Hey, have you noticed? News is hard to find these days on social media1, not in small part because Meta decided to remove the presence of news organisations in response to Bill C-18. This bill aims to target the trillion dollar companies controlling the way we consume media in hopes of compensating Canadian news organisations. For companies who rely on, exploit, and control the modern distribution of news, it seems par for the course to utilise their monopoly position to try and force governments and the fourth estate to back down.
I really don’t buy the arguments that these platforms are private in nature and can employ mass censorship of investigative journalism at a whim. These companies act more like public broadcasters, than they do private independent forums. So we should treat them as such. We shouldn’t allow social media to erode our ability to get up-to-date fact-driven information. For a thriving democracy, the fourth state is critically important. So let’s talk about the news. Specifically, Canadian News.
The State of Canadian Media
There’s a lot to say about the landscape of Canadian media. You could talk about how topics south of the border tend to dominate national discourse. Or about how a lot of local reporting beats have been vanishing2, replaced by local blogs or online community hubs. How that might be dangerous due to the lack of investigative rigour and the rise of hearsay. We could talk about the centralisation of mainstream Canadian3 news in the hands of just a few companies (Postmedia, Nordstar, Bell, Rogers). We could talk about corporate4 / conservative5 bias of mainstream publications. We could talk about the triumphs of Canadian public broadcasting… as well as its failures. We could talk about how the global attack on the fourth estate is manifesting here too in Canada.
But I want to talk about a different topic—the Canadian landscape of independent investigative newsrooms. News room that offer diverse opinions and investigate topics that are otherwise taboo for publishers under government of corporate interests. These organisations provide important perspectives on regional interests and cultural reporting that might otherwise get passed over.
So who are they and what do they report on? Here’s a short list of the independent news organisations worth following.
Focus: Western Canada
The Tyee is based in what is commonly known as Vancouver, British Columbia, on the unceded territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) and Sel̓íl̓witulh (Tsleil-Waututh) nations. For 20 years, the Tyee has focused on the issue of Vancouver, British Columbia, and now Western Canada. As someone from Vancouver, who holds Vancouver very dear to his heart, The Tyee is “independent journalism that swims against the current.” With a strong focus on labour, culture, and regional policy, The Tyee provided important stories that I think everyone from British Columbia should find important for being in the know.
Christopher Cheung. “On Love, Loss and Beef Balls,” The Tyee, 2023.
Christopher Cheung. “The Revitalizing Power of Indigenous Typography,” The Tyee, 2023.
*Ok, I also just really love Christopher Cheung’s work.
Funding: Non-profit, List of donors over $5000
The Local is unabashedly Toronto, “an independent magazine exploring urban health and social issues in Toronto. [The Local] take a data-driven, yet authentically human approach to storytelling on pressing issues facing the city, from poverty and homelessness, to mental health, aging, and food insecurity.” In case you weren’t aware, I moved to Toronto this past year. In making this my new home, I want to know the pressing issues that Toronto faces, the solution we can explore to such problems, and the policies that were fulfilled… or forgotten.
Jay Cockburn. “The New Middlemen of the Rental Market,” The Local, 2023.
Erica Lenti. “Recloseted at 80,” The Local, 2023.
Funding: Non-profit, 100% Reader Funded (subscriptions / monthly donations) as of 2023
The Maple (formerly North99 & Passage) was founded as “an antidote to the establishment corporate press.” Furiously independent and fully reader-funded, this publications focuses on the working class. From news to class struggle to media criticism, the Maple has a national view into how politics, mainstream media, and corporations are affecting the working class.
Davide Mastracci. “Documenting The Past 40 Years Of Media Election Endorsements,” The Maple, 2021.
Adam D.K. King. “Canada’s Top 0.01% Saw Income Growth Of 30% In 2021,” The Maple, 2023.
Focus: Canadian Environmentalism
Funding: Non-profit, reader supported
Environmentalism coverage is critically important as most young people today recognise the real dangers of climate change. It’s here, it’s real, and Canada has an outsized impact on carbon emissions. Canada is also home to some of the greatest nature has to offer. As a resource extractionist country, we should clearly identify how politics and industry are at odds with our natural world. The Narwhal believes that “Canada’s greatest assets are our people, our lakes, our rivers, our forests.” And I’m inclined to agree.
