Photo by Lindsay Sample/ The Discourse: Discourse CEO Erin Millar talks about the future of Canadian journalism with San Grewal, founder of The Pointer, and Joey Coleman, founder of The Public Record.
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.
Now, 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.