Communities.

Support us

Discourse CEO and founder Erin Millar talks about the future of Canadian journalism with San Grewal, founder of The Pointer, and Joey Coleman, founder of The Public Record.

Canadian Journalism Innovators launches to accelerate digital media growth

In the wake of massive journalism layoffs, a new journalist-led initiative aims to accelerate what is succeeding in Canadian media.

This is from our weekly Discourse newsletter. Make sure to share it and subscribe here.


This week about 1,000 journalists were laid off at some of the most recognized organizations, from Buzzfeed, which will cut 15 per cent of its workforce, to HuffPost, to Gannett — the U.S.’s largest newspaper chain.

“We acknowledge that the loss of any trained, professional journalist is a loss to our readers as well,” said Kristi Nelson, president of the Knoxville Newspaper Guild, “one less voice speaking on behalf of the community we cover.”

The news shouldn’t surprise anyone who’s been watching our struggling industry. Yes, HuffPost and Buzzfeed represent a generation of new digital journalism. But they are essentially just a different play on the same broken business model that is killing newspapers: drawing eyeballs to advertising, albeit online. Digital startups popped up a decade ago to capitalize on opportunity as ad dollars fled print to digital, but now those dollars are leaving publishers altogether for platforms like Google and Facebook.

The loss of 1,000 jobs in one week is a huge blow. That’s why it’s particularly important to focus on what is working in the industry. While there will inevitably be more layoffs as the ad-based news model continues to collapse, there’s another story happening too.

In November, The Discourse published a report called The Rise of Audience-Funded Journalism in Canada that looks at the 93 new media outlets that have opened in Canada during a period that saw 260 newspapers close. The report tells the story of a movement of new, independent, digital outlets growing by serving the public with meaningful journalism, and asking them to pay for it.

Today, The Discourse, along with eight other Canadian media outlets — The Narwhal, Taproot Edmonton, The Pointer, Indian and Cowboy, The Sprawl, Media Indigena, The Public Record, The Deep — is launching Canadian Journalism Innovators. The new journalist-led initiative that aims to catalyze growth and sustainability in Canadian news media.

Because the industry needs success stories right now. And because we strongly believe that independent digital media, supported by the public, are an important part of the future of Canadian media.

It isn’t going to be one idea that saves journalism. And it isn’t going to be one media company.

That means we’re going to need your help too. If you’re interested in participating in this initiative click here, and if you’re interested in supporting this network click here.

Did you hear?

  • The forming of Canadian Journalism Innovators follows a November 2018 convening of eight independent digital news media outlets focused on business model innovation. Following this event, The Discourse published The Rise of Audience-funded Journalism in Canada, a report with clear recommendations for how to move Canada’s journalism industry forward.
  • Who was laid off this week? Tom Jones at Poynter describes, in detail, what these cuts mean to newsrooms and communities across the country.
  • If the Doug Ford government’s proposed new tuition policy allowing post-secondary students to opt out of “non-essential” fees passes, student publications — and student journalism in general — could be in jeopardy in Ontario. Canadaland explores what this could mean for the industry and the journalists of tomorrow.
  • Last Friday, a video of a confrontation between an Indigenous elder and a group of young boys from a Catholic school in Washington D.C went viral. The incident sparked a “political firestorm” — Vox breaks down what happened here, from the initial video to the divisive aftermath.
  • Engaging in online discussions can be emotionally challenging. So what do you do when you see hate online? In this piece for Motherboard, Rachel Chen looks at why it’s worth reporting hateful comments.      

Updates from Urban Nation

There are more than 2,000 Indigenous kids in ministry care in B.C. One way the government tries to support these children to connect with their cultures and extended families is by hiring Roots workers. Reporter Brielle Morgan set out to learn more about this important job — and uncovered that there are only 16 Roots workers across the province, and none outside the Lower Mainland or Okanagan.

The number of kids in care was determined using May 2018 MCFD public data. The number of Roots workers is from data sent to The Discourse as of October 2018.

In response we heard from several readers, including “Sara,” who works in B.C.’s child-welfare system and whose identity we agreed to protect: “Once again you have urban areas ‘resource rich,’ if you will, and rural areas in the dust,” she wrote. “I just don’t understand how regions like Vancouver Island have no roots workers.”

It wasn’t easy to get Roots workers or social workers to talk publicly about this. In this follow-up opinion piece, Brielle writes about how social workers in B.C. are scared, stressed and seemingly muzzled by the ministry.

Shout-outs

We asked you what you thought about Gillette’s close shave with toxic masculinity in its recent ad campaign. Thanks for writing to us with such passionate — and very different — opinions. Here’s what some of you shared:

“All these ads are ads, they’re trying to sell you something. The self-help-like messages are used to promote a particular image of the product that has nothing to do with the product. Like, what does masculinity actually have to do with a razor and shaving?

They hope that the viewer associates things like happiness, self-improvement, community, freedom, stuff that you want that isn’t going to come from a product, with the product. It’s a scam and it works.”

— Mandeq

“I really admire companies who do this kind of thing. I feel like they know they will get backlash for it, but more important than making sales, is getting the message across. These companies already make millions so I’m sure they are not worried about alienating a few old fashioned thinkers. They recognize the fact that it’s time to be brave and begin a new way of thinking.

— Kathy

Do they deserve to be celebrated? Fuck no. They’re selling razors.But should we complain about them trying to sell themselves as ‘woke’? This is what we wanted! We wanted the general tone of the discourse of society to stop being so fucking sexist! We wanted ‘woke’ on gender issues to become normalized! This is the normalization. The very beginning of it, anyway. We oughtn’t discourage it.”

— Ben

Want to be part of the conversation? Become a member of The Discourse. As a member, you’ll get to go behind the scenes of our editorial process and make an impact by contributing to our investigations. Sign up here.