I’m Joey Coleman, a Hamiltonian who works as an independent crowdfunded journalist, is engaged with open data, involved in my neighbourhood association, a pinball player, I tweet about ice cream, and am blamed by City Hall for increasing civic engagement with my work over at www.thepublicrecord.ca.
Journalism matters because it helps create the informed citizenry for a functional democracy. This is something I strongly believe and I practice journalism in pursuit of creating a more informed society.
Biographies, they have a set format I’m not comfortable with. Writing about myself in the third-party, making myself some prestigious award-winning best in the world in my field person, that's not the style of a East Hamiltonian.
Convention is for journalists to write their biography pages in third-person to make it sound more authoritative.
I’m the writer of my website (just in case the domain didn't tip you to this) and of my biography. I present it in first person to ensure you can see my bias – I tend to like myself.
Who am I?
I’m a human being with interests, flaws, strengths, weakness, who believes in taking the opportunities life offers, while acknowledging my good fortune to be able to overcome the challenges life provides as exercises in character building.
I’m a nerd with a curiosity for information, a preference for process, a compassion for the weak, a believer in the need to check power, an unapologetic civil libertarian, with a strong belief in service to others.
I’m a Crown Ward who moved out on my own at age 17, worked full-time for a couple of years after high school, went to university in Manitoba, started a blog, was elected to my student union, wrote about student politics, and became a journalist when I found journalism and journalism found me.
This is my personal website, which does include archives of my pre-2014 journalistic activities, and personal blog posts going back to November 2004. (I lost my April to November 2004 posts in a transition in 2005)
In 2005, my blog became focused on student politics and expanded outwards to university affairs. By late 2006, my blog was receiving thousands of unique readers each day, I was producing original stories, and in early 2007, I was offered a column at a Toronto student newspaper. I declined the offer saying I would never become a journalist. A few days later, I took a position with a mainstream publication and became a professional journalist.
Why an accidental journalist? I didn’t plan to become a journalist. I was actually working on being a coder and that’s why this blog started in 2004 – I was playing with the new concept of blogging content management systems. To do this, I needed to write. My writing gained a national following, I started covering university affairs (with a focus on student politics) across Canada.
Next thing I knew, I was a journalist recruited by Maclean’s Magazine in March 2007. I remained with them until August 2009. I followed this was some time on contract with The Globe and Mail writing about post-secondary education for 18 months.
By 2010, I was looking for a change, but I didn’t know what that was. I had been in talks with The Hamilton Spectator – my hometown paper – to become a columnist prior to the 2009 recession. The recession meant talks came to an end as news organization budgets plunged. In 2010, I decided to test the waters of local journalism by taking an paid 4-month intern at the newspaper.
This ignited my passion for local journalism. Being an online journalism who is not interested in creating “interesting” news stories to drive traffic for advertisers, I needed to create my own news outlet. Today, I operate ThePublicRecord.ca – Canada’s first crowdfunded local news site.
All this for a kid who grew up in subsidized housing and became a Crown Ward. I’ve built a career in a trade that is traditionally closed to someone of my social economic background.
The Human Being
I’m a Crown Ward. I had a good experience in foster care and was very fortunate to be in the same home from age 15 to 17. I moved out on my own at 17.
At age 18, I ran for Public School Trustee in Hamilton’s Ward 5 garnering 23% of the vote. I joined the Canadian Forces Reserve at 19, becoming a full-time “Class B” soldier at 20 and remaining in army until I was 22.
The day I left the military was the day I started this website.
At 22, I went off to university at the University of Manitoba. Living in Winnipeg was a great experience, I had many experiences there that were positive and character building. I was involved in student politics – chairing a sub-committee on food service reform which started me down the path of covering national student politics. I was a founding member of the University of Manitoba’s Circle K Club and lived in St. Andrew’s College’s dorm. During my time in Winnipeg, I was fortunate to volunteer with the Winnipeg Boys and Girls Clubs whose staff were a great support for a university student away from home as a first generation student.
My website became my release as I struggled with deep bouts of depression as I continue to work to overcome the psychological trauma of my past. Over the years, it grew until I was recruited to work professionally as a journalist.
After returning to Hamilton, I joined the Toronto Ontario Pinball League. Pinball is my favourite game, with playing Civilization on the computer a close second.
My learning disability is dysgraphia, a disability primarily impacting written communication. I work hard to overcome the challenges I encounter writing and find my personal website is a great outlet for expression.
I’m an open data activist, a member of Open Hamilton, a part of the Creative Commons Canada movement, and a strong proponent of open information.
I create open data as part of my work at ThePublicRecord.ca and license all my work under a Creative Commons By Attribution-ShareAlike license.