Remember when you signed up for this? Introducing The Other Wave.
A newsletter about challenging the status quo in Canadian media...and probably cats.
Hey y’all! Anita here. Thanks so much to the hundreds of you who signed up all those months ago for The Other Wave, my just-launched newsletter, which will arrive in your inbox every other Sunday morning from today on. I’m grateful for your support 🙏
Through TOW, I hope to capture my unique vantage point as both an insider and outsider in the Canadian journalism ecosystem since entering it nearly 20 years ago. For much of my adult life and career, I’ve been a “bridge” person — someone who inhabits and can therefore understand two different and sometimes conflicting worlds, but who’s also capable of creating understanding between them.
Cases in point: I grew up in a working-class part of Scarborough full of new immigrants and people of colour, and then attended University of Toronto’s Trinity College, an Anglican institution that’s known for its uncritical embrace of elite Oxbridge traditions. Later on, I embarked on what would be the first of several jobs at American digital media outlets, after working for legacy publications in Canada. And now, as embattled journalism industries around the world try to diversify their revenue streams in light of diminishing advertising returns, my consulting work largely focuses on the intersection of editorial and business — namely, how authentic engagement with communities can lead to financial sustainability for media outlets. (More on that in future newsletters…)
Me in my childhood home near McCowan and Finch. My life’s goal is trying to get back to this level of swag.
All of these experiences have informed my approach to modernizing Canada’s journalism industry, which is two-pronged. Challenging the status quo by moving Canadian media towards a more self-aware, inclusive, equitable, community-driven and audience-first future requires action from the inside out. In other words, change will only happen if there’s internal and external pressure.
My insider’s approach
In late January, the Canadian Association of Black Journalists and Canadian Journalists of Colour, the grassroots organization I co-founded in 2018, released seven Calls to Action (CTAs) to strengthen newsroom diversity in Canada. It was our way of calling on peers to collaborate on these CTAs with us. They quickly spread across the industry, gaining traction among journalists, newsroom managers, media unions, journalism educators and members of the news-consuming public. There was also plenty of media coverage, but establishment outlets — those that are supposed to lead industry conversations like this — remained silent.
Fast forward to June, when George Floyd’s death sparked protests around the world. We resurfaced our calls and captured the attention of major Canadian journalism organizations that previously ignored them. So far, Global News, The Globe and Mail union, The Toronto Star and The Walrus have publicly endorsed and committed to the actions outlined by CJOC and CABJ. In addition, executive management at both legacy and emerging media outlets in Canada contacted us and are now consulting our orgs on how to take action on the CTAs. Over the past four months, we’ve been meeting regularly with these outlets to hold them accountable, collaborate on solutions and help them develop roadmaps for how to make their organizations more equitable. These meetings have been illuminating and galvanizing to say the least, so I plan to share real talk about our progress (or lack thereof) in future newsletters. Stay tuned...
My outsider’s approach
When I announced The Other Wave, I said it’d also “document my outsider’s journey building a media product that will embody modern Canada.” I really believe that a robust independent media ecosystem here will only benefit the country’s media ecosystem as a whole. Why? Competition from these emerging outlets will keep establishment outlets on their toes in the best possible ways (one of my favourite professional compliments I’ve ever received was from The Toronto Star’s former public editor who said the journalism my team produced at The Discourse compelled the paper to report more often on Scarborough, a news desert that’s historically been overlooked and stereotyped by establishment media). Beyond that, independent media success stories may finally incentivize the Canadian government to invest more money into this high-potential and innovative ecosystem, rather than spending hundreds of millions of dollars on propping up broken business models to which many legacy outlets are still clinging.
It’s also important for me to write about my journey as an entrepreneur who doesn’t fit the profile of a typical entrepreneur. While being a woman and a person of colour are just two pillars of my identity, the stats don’t lie: Funding opportunities are scant for women of colour, especially when compared to their white, male counterparts. I don’t come from money nor did my family have wealthy connections — that means my access to funding is limited because I have fewer pathways to it. I’m no victim and I fully plan to rise to the occasion, but that doesn’t excuse the systemic barriers confronting people like me. As I navigate this challenge, I’ll share my ups and downs, as well as strategies that help me along the way. (One recent realization I had was that failure is far less scary when you reframe it as a learning opportunity, and also when you love what you're doing, which is definitely the case for me.)
Right now, with the support of a mentor, I’m preparing a cash-flow forecast and creating a business model canvas for my new, yet-to-be announced publication. I’ve also asked trusted friends and collaborators to weigh in on the outline for my editorial vision. Finally, I’m looking for a design firm to develop my publication’s brand identity; if you know of any talented Toronto-based designers focused on social impact, especially BIPOC ones, please reply to this email with your recommendations.
My inside-out approach in a nutshell.
Cool projects I’m working on
With all the brilliant humans out there making an impact, why should you bother listening to me? This is the point in my newsletter where I talk about my projects (especially those connected to my broader mission) and own my expertise (if that even remotely bugs you, then TOW isn’t for you). Hopefully, they resonate with you:
Entrepreneurial Journalism Creators, a program from the City University of New York's Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism
I’m one of the core instructors for this visionary new program created by my colleague, Jeremy Caplan, which will teach independent journalists how to develop niche news products to serve particular audiences. My hope is that it will help democratize and diversify media ownership, which is far too homogeneous and consolidated, as well as fill in gaps in news coverage for underrepresented communities.
Project Oasis, an initiative from LION Publishers, the UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media’s Center for Innovation and Sustainability in Local Media, Google News Initiative and consultant Douglas K. Smith
I was a consultant on the first phase of Project Oasis, a guide to support entrepreneurs in their efforts to launch local news outlets and to help existing startup founders learn from their peers’ successes. For the project, I interviewed local publications across North America about their editorial strategies, audience reach, revenue mix and how they define their sustainability, among many other topics. I’ll be following closely to see how this (exciting!) guide develops.
The Sustainability Accelerator, a Facebook Journalism Project training program for news outlets owned or led by Black, Indigenous and other people of colour
Despite the very valid criticisms of Facebook, I ultimately decided to join this groundbreaking accelerator because of its ability to support the development of a BIPOC-led media ecosystem and ultimately further racial equity in journalism. My fellow coaches are all whip-smart, seasoned, mission-focused experts of colour, and after speaking to program lead Sara Lomax-Reese — a veteran journalist with a 30-year career focused on Black media entrepreneurship — I have high hopes for this program’s potential impact. Oh, and did I mention that each participating outlet gets $100,000 USD? Deadline to apply is Sept. 30.
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, I’d really appreciate any contribution you can make to The Other Wave, whether it's providing feedback, passing along resources, donating money or simply sharing this newsletter with your friends.
Phew! That’s it for this week. I promise future editions will be shorter — but for my debut newsletter, I wanted to take the time to show you who I am and what I’m all about. Thanks so much for reading.
See ya in two weeks,