Setting the record straight on The Green Line’s funding sources
I highlight a reporting error about The Green Line’s funding that appeared in a December story by The Logic.
Happy New Year, y’all! Anita here. I hope your 2022 is off to a good start, all things considered. 🎊
This year will be a big one for me, as I’m gearing up for my wedding and The Green Line’s full launch in spring 2022. So stay posted, as I‘ll be making some exciting announcements in the coming months, especially about key partnerships and funding.
Speaking of which, for this week’s edition of The Other Wave, I want to highlight a recent reporting error about The Green Line’s funding that appeared in a December feature story by The Logic’s Montreal correspondent Martin Patriquin. Headlined “Think Facebook's bad news? Meta's man in Ottawa would like a word,” the piece profiles Kevin Chan, Meta’s senior global director and head of public policy for Canada.
It also includes the following paragraphs, which I’ve excerpted here (error is bolded):
Meta has also cultivated a growing presence in the journalism landscape, a pervasiveness that can sometimes make it almost invisible. In this way the company has been allowed to present a quiet counter to the narrative that it is in large part responsible for the decimation of the news media industry in Canada and beyond.
Case in point: Walrus Talks, a series of speaking events hosted by Toronto-based magazine The Walrus. A recent talk, “Innovation, impact and access in a digital world,” featured opening remarks from Meta’s Curran, after which four journalists — Anita Li from Toronto’s The Green Line, then-IndigiNews managing editor Emilee Gilpin, Emma Gilchrist of The Narwhal and Le Devoir director Brian Myles — waxed mostly positively about the future of the journalism industry.
Chan asked the final question, about the role of digital platforms in the growth of news organizations, which led the talk’s moderator, The Walrus’s editor-in-chief Jessica Johnson, to laugh. “I think all of us are funded by Facebook on this talk,” she said. She was right: Meta co-sponsors Walrus Talks; a Meta executive had opened the discussion; another still had asked a question; and every panelist’s organization had some form of financial relationship with Meta. When I asked Chan about this, he said “that was totally by accident.”
This statement — as it relates to The Green Line — is 100% untrue, and I hadn’t been contacted by Patriquin, a fact-checker or anyone else at The Logic. So, I spoke with managing editor Jordan Timm right after I read the piece on Christmas Eve to report the error. Here’s what I told him via email:
1) The Green Line as a company has never had a financial relationship with Facebook/Meta, including in the present time.
2) I as an individual media consultant have worked with Facebook/Meta as a coach for Facebook's Sustainability Accelerator, which took place roughly from September 2020 to September 2021. The funds were administered by the International Center for Journalists. My work as a coach predates The Green Line's launch (we're launching this spring 2022), and none of the money I received for my coaching went towards the development of The Green Line.
To The Logic’s credit, Jordan was a pro, responding immediately and making a formal correction by Dec. 28. Here’s what it now says in the article: “Every panelist or their organization had some form of financial relationship, past or present, with Meta." The publication also appended this correction: “Correction: While Anita Li was a paid coach for the Facebook Journalism Project's Sustainability Accelerator, The Green Line has had no financial relationship with Facebook or Meta. This story has been updated."
By this time, the story had been out for almost a month, after going live on Dec. 1. It was also published in The National Post whose parent company Postmedia acquired a minority stake in The Logic in 2019.
As longtime subscribers of this newsletter know, I’ve spoken transparently about Facebook/Meta’s complex relationship with journalism industries worldwide, and my own internal debate when deciding whether or not to work with the company as an accelerator coach. (Check out those editions here and here.)
That’s why it was important for me to correct the record, and make the important distinction between The Green Line receiving funds from Facebook/Meta versus me receiving payment for work I was contracted to do from Facebook/Meta. So, why is this important?
According to the The Logic, the company has “been allowed to present a quiet counter to the narrative that it is in large part responsible for the decimation of the news media industry in Canada” by funding many major establishment and emerging outlets that may be hesitant to speak out about Facebook/Meta or hold the company accountable through their reporting as a result. Whereas, I’m not beholden to Facebook/Meta whatsoever because the money I received was specifically to compensate me for my coaching duties.
What’s more, since The Green Line and our core audience of action-oriented young urbanites are values-driven, it’s essential that we’re thoughtful and transparent about our funding sources. Indeed, in October 2021, The Verge reported that a team of Facebook data scientists informed the company’s chief product officer that its reputation among gen Zs and millennials was largely negative:
‘Young adults perceive content as boring, misleading and negative. They often have to get past irrelevant content to get to what matters.’ It added that they ‘have a wide range of negative associations with Facebook including privacy concerns, impact to their well-being, along with low awareness of relevant services.’
If The Green Line were to accept direct funding from Facebook/Meta, our audiences — not another publication — would be the first to know. In a future edition of The Other Wave, I’ll write more about funding challenges in Canada’s news ecosystem, especially for entrepreneurs who aren’t wealthy or friends with gatekeepers in the industry, as well as how Facebook/Meta fits into this equation, so stay tuned…
Finally, for the record, I’m a fan of The Logic, whose founder David Skok was gracious enough to meet with me in person to give me career advice back before I joined The Discourse.
You’re invited to RSA Canada’s Changemaker Series
I’m excited to announce that the Royal Society of Arts is launching a Changemaker Series for Canada! Learn more about our free virtual kickoff event, below, and register here.
New pathways and solutions for tackling Canada’s most pressing challenges are emerging in a post-COVID world. Can traditional models continue to be effective? For this online event series initiated by RSA's Canada Connector and community-driven news entrepreneur, Anita Li, we will explore concepts of innovation, community engagement and identity. We're inviting Fellows and other community leaders to share how they’ve been navigating this rapidly changing landscape.
During our first interactive event, “Building Trust in Communities,” attendees will have the opportunity to hear from grassroots projects, to discuss how they’ve been engaging communities across Canada and to connect with other changemakers.
Paid opportunities: TGL Fellows and feature reporters
The Green Line is currently looking for a talented investigative and/or feature reporter based in Toronto who specializes in labour issues. We offer competitive freelance rates, and are interested in long-form pitches that tackle a systemic labour issue in the city through a solutions lens.
The Green Line is also hiring Business Development Innovation Fellows, as well as News Innovation Fellows who are interested in reporting on digital communities, e/sports and sneakers, especially through a Toronto lens. I’m prioritizing applicants who identify as being from underrepresented communities in Toronto, which in this context means people who don’t see themselves reflected in legacy local media.
If you want to learn more about either 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 Fellows applicants and longform is preferred for labour-reporter applicants).
Many thanks to The Supplement, an audience-driven newsletter that fills in gaps in Canadian news coverage, for recommending The Other Wave.
In my community
Huge congrats to Sandra Clark for becoming CEO of StoryCorps, a nonprofit organization that aims to share humanity's stories to build connections between people, and to create a more just, compassionate world. Sandra is a deeply moral and experienced media leader who consistently prioritizes principles over power and politics. I’m grateful to consider her a mentor.
Read this incisive 2022 NiemanLab prediction by Ariel Zirulnick, senior editor for community engagement at Southern California Public Radio, about why audience engagement shouldn’t be conflated with community engagement.
For the second time, I’m a jury member for the Canadian Journalism Foundation’s Digital News Innovation Award, which recognizes innovations that have a demonstrated impact in advancing the quality of digital journalism at home. Deadline to apply is Jan. 14.
The American Press Institute and Racial Equity in Journalism Fund’s Listening and Sustainability Lab recently published insights from its community listening advisers, myself included. API will be sharing more in the future, so stay tuned.
Cool stuff I like
Check out this heartening new study, led by the University of Bristol, which suggests that people “strongly favour a fairer and more sustainable way of life in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, despite not thinking it will actually materialize or that others share the same progressive wishes.”
This thought-provoking article in The Conversation argues that polarization isn’t always damaging, and breaks down the difference between the healthy kind (“political polarization”) and the unhealthy kind (“belief polarization”).
Kudos to the Canada Media Fund for being named 2021 Changemaker Organization of the Year by Playback magazine! Last year, I contributed to “Pause and Rethink,” CMF’s trend report, which analyzes the state of Canada’s audiovisual industry in the context of a global pandemic.
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.