And I think Edmonton is awfully lucky to have Mack swimming around in its news pond.
(Addendum: Mack marked his fifth anniversary on Twitter on July 15 and wrote an interesting post about how it has evolved. I didn’t realize he came up with the #yeg hashtag!)
OK, let us round up. I’ve been in Ottawa and Montreal, where it has been sunny and mosquito-free – forgive me – but I managed to pick up on a few of the things going on back home:
– The sixth and final installment of “the edmontonian presents” aired on ShawTV on Sunday night. I’ll be catching it on YouTube or via iTunes as soon as possible, and so should you if you missed the broadcast.
– I see lots of good stuff on Kendall Barber’s City and Dale. She had called for more voices in the spring, and I think she has succeeded in making a strong blog even stronger.
– Nice to see West Edmonton Local, MacEwan University’s experiment in hyperlocal news, continue through the summer. It looks like Trevor Robb got a job out of the experience, which is great news.
– Perhaps it’s because I’m not being eaten alive at present, but I am quite enjoying following @Yegsquito on Twitter. Recommended if you need a laugh amid the itching.
As always, check out (who else?) Mack’s Media Monday for more media-related news and observations. Let me know what I missing in the comments or on Twitter.