by Macalan B-J
Austen Knopp and Haroon Ahmed are the hosts of an online political blog called YEGnation that tries to get young people involved in municipal government. This is their story (cue drumroll).
Macalan: When did YEGnation start up?
Austen Knopp: So it started in April when Jacob started to get YEGnation off the ground. Jacob is the other guy involved, but he is 35 years old and doesn’t like to put his face on things. He wants the face of YEGnation to be the young guys like us, me being 23 and Haroon being 24.
Tell me your names and your positions at YEGnation and how you got involved with the organization?
A.K.: Well it’s not really a job per say; we are all doing this as a team. We are the collective YEGnation team. I met Jacob because I volunteer for a program of his called “Kids for Cameras.” We would help out street kids and teach them how to use photography to tell their stories. Jacob started talking about this program he had started called YEGnation, and that’s how I got involved.
Haroon Ahmed: I was volunteering at “Next Gen Edmonton,” which essentially has a similar mandate as YEGnation does. It tries to get young people involved and get them out to vote. I met Jacob there, and he had quite the energy, so he got me excited for YEGnation as well. I decided to join their team and try and build YEGnation. As for roles, all three of us are responsible for bringing this baby up from the bottom. It really is just like a child, and we have to raise it together because there is so much that needs to get done. We have are own skill sets obviously. Austen is good at making connections, and I have been working on making the website.
A.K.: We both would be considered hosts, but really, all three of us do everything.
What are some of the struggles of being on the ground floor?
A.K.: Time. The election is on the sixteenth, and there are 70 candidates not including the education trustees. We don’t have time for the school board side of it. We are already hard-pressed to try and cover the mayoral and municipal candidates. It is possible, but it is going to be tough to find the time. We are doing interviews like crazy to try and keep up. We interviewed four politicians yesterday, and we have five booked for tomorrow.
What is the goal of YEGnation?
A.K.: It is trying to get young people to care, I’m 23 and I have never voted, so as I’m learning about this stuff, I’m thinking “why haven’t I voted?” and “why does anybody not vote?” We are trying to get people involved so that they are an active and educated member of society. We don’t want to still need to educate people ten years from now. There are important things happening right now and we should know about them.
H.A.: As the young generation, we have a great responsibility. If things don’t go well now, we will have to pay for it later, and it will cost so much time and money to try and catch up.
On your site now is a lot of municipal coverage because of the upcoming election. Does YEGnation get involved further than that? On provincial and federal levels as well?
H.A.: There are talks about it. We will have to see how YEGnation goes and how the next-step platform will look. If YEGnation is successful and does what we are planning for it to do, then I feel like AlbertaNation is next.
A.K.: It really depends on the content people are looking for. It might be a more central-Edmonton coverage of the provincial election.
What are some of the challenges in trying to get people involved in politics?
A.K.: They don’t care. Like I said, I’m 23 and have never voted, and I am not an anomaly. That seems to be the norm in young people today. My friend’s mom was running for council when I was living with her and I didn’t even vote then. I was ignorant at the time, and there is an ignorance throughout Edmonton’s youth. We haven’t run into a lot of people who care as much as we do or at all for that matter. Young people are not excited about municipal politics.
H.A.: The reason we are doing what we are doing is that the information is not set up in a way that young people can consume it. That is why we are on YouTube, Reddit, and Facebook; campaigning is normally out on the streets going door to door. While that’s important and does reach a lot of people, that is not how many youths get their news these days. Most of the information young people get is from the internet. There are some resources online, but nothing as easy to access as YEGnation. No one else is doing interviews online, and I really like that that is what YEGnation is doing.
www.yegnation.com is the site, and I highly recommend looking into it for this upcoming municipal election.
October 16. Vote.