We often hear about old newspaper companies that are struggling. But there's a good chance that 2020 was a turning point for successful new journalists. If you look carefully, we're seeing many fresh, independent media projects.
The business model for these new projects is different. They are ditching corporate ownership in favor of a model that’s innovative, diverse, making money and overwhelmingly using WordPress.
The Discourse has been one of the cornerstones of Canada's new journalism since 2014. Based in Vancouver B.C., they provide community journalism to underserved communities including Cowichan Valley, southern Alberta, Francophone Quebec and Indigenous communities in the Okanagan Valley and Vancouver Island.
LaConverse.ca is a publication from Quebec that grew out of The Discourse (you can see the names are related). All of the content is delivered through a newsletter, weekly or biweekly depending on depth of stories. It’s delivered in French because that’s where the team saw a journalism gap. This interview has more background.
West End Phoenix
West End Phoenix is a community newspaper for Toronto’s West End. Dreamed up by a musician and a writer, WEP launched in 2017 after a door-to-door campaign yielded 800 pre-publication subscriptions.
IndigiNews covers Indigenous news in the Okanagan Valley and on Vancouver Island. The site launched in 2020 and is already earning award nominations. IndigiNews has additional support from APTN News, the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (whose site is also in WordPress).
PeterboroughCurrents.ca covers Peterborough, Ontario. It started as a volunteer-driven project and has grown into a successful venture thanks to reader donations. They collect donations using Gravity Forms, and a Stripe add-on.
Sun Peaks Independent News
Sun Peaks Independent News has covered Sun Peaks, BC for over 15 years. During COVID, they moved to become an online-only publication. Like all the others on this list, they're relying on reader support.
What links these organizations?
Many of these journalism projects are closely connected. We've seen that The Discourse is a key player. So is Indiegraf.com (site in WordPress, of course), whose team provides training for many of the journalists.
Also worth mentioning is Press Forward, a new association for many of these projects. The group's site uses WordPress at pressforward.ca.
Press Forward has seven criteria for membership, and I find these to be fascinating principles to stand on. They are a good way to sum up the values that connect these journalists:
- Must be Canadian. Can be either non-profit or for-profit.
- Must be actively working to create revenue.
- Must have independent ownership.
- Must not primarily exist to promote the views or objectives of any particular person or organization.
- Members must not be affiliated with an umbrella group (research, or otherwise) that seeks to use journalistic practices as a platform to promote partisan interests.
- Members must have a publicly posted diversity and equity policy in place and be willing to report publicly.
WordPress and new publishers
WordPress is an essential tool for many of these new journalism projects. It provides a reliable publishing platform at an affordable price. We are seeing the same trends down in the United States. The Knight Foundation is paying 24 newsrooms to upgrade their websites and 20 choose WordPress.