As a young freelance writer, the Canadian media landscape has long filled me with dread, but recently I’ve been starting to feel tentatively hopeful. We seem to be on a precipice – traditional print media is struggling and in many cases dying out, while new media projects are testing the boundaries of what’s possible through donations, subscriptions, and membership models. At the same time, there’s a reckoning happening in this industry, with writers and editors calling out systemic racism and exploited labour in traditional media. This milieu has created a space for projects by BIPOC writers, editors, and producers to finally have a spotlight – one that I hope won’t fade.
These seven media projects are embracing this new reality and bucking the status quo. They give me hope that there is a future for writers and journalists in Canada, one that doesn’t look the same as it did fifty years ago, but which could thrive just as much, and be a lot more inclusive.
Is This For Real
Is This For Real? is a new podcast about being Black in Edmonton. Its first season, “Breaking the Blue Wall”, investigates policing issues in Edmonton. A direct response to the Black Lives Matter protests around the world, and in Edmonton specifically, Is This For Real is hosted and edited by Oumar Salifou, a Black journalist in Edmonton, and supported by Bashir Mohamed and Avnish Nanda. With just two episodes out so far, their Patreon has already received almost $5,000 USD per month in funding, demonstrating a clear appetite for local, investigative work that centres Black people in Canada.
The Pigeon is a new Canadian longform outlet launched this month by journalism students and recent graduates to make space for young writers to break into the industry. They encourage “underrepresented, inexperienced, and overenthusiastic young journalists” to pitch them their feature and personal essay ideas. As a recent graduate, this idea excites me; it can be really hard to get your foot in the door and build a portfolio. Unfortunately they don’t offer compensation yet – a problem, especially considering they’re soliciting feature pieces – but they do acknowledge that this isn’t okay and are working on securing funding through their Patreon.
Hingston & Olsen’s Permanent Record series is a new project from the Alberta press known for its Short Story Advent Calendar and Ghost Boxes of horror stories. This new series is preserving stand-alone journalistic pieces as beautifully-designed, limited edition hardcover books which give longform reporting the attention it deserves. Two books have been released so far: Fear on the Family Farm by the renowned Canadian crime reporter Jana G. Pruden, and Jerry and Marge Go Large by Jason Fagone, and the press is open to suggestions of what pieces they should add to the series.
Launched this winter, Passage is a new, standout addition to the growing cohort of progressive Canadian publications. Featuring well-written and thoughtful essays from a left-wing perspective, Passage is funded by a subscription model – while some of their content is free to access, it costs $60 per year, or $6 per month, to gain full access to the site and archives. With everyone on left-wing Canadian Twitter either talking about Passage or contributing to it, it’s definitely worth keeping an eye on.
The Writers’ Co-op Podcast
The Writers’ Co-op Podcast is a really useful tool for writers hoping to make their freelancing into a sustainable business. The hosts, Seattle-based freelancers Wudan Yan (who is Twitter-famous for calling out publications that don’t pay enough or on time) and Jenni Gritters (who went viral for making six figures in her first year of freelancing), are creating a toolkit for the business of freelancing through podcast episodes, newsletters, worksheets, and coaching, available through their Patreon. With episodes on figuring out your values, finding places to pitch, negotiating contracts, and more, Yan and Gritters push back against the new norm of writers being paid pennies for their work. While it comes from an American perspective, I’ve still found it really helpful in the Canadian context.
Hush Harbour is a new Black Canadian press launched last month by writers Whitney French and Alannah Johnson, “dedicated to the imagining of Black feminism in the tradition of Octavia E. Butler.” Focusing on short stories, their mandate is to create a home for all Black stories; a press for Black people by Black people. In doing so, Hush Harbour points out – and aims to fill – a gap in Canadian publishing. I’m really excited to see what they produce.
While not new, Media Girlfriends, a network for women and gender non-binary people working in media in Canada, has garnered attention and donations in the current media reckoning. Started by Nana aba Duncan – the host and producer of CBC’s Fresh Air – the network encompasses a podcast, peer mentorship, events, and a scholarship for women and non-binary students. Importantly, I’ve found Media Girlfriends to be a great follow on Twitter to see more diverse Canadian writers on my feed.