Emma McIntosh, Noor Javed and Brendan Kennedy. “Six developers bought Greenbelt land after Ford came to power. Now, they stand to profit,” The Narwhal / The Toronto Star, 2022.
The Conversation Canada
Funding: Non-profit, Academic Partners with Universities Across Canada, Various Funds and Foundations
“Disinformation is an epidemic. We’re the vaccine.” It’s a good slogan for an independent and non-profit news room. With strong ties to academic institutions, you can expect a certain level of rigour in the analyses, especially in current affairs and complex issues. There’s a commitment to only “allow authors to write on a subject on which they have proven expertise.” Although I do think that lay people often have unique and incisive insight, listening to knowledgeable experts is critically important.
Funding: majority-owned by Jesse Brown, audience-supported (52%), advertising (27%), content licensing (11%), Perspective Fund (9%) as of 2022
Abrasive and critical, Canadaland started off as a media criticism podcast aimed at the lack of diversity and independence in Canadian media. While I don’t think I would financially support Canadaland due to it’s private structure and Jesse’s bad (sometimes awful) takes, there’s interesting stories that come out of Canadaland, Backbench, and Commons.
Tech Won’t Save Us (RSS | Mastodon): A podcast that critically examines what big tech has sold us and why we the consumers are often left holding the bag. Host Paris Marx makes Toronto home and deserves a listen, especially if you are in tech and skeptical of tech’s big promises with a lack of evidence.
Windspeaker (RSS | Mastodon): I’m willing to admit I have a pretty clear blind spot when it comes to indigenous issues. 4 decades of speaking to indigenous issues, Windspeaker is owned and operated by Aboriginal Multi-Media Society of Alberta and provides much needed indigenous perspectives in Canada.
The Beaverton (RSS): Categorically not news, the Beaverton is Canada’s biggest satire website. Satire is hard to do these days with reality often full tilts toward the unbelievable. Still, sometimes it takes a bit of satirical framing to realise how ridiculous things have gotten.
PressProgress (RSS | Mastodon): A progressive news room focuses on topics like social and economic equality, fact-checking and disinformation, as well as civic institutions and democracy. Founded by the Broadbent Institute, it’s a welcome surprise to find a media arm of a social democrat think tank, as opposed to the typical conservative sources like the Fraser Institute.
Supporting News, Media, and Fact-based Reporting
This coming year I’m making a financial commitment to support non-profit, independent Canadian news rooms. It’s harder than ever to be a journalist. Especially as the growing distrust of journalism sewn by partisan politics is on the rise and all around us. Cries of fake news are common and it’s hard to get people to see news as worthwhile.
On the other hand, we are now in age of citizen reporting. With a rise of grassroots activism and direct access via social media platforms, we’re now getting more exposure to on-the-ground events than ever. Information has become more fluid and accessible… and so has hearsay and unverified conclusions. People are turning to personalities and populists to get their news and we’re losing the rigour of an independent fourth estate. It’s especially concerning when fact-checked information is being drowned out my dis- and misinformation.
I hope you’ll take some time to check out these publications, and maybe you’ll find one that clicks. Even if they don’t, I hope you remain critical in how you get your news and information. And if you’re using or are interested in using RSS, you can also subscribe here to a list of feeds I think would be an interesting starting point. Even if you feel you don’t have the time or the energy to pay attention to news right now, I hope you can value it. And that it continues to remain independent and freely accessible.
Sarah Krichel. “Meta Blocked Us, But You’re Still Sharing Our Journalism. Thanks!,” The Tyee, 2023. ↩︎
Alex Cosh. “The Corporate Takeover of Canadian News Media Is Accelerating,” Jacobin, 2023. ↩︎
Davide Mastracci. “Documenting The Past 40 Years Of Media Election Endorsements,” The Maple, 2021. ↩︎
Sean Craig. “You Must Be This Conservative To Ride: The Inside Story of Postmedia’s Right Turn,” Canadaland, 2019. ↩︎