Peterborough, Ontario residents peruse a mock-up of a May, 2021 issue of Electric City Magazine at an All Citizens Meeting hosted by the magazine in July. The headlines and accompanying blurbs were created by local residents during an earlier All Citizens Meeting. Photo credit: Amber Pula

Local News Publication Wants to Lead the Way to Citizen-led Democracy
Magazine hosts citizen gatherings, features ‘future’ news, proposes Citizens’ Manifesto, crowd-funds

On August 11, the Peterborough, Ont.-based arts and culture publication, Electric City Magazine, hosted its fourth monthly All Citizens Meeting. During the first gathering, which took place in spring, the magazine invited candidates for the Oct. 22 municipal Council election to act as keynote listeners. The 45 or so people who came were invited to connect with one another and to share what was important to them. Participants also created a rendering of what they would like to read in the May 2021 edition of the magazine.

To shape some continuity between the monthly meetings, the magazine invited participants at its July meeting to spend a little time with those stories so they could connect with the hopes of those who came before them.

“It was remarkable to see the smiles on people’s faces as they read, in one place, at the same time, in the same paper, the future they and fellow community members cast for this community,” magazine publisher Peter Pula says. At that same meeting the publication floated a Citizens’ Manifesto to propose an approach to a citizen-led democracy.

  We would like to be part of leading the way to a more resilient and thriving Peterborough, one in which every community member feels welcomed and included, one in which everyone’s gifts and unique talents are encouraged.

In the meantime, Electric City Magazine has added some new goodies to its mix. A solely print publication for about two years, the magazine has taken to also posting a new story online every Tuesday and Thursday. It’s also initiated an online series on the Future of Peterborough. That series is running while the All Citizens Meetings continue. “Jumping into all was intentional,” Peter says. “We figured municipal election time is a great time for us all as community members to be considering what we want for our community. So, we’ve been engaging community members through the stories we are publishing and through our monthly gatherings, to which everyone is welcome.”

The magazine team has also watched as hundreds of people have enthusiastically joined the mailing list to electronically receive the new Electric City Weekly. That email digest links to the latest online stories, shares invites to gatherings, sometimes links to cool but relevant articles from away, and points to upcoming arts and culture events for the coming week.

Peter and the team say that through all of this they are doing their part to cultivate a City that Listens – a designation that Peterborough citizens have identified they would like to live into. The idea is that, by hosting community conversations and making generative media about the awesome Peterborough they know and love, that they will cultivate more of the same.

The twice weekly online stories, Electric City Weekly, the monthly print magazine, and the once a month All Citizens’ Meetings are as much as the publication can do. The team figures these offerings to be the minimum viable product for making a difference and creating something that is fun for local residents to be involved with.

“Our intention is to build our small organization into a leading one. We would like to be part of leading the way to a more resilient and thriving Peterborough, one in which every community member feels welcomed and included, one in which everyone’s gifts and unique talents are encouraged,” Peter says.

“The way we can contribute to that is to keep digging for the leading-edge stories of people who are cutting a new path in arts and community work. We can also continue to foster understanding and dialogue by continuing to host gatherings.”

Electric City Magazine is working towards financial sustainability through a crowd-funding model. Local residents – and people from other places who believe in this kind of journalism – can support the work by becoming a patron.

“Once we reach sustainability, we will add more stories, deeper dialogue, perhaps barbecues and concerts,” Peter says. “Then the party will really get started.”

Click below to watch a five-minute video harvest of the first All Citizens Meeting.

The above article is adapted from an editorial that appeared in Electric City Magazine.