In British Columbia, there’s a good news story about the news

Hidden by gloomy tales of the decline of North America’s news media is a success story in southwestern British Columbia. Here, a cluster of digital outlets have flowered by paying for top notch investigative and solutions-focused reporting. They are forging new business models and training the next wave of journalists.

Hidden by gloomy tales of the decline of North America’s news media is a success story in southwestern British Columbia.

Here, a cluster of digital outlets have flowered by paying for top notch investigative and solutions-focused reporting. They are forging new business models and training the next wave of journalists.

Taken together, they form a news media ecosystem in which surviving means competing but also collaborating. Yes, each vies to break stories and attract money. But they also sometimes republish each other’s pieces, pool resources or team up.

“Coopetition” is one way to describe this style of ecology.

Who are its creatures? They include: The Tyee  founded in 2003 in Vancouver. Megaphone Magazine, Vancouver’s street paper and website founded in 2006. DeSmog Canada , founded in 2013 in Victoria. Discourse Media, founded in 2013 in Vancouver. Hakai Magazine, founded in 2015 in Victoria. National Observer founded in 2015 as an arm of the 2006 Vancouver ObserverThe Global Reporting Centre founded in 2016, a non-profit growing out of the International Reporting Program at UBC’s Graduate School of Journalism.

It’s a remarkable list, representing millions of dollars in journalism budgets, a combined staff larger than the Vancouver Sun-Province reporter pool, numerous major awards, a steady stream of high-impact work, and millions of page views per month.

Some of the big ground broken in this little region:

  • The Tyee launched the 100-Mile Diet, helping spark the local food movement, and has reported early and continuously on fixing the housing affordability crisis. With no paywall, it’s nearly majority reader supported, with some philanthropic funding plus investment from a labour-tied fund.

 

  • The National Observer’s energy sector investigations have rocked Ottawa and forced resignations.  It mixes revenues from paywall subscribers, philanthropies and other sources.

 

  • Discourse Media, which specializes in deeply reported projects it terms “collaborative”, is now offering its readers a chance to co-own the company as it aggressively pursues growth.

 

  • The non-profit Global Reporting Centre, whose mission is to innovate how global journalism is practiced and cover neglected issues worldwide, has crowdsourced storytellers to document the rise of xenophobia.

 

  • Hakai Magazine, backed by the Tula Foundation and tied to Hakai Institute, covers coastal science, ecology and communities. It pays top rates for stories from around the world, and has an in-house team producing frequently viral videos.

 

  • A single video interview about Site C dam published by non-profit DeSmog Canada drew 1.6 million views. It mixes funding from readers and philanthropies.

While these orgs aren’t muscling aside B.C. megafauna like the CBC, Globe and Mail, Postmedia and Huffington Post, they serve as “tip sheets” for those newsrooms, who often pick up their stories and run their own versions. In this way the smaller fry contribute to the public conversation by means rarely highlighted.

Increasingly, too, B.C.’s small independents are collaborating directly with traditional media:

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