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

TORONTO, Jan. 25, 2019: Canadian Journalism Innovators, a new journalist-driven initiative supporting media innovation, is being announced Jan. 26 at this year’s DemocracyXChange.

Canadian Journalism Innovators is a collaboration of media outlets focused on tackling three of the biggest challenges facing the journalism industry: a lack of money, innovation and diversity. At a time when the advertising model which long supported journalism is collapsing, this group of outlets is focused on building new audience-funded business models that support quality journalism. The Vancouver Foundation has made an initial investment in the initiative.

“The loss of 1,000 jobs this 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,” says Erin Millar, founder and CEO of the Discourse, which is currently leading this collaborative effort.

The forming of Canadian Journalism Innovators follows a November 2018 convening of nine independent digital news media outlets focused on business model innovation. It was the first time these new digital outlets came together.

“When you consider how misinformation networks work together to push lies viral, it’s clear that news media need to collaborate,” says Maria Ressa, CEO of the news outlet Rappler, Time Person of the Year and a keynote speaker at Democracy XChange. Ressa is a supporter of Canadian Journalism Innovators.

After the in-person convening, the Discourse published The rise of audience-funded journalism in Canada, which includes recommendations for how to move the Canadian journalism industry forward. This research shows that audience-pay models are funding a significant portion of new outlets filling news gaps in Canada and around the world.

“Innovators in the online space can reach local readers starved for vital news about issues that impact them directly,” says San Grewal. In September, 2018, Grewal founded The Pointer, a subscription-based digital news platform that launched in Brampton and is focused on quality, data-driven journalism, including investigations. “It’s the best of both worlds: local news free from any outside influence and a platform that delivers to subscribers exactly what they want, without the clickbait and 24/7 Trump hysteria.”

The Vancouver Foundation’s multi-year funding through its Systems Change Test Grant represents the first investment in Canadian Journalism Innovators. Its support will fund business model innovation, led by the Discourse, in two B.C. communities and will benefit the wider industry through collaborative research and development.

“Vancouver Foundation is a strong supporter of innovation that leads to healthy and vibrant communities,” says CEO Kevin McCort. “We see public service journalism – and the testing of new sustainable models to deliver it – as key to ensuring communities are informed by facts, engaged in diverse perspectives, and can act on their own interests.”

With the nine participating media outlets so far — the Narwhal, Taproot Edmonton, the Pointer, Indian and Cowboy, the Sprawl, Media Indigena, the Public Record, the Deep, the Discourse — and a growing number of supporters who believe in this work, Canadian Journalism Innovators’ goals are threefold: Mobilize funding to create sustainable business models for public service journalism; Accelerate innovation through collaborative research and development; Ensure women and people of colour are equitably represented among founders and leaders of new digital media.

The ultimate mission of Canadian Journalism Innovators is to support the growth of a more sustainable and diverse media ecosystem in Canada. Those interested in participating in this project click here. If you’re interested in supporting this project you can click here to learn more, or visit the Canadian Journalism Innovators booth at DemocracyXChange Jan. 26.

Media contact: Lindsay Sample, Managing Editor, the Discourse: lindsay@thediscourse.ca,
1-604-363-4531.

Editor’s note: This release was updated at 10:00 am ET on Jan. 26, 2019 with the list of media outlets participating at the time of the launch.