The powerful group that’s missing from the debate about how to save Canadian media

I also reveal the stellar design studio I’ve chosen to create the brand identity for my new, yet-to-be announced publication.

Hey y’all! Anita here. To all my American subscribers south of the border: As you gather with your loved ones (either in-person or virtually) for Thanksgiving break, don’t forget to support Indigenous communities this Native American Heritage Month. Happy Turkey-Eating Day 🦃

My insider’s approach

While an insular media industry that feels more like “a club than an industry” has many drawbacks, one silver lining is it’s easier to collaborate on solutions and get things done — as long as most, if not all, stakeholders communicate regularly with each other. When it comes to the debate about how to save Canadian media, however, that hasn’t really been the case.

Because of my unorthodox professional background (especially for a Canadian journalist), my grassroots advocacy work and my independence as a consultant, I’m in regular contact with leaders from both establishment and emerging media ecosystems in Canada, as well as from journalism schools, unions, foundations and other stakeholder groups. My bird’s-eye view of the industry means I can see that these disparate conversations about how to save Canadian media are happening in silos. 

Case in point: I recently interviewed Sarah Thompson, chief strategy officer of media-buying agency Mindshare, for a research report about how audience-consumption habits have changed during COVID-19. After the interview, we were chatting about the dearth of local news outlets in Canada, when Sarah mentioned how passionate she was about this issue, and directed me to a blog post that Mindshare had published just a week prior called “Local media matters now more than ever.” Sarah told me that media-buying agencies have a significant role to play in helping Canada’s journalism industry reverse the decline of local news, and shared a solution I hadn’t yet heard from my industry peers. Essentially, as she argues in a blog post for Media In Canada, marketers should talk to their respective agencies, and ask them to shift 2 to 4 per cent of their overall media investment into local news.

“In 2014, an estimated 23.1% of our media investment in Canada went toward Canadian news media publications. By 2024, that number is estimated to be closer to 5.7%,” Sarah writes. “We have a crisis that needs the attention of everyone, from all agency leaders and CMOs, to teams of planners and investment leads across our agency networks.”

And that’s just an example of a solution from an adjacent industry that my peers hadn’t mentioned. Here’s an example of a solution from my very own industry that English-language media leaders overlooked: After The Toronto Star published an article, in which I was quoted, about an announcement from a group of major Canadian publishers that want the federal government to allow them to collectively bargain with Facebook and Google when negotiating the use of their content, a former media executive who previously worked at La Presse contacted me to discuss this issue from Quebec’s perspective.

He told me about the efforts made by leaders of the Quebec media ecosystem, specifically citing a joint manifesto from the Association of Creative Communication Agencies (A2C) and the Quebec Council of Media Directors (CDMQ) that said agency members have agreed to “adapt their media planning and purchasing protocols to allocate a larger share of investments in local media.” Ultimately, their goal is to double the share of digital budgets spent on local news in the next three years, which amounts to $200 million. But the former media exec I spoke to said he didn’t see this initiative, among others in Quebec, get much press or industry attention outside of the province.

At the fourth and last “Dialogue on the Role of the Media in Canadian Democracy” session hosted by the Institut du Nouveau Monde, attendees were asked to share what stakeholders we think are missing from the debate about how to save Canadian media. Because of my discussions with Sarah Thompson and the former Quebec media exec, I was able to suggest media-buying agencies.

I also emphasized the importance of consulting as many stakeholders as possible, especially those beyond the usual suspects, such as people of colour, LGBTQ+ communities, young Canadians and other underrepresented groups. Power is centralized in a journalism industry as small as Canada’s, so failure to consult a diverse array of stakeholders when revitalizing old structures or building new ones during a time of disruption will only reinforce antiquated systems that perpetuate inequality and support regressive models.

My outsider’s approach

I’m thrilled to announce that I’ve partnered with RallyRally, a Toronto-based design studio dedicated to social change, to create the brand identity for my yet-to-be announced publication. Led by award-winning designer Jay Wall, the team at RallyRally has created thoughtful, inspiring and eye-catching designs for more than 100 purpose-driven organizations around the world.

After having several conversations with Jay and his colleagues, it became clear that we all share the same genuine desire to create a more just society through our work — a desire rooted in lived experiences and therefore shaped by compassion. Needless to say, RallyRally won me over.

Here’s a quote from Jay, the studio’s founder and creative director:

As a design studio that focuses on social change projects, we were immediately captivated when Anita told us about her business idea. It has the potential to impact the media landscape while championing underrepresented perspectives of our city. We are excited to be embarking on this creative challenge together.

Earlier this month, I met with RallyRally and my core group of advisors for a brand discovery workshop, so stay tuned for more updates...


Shout-outs

Many thanks to Nana aba Duncan, a CBC Radio One host and founder of podcast company Media Girlfriends, for becoming The Other Wave’s newest monthly paying supporter.


In my community

  • Ensuring Opportunities for Journalists of Tomorrow is a project-based reporting grant that will be given to a Carleton University journalism student who identifies as BIPOC; my organization, Canadian Journalists of Colour, is proud to partner with the Carleton Alumni Association on this grassroots fundraising campaign 

  • For November’s Journal-isms Roundtable, a monthly gathering of current and former media-makers, I was invited to share my views on the "U.S. election from the perspective of non-American journalists"; since 1999, the roundtable has been hosted by Richard Prince, a former Washington Post journalist who writes about diversity issues in news

  • Media 2070 is both a research essay that details the history of U.S. media participation in anti-Black racism, as well as a consortium of journalists and activists who are calling for media reparations to Black Americans


Cool stuff I like

  • Bernardine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other, a recent pick for my book club, is one of the best novels I’ve read in recent memory; as co-winner of the 2019 Booker Prize, it does an exquisite job of laying bare the complexities of modern Black British womanhood

  • Liane Vaz, a uniquely talented Toronto-based jeweller and goldsmith, created a sparkly something that’s very near and dear to my heart; check out Liane’s IG to see more of her designs

  • I highly recommend watching Cosmos: Possible Worlds, a 2020 documentary series hosted by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, which provides a hopeful vision of the future (I'm also a fan of the 2014 reboot); Carl Sagan, an astronomer who hosted the original 1980 Cosmos, is one of my role models because of his knack for breaking down silos between scientists in different disciplines, and for making science fun and accessible to the public


Last thought

Shared truth that does not replicate old structures in terms of equity.

- Inspirit Foundation CEO Sadia Zaman’s bang-on response when attendees were asked to share what they think are the most pressing priorities in Canadian media at one of Institut du Nouveau Monde’s “Dialogue on the Role of the Media in Canadian Democracy” sessions.