Is this the future of philanthropic support for journalism in Canada?

This week, Canadaland announced big news — it got a CAD$1 million investment from the Tiny Foundation, a new foundation run by tech entrepreneur Andrew Wilkinson and angel investor Holly Rohani Wilkinson.

It’s not just the amount of money involved, or the choice of organization, that makes this a transaction to examine. It’s that there was an investment like this at all.

There is, for better or worse, not much philanthropic donation or investment into media outlets in Canada. This is in stark contrast to the United States, where massive foundations support journalism ventures small and large. 

Over the last few years, philanthropists and investors have coined a new term: venture philanthropy. It’s when a person, or group, donates or invests in an organization — but unlike in typical venture capitalism, the purpose of the investment isn’t 10x returns. Instead, the desired outcome can be social impact or, in the case of Tiny Foundation, modest dividends that are then reinvested into other independent media. Basically, if the investors themselves aren’t making money but the deal incorporates some elements of venture capital, you’re looking at venture philanthropy.

It’s an interesting model, and one that could pave the way for more philanthropic support of journalism in Canada.

Big deal in Canadaland

Canadaland, which started as a media criticism podcast but has since expanded to a podcast network as well as a website that publishes investigative work, is considered one of the success stories of independent media in Canada. It’s supported by its audience — it makes just under USD$30,000 a month from Patreon support, and makes money from its new subscription platform — and advertising. 

Jesse Brown, its founder and publisher, told me in an email that the company has always been able to turn a profit. “Micro-profitable, but profitable,” says Brown. But without support from their audience, the Canadaland team can’t pursue projects like a follow-up to their acclaimed Thunder Bay podcast. 

Enter Andrew Wilkinson and Holly Rohani Wilkinson.

Wilkinson has a long tech entrepreneur resume. He founded MetaLab, an interface design firm, and has since co-founded Tiny Capital, a company that is in the business of investing and starting other companies. Rohani Wilkinson is founder of 8-Bit Capital and Wilkinson’s wife.

For the past year, Wilkinson has been dipping his toe into journalism — he’s an investor in The Logic and the publisher of The Capital, a local site in Victoria, B.C. (The Capital’s founding editor, Tristin Hopper, was included in Canadaland’s annual review of best and worst tweets in 2017 and 2019, most recently for his infamous thread about allegedly stomping a racoon to death.)

Wilkinson and Brown got to know each other when Wilkinson called him to pick his brain about the media in Canada in general. “Eventually, I asked him what he would do if he had more resources, and I pitched him on this journalism fund idea,” says Wilkinson in an email. 

Here’s how it will work: Tiny Foundation is investing $1 million in Canadaland in monthly installments over three years. Brown says ultimately Tiny will own about 10 to 16 per cent of the company, depending on company performance. “If there is no return on investment, they own more of the company. If there is return on investment, they own less,” Brown says. 

Tiny, and by extension Wilkinson, have no say in the editorial content Canadaland produces. “I told him I don’t even want to hear a compliment about our stuff,” says Brown. What Wilkinson will lend is his expertise in strategy and business. 

Assuming Canadaland once again turns a profit, Tiny Foundation will get dividends — however, instead of that going directly into investors’ pockets, as it would a traditional investment, it will be reinvested into the Tiny Journalism Foundation and parcelled out to other journalism organizations. 

“Ultimately, we think a profitable model creates independence and diversifies the voices that we hear in Canada,” says Wilkinson. “Wealthy individuals and corporations shouldn’t decide what gets covered — audiences should decide what we hear, and they will vote with their attention and dollars.

And if Canadaland doesn’t turn a profit? “I will continue to fund other publications, we just won’t be able to do quite as much,” says Wilkinson.

When your ROI is making better journalism

What the Tiny Foundation is doing falls broadly under the umbrella of venture philanthropy.

“Venture philanthropy is …trying to apply some of the tenants of venture capital or venture investing to nonprofit news and independent newsrooms,” says Jim Friedlich, the executive director of Lenfest Institute. “What that means is that investors are looking for …reinvention in journalism, just as they would in technology or healthcare or other traditional venture capital sectors. But they’re not looking for a direct financial return on investment. They’re looking for a return on social impact.” 

Lenfest itself has used this model to support media organizations. It owns the Philadelphia Inquirer, the largest newspaper in America operated as a public-benefit corporation and owned by a non-profit organization. (It differs from traditional corporate structure in that it is chartered to serve a public benefit purpose.) The Institute also works with a number of other news organizations, offering grants and expertise without taking any equity. They too are completely hands-off from any editorial decisions that organizations that work with the institute make.

Many American models of venture philanthropy differ from Tiny Foundation’s arrangement with Canadaland. The American Journalism Project, for example, only funds non-profits, and does not expect dividends in return — but they do expect other kinds of growth. 

“Our return on investment is the impact on communities,” says Sarabeth Berman, CEO, in an email. “Our venture philanthropy approach is designed to give civic news organizations the capital and capacity building they need to achieve sustainable growth. We provide sustained coaching, operational support,  strategic guidance and a community of like-minded organizations across the country.”

However, there are similar examples to what Wilkinson is doing in other sectors. In 2019, entrepreneur Michael Hyatt invested roughly CAD$100,000 in a Toronto SickKids hospital research project on congenital muscular dystrophy type 1A. If the research produces anything that results in profits, Hyatt will reinvest in other medical research. “It’s not about Michael Hyatt making any money, it’s about the foundation placing investment into a researcher who wants to try and make a discovery that could change the world,” he told the Financial Post

This begs the question: why not just make a normal investment? Friedlich says the reason is two-fold. “When the primary motivation is to make the most money possible, the journalism often suffers or becomes secondary,” he says. “In the second respect, as straight up venture investments, news in general has not proved highly lucrative.”

Taking the leap in Canada

Making donations to Canadian news organizations is difficult for a number of reasons, chief among them Canada’s tax laws. “[The] Canada Revenue Agency has long rejected proposals to turn media into philanthropic ventures that could issue tax receipts for charitable donations,” writes Christopher Waddell, professor at the Carleton University’s School of Journalism and Communication, in a recent piece for The Philanthropist. (Full disclosure: Waddell was my boss when I was managing editor of J-Source, and we are currently working together on the Canada Press Freedom Tracker.)

The 2019 budget did open the door for media organizations to become qualified donees, which allows them to issue charitable receipts — however, according to Waddell, the process