Journalism at a crossroads

It feels like there’s a confluence of emotion reigniting the hunger for meaningful journalism.

Trump mainstreaming hate, his campaign using fake news with the Cambridge Analytica propaganda machine, U.S. hedge funds running news organizations into the ground, Postmedia simultaneously rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic and pressuring newsrooms to lean right-wing, debt-ridden giants seeking government bailouts.

It’s roundly deflating.

But, through that distorted lens emerged journalistic upstarts willing to fight through the noise with unflinching and dedicated vigour:

  • ProPublica winning five Pulitzer Prizes for investigative journalism;
  • The Athletic with its worth-paying-for deep dives on sports;
  • The Discourse launching a made-in-Canada news philosophy to re-establish community journalism; where it is needed the most (Disclosure: The editor of The Discourse is one of our advisors);
  • The Tyee doing long-form journalism free of constraints in Canada before most people knew what long-form journalism meant;
  • De Correspondent pioneering the membership and crowdfunding model in the Netherlands and then launching The Correspondent in the U.S. to spread that model into the West.

A little history

It was 12 years ago this month that I launched one of Canada’s first online-only, pure-play digital news site.

It was called Winnipeg First and it was intensely ahead of its time. All that is left after spending hundreds of thousands of our own money and hundreds of hours of planning is the logo.

Almost every person I hired as a journalist went on to bigger things after we shuttered Winnipeg First, so that is a significant positive to take away from that experiment.

That effort led to digital editor gigs with the Winnipeg Free Press and the Edmonton Journal. Working in two of the best newsrooms in Canada was high energy, fast learning and rewarding as hell.

I was laid off from both of those jobs as I became tangled in the unstoppable death grip of traditional newsroom economics.

After time to mourn, I decided I wanted to get back into community news to reconnect with the roots of journalism. I took a job with Black Press in Castlegar as the editor and was promoted to helm the Vernon newspaper before yet another layoff after they centralized operations to a hub in Kelowna.

I joined Castanet News shortly after. They are an online news site that launched in 2000 as a companion to a radio station. They own online in the Okanagan and their magic-in-a-bottle formula has yet to be replicated.

Stop the news cycle, I want to get off

Over time I discovered my heart only truly beats when I’m producing in-depth journalism and innovating daily in all aspects.

I’ve also discovered that most journalists I know feel the same way. They’re sick of running on the copy treadmill. Having to hold your nose while writing clickable headlines erodes a small piece of your soul a little at a time.

Somewhere, the new sustainable model will emerge. Or, maybe not. But we have to try. There’s too much at stake to shrug our shoulders and walk away.

If you agree, build on our vision by becoming a member.

For the price of two grande lattés a month, you can directly support local, in-depth, democracy-protecting journalism in Alberta. While the site is free to access, we need the support of 2,500 members to hire the first wave of reporters and launch.

Join us and help investigative journalism thrive in your community.

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