13 more things I learned as a news entrepreneur
Ushering in 2023 with my second-ever listicle… 🎊
Happy New Year, y’all! Anita here. It’s been just over a year since I published my last “learning listicle” in The Other Wave, so I figured there’s no better time than now for an update. 📃
The last time I shared insights from my entrepreneurship journey, I was about 1.5 years into it. Now, one more year later, I’ve learned 13 extra lessons. Here they are:
Know what you bring to the table. Understand and believe in the value you’re bringing to a partnership, especially when collaborating with bigger players. Remember that you’re not asking for handouts.
Don’t be discouraged by ‘failure.’ It’s just a learning opportunity. Case in point: For The Green Line’s December fundraiser, we raised $2,000, which was just 20 per cent of our $10,000 goal. Lessons I learned include: beginning planning earlier, sending my personal email appeal at the campaign’s start and reducing friction by offering PayPal and e-transfers as an option for folks who don’t want to sign up for an account on Patreon or elsewhere.
Experiment with funding streams. Last month, The Green Line accessed over $50,000 in funding from a not-so-obvious source after my business development coordinator and I thought outside the box. Be open to the unknown.
Be a transparent and consistent partner. I recently had two separate experiences with two different partners: One involved direct and open communication, clear expectations and honoured commitments with people who were consistent in their behaviour. The other involved evasive and opaque interactions from people who tried to get sensitive company information in a way that didn’t respect lines of communication, so their behaviour felt irresponsible at best and extractive at worst. Strive to be the first kind of partner to maintain others’ trust and your integrity — the most important currency in journalism.
Cut your losses. Sometimes things just don’t work out no matter how hard you try. Focusing on who’s to blame is often a fruitless and exhausting endeavour, so wish people well and move on.
Be a coach rather than a boss. Develop your employees because you’re invested in them as people, not just because they’re doing something for you and your company. Taking this high-touch approach will not only get you better results, but more importantly, healthier relationships.
Overcommunication is helpful. Repeatedly communicating in a consistent and clear way with your employees, partners and other stakeholders will help ensure that your message will hit home.
Avoid heuristics. Don’t fall into the trap of generalizing anyone based on anything, including the obvious categories of race and gender, but also the less obvious ones like political affiliation. Journalism isn’t telling people what to think — it’s giving them what they need to think for themselves.
Be courageous, not fearful. We’re living in a time when many people attack others for having different opinions from them. It can be unpleasant, but for the sake of our democracy and positive modelling for future generations, it’s essential that we share our honest views calmly and productively despite possible negative feedback. (Bonus: History tells us that just because large groups of people believe something to be true doesn’t automatically make it so.)
Practise patience as a virtue. Wait at least 24 hours after getting bad news before trying to address it. You’ll have more time to process the information and ground yourself, and therefore make better decisions.
Avoid gossip. Gossip is rampant in our industry and others. Some will try to argue that it’s a bonding activity — but it’s ultimately destructive. Instead, try to be direct and to speak your truth aloud. There will be those who may call you difficult or not a team player, but we deal in journalism. Being anything other than forthright and trustworthy will only hurt our industry.
Stay confident and humble. If you’re around people who want you to self-flagellate, get out ASAP. As a general rule, especially if you’re someone who lives by a set of principles, don’t let others tell you who you are, as you know your intentions and mission. People’s interpretations can be flawed, and what they say about others is often a reflection of their own values, anxieties and histories. (Bonus: If they make assumptions and don't ask questions about you, it's a safe bet that you shouldn't take what they say about you seriously. The most important people to listen to are those closest to you who know the nuanced version of you, like your team, advisors and true friends. You're never as good as your best fans say, and never as bad as your worst critics say.)
Focus on the work. Do the work just because it’s important — not because you want to leave a lasting legacy. We are human and therefore we have ego, but the idea that we should leave some sort of mark in the sands of time is pointless and ultimately a distraction from good work. (Bonus: Embrace joy and have fun!)
I don’t always meet the standards I’ve outlined in my list, above, but I try damn hard to. Are you an entrepreneur in news or another industry? Feel free to share your tips in the comments, below!
Paid opportunities: TGL producers and freelance pitches
The Green Line is currently hiring News Innovation Fellows who specialize in TV broadcasting and have experience in news production. We’re also interested in long-form pitches that tackle a systemic housing issue in the city through a solutions lens, especially from experienced investigative and/or feature reporters based in Toronto who specialize in housing issues. We offer competitive freelance rates.
If you want to learn more about any of these opportunities, feel free to contact me for more information. Or if you’re interested, please send me your resume, cover letter and links to three clips (multimedia is preferred for Fellowship applicants, longform is preferred for housing-reporter applicants and edited photos are preferred for the photographer applicants).
Quick and Clean
“In my community” and “Cool stuff I like” will be back…
I’ll be speaking on a panel called “Measuring impact to foster transformation in funding” on Jan. 31 at 4 p.m. ET at the 2023 Lenfest News Philanthropy Summit, a free virtual gathering focused on the work of fundraising in sustaining quality journalism. Register now.
My recent co-panellist, University of Toronto political science prof Eric Merkley, shared with me his latest research, which interestingly finds that levels of social polarization are low in Canada but that people tend to heavily exaggerate social differences between left- and right-leaning parties.
If you’re looking for a late-night show recommendation that’ll help you wind down after a long day, I highly recommend my new obsession, a British comedy panel game show called Taskmaster created by the brilliantly hilarious Alex Horne.
How you can support The Other Wave
My professional mission has always been to support the global movement towards more thoughtful, impactful news coverage, and all the ways that manifests. If The Other Wave gets you to think even a little differently about journalism, especially in Canada, then I will have accomplished what I set out to do. And if TOW gets you to take action and support Canadian media outlets — especially ones that strive to be innovative and inclusive — I will have exceeded my expectations.
If my values and goals resonate with you, please consider supporting fiercely independent media analysis that fills in gaps in coverage of the Canadian journalism landscape. How? Feel free to provide feedback, pass along resources, donate money or simply share this newsletter with your friends.
Great list, very applicable beyond even entrepreneurship or journalism. Only addition I would offer is "Don't give up."
Some efforts don't pan out right away and blossom in time. (Which isn't in opposition to "cut your losses". That has to happen sometimes, too.
Small example: I enterred 2023 thinking I would have to write-off unpaid bills from two clients. But one ended up paying with interest in the end, and I only had to write off the other one.