Five questions for Huffington Post Canada’s Daniel Tencer
We talk to Daniel Tencer, business editor at Huffington Post Canada about the site’s first major investigative project, Mind the Gap, why they’re not piggybacking the Occupy movement, and what we can expect from HuffPo Canada in the future.
J-Source: A lot of the issues that the Mind the Gap series is focusing on are similar to those that the Occupy protestors have been talking about. Tell me a little bit more about how the series came about. What inspired you to start this series now?
Daniel Tencer: Contrary to how it may seem, this series wasn't inspired by the Occupy protests. We were well into planning our coverage on income inequality when the protests took off. But I think what inspired the protests is more or less the same thing that inspired us to take on this topic, which is a growing awareness, both within the business and economics communities and within the the public at large, that something has become unbalanced in our economy. After the financial crisis of 2008, there was a lot of soul-searching out there about how we got to this place, and many economists began to pay attention to this phenomenon of growing income inequality.
As we looked at the issues facing Canada and the rest of the developing world, it was hard not to connect the dots. The diminishing buying power of the consumer, growing debt loads, housing crises in the U.S. and Britain -- all these things seemed in some way connected to this economic trend, where a larger and larger proportion of economic growth was finding its way into fewer and fewer hands. And there was plenty of talk about this in the press, but not much in the way of actual investigation. So we decided to take this on.
J-Source: What can Huffington Post Canada add to the discussion?
DT: We're approaching this topic from a "populist" perspective, by which I mean we're looking at it from the point of view of everyday household issues -- housing affordability, debt, retirement savings, and so on. The economics blogs tend to look at it from an academic perspective, while the big newspaper business sections tend to approach these things from a Bay Street perspective. That's fine, that's what they're there for. But we want to approach this issue from the perspective of working people and of students, and answer the question, "How does this affect me?"
We want to engage our readers in a discussion. Ultimately all the statistics and economic theories don't add up to much if they don't reflect the reality on the ground. So part of what we're doing here is reaching out to our readers to see if they see the effects of income inequality. We want to ask questions like: How serious is this problem? Should we be as worried about it in Canada as people are in the United States? What can we do about it? Should we do anything at all? I think once we elicit people's stories, once we get a feel for what people are doing and saying and thinking, we'll have a much better understanding of this issue, and that's the value of this project.
J-Source: Looking at the gap between the rich and the poor is a huge undertaking. Tell us a little more about what we can expect from the project in the coming months. What are some of the key issues you’ll focus on?
DT: The more you look at this issue, the more you realize how all-encompassing it is. There really isn't much in society that isn't affected by shifts in economic strata. Education, taxes, health, trade, energy policy, crime, urban planning, unemployment, innovation, business development -- pretty much everything comes into play in this issue. So we'll be taking this series in surprising directions sometimes.
J-Source: The Huffington Post is known for its news aggregating and columnists. Correct us if we’re wrong: Your Mind the Gap series takes a jump into investigative reporting. Why now? What content mix will you use to provide the best coverage for the series?
DT: It's hard to answer "why now?" because The Huffington Post has been doing significant amounts of investigative reporting for some time now. The site does, of course, aggregate news and provide a forum for bloggers, but we've had reporters on staff for years, and HuffPost has been particularly strong when it comes to financial issues. In the U.S., the site has led the pack in terms of coverage of the foreclosure crisis, and particularly foreclosure fraud.
Mind The Gap is HuffPost Canada's first major investigative series, but it certainly won't be the last, and we intend to build a name for ourselves as a place where people can find useful, reliable financial news, among many other things.
J-Source: What is your goal with this editorial series? Can we expect more investigative series from Huffington Post Canada in the future?
DT: I think it's safe to say that as HuffPost Canada establishes itself, we will see more and more original reporting, both of the daily-news kind and the feature journalism kind. One way of looking at Mind The Gap is that it is a springboard for developing a narrative for -- and a community around -- our coverage of money issues, and we'll build on that in the future with other series and other topics. But one thing I think these series will have in common is they will focus on on the aspects of a story that are relevant to "everyday people," as it were, and they will always strive to make our readership a part of the story. In my opinion that's a major part of what has made HuffPost so successful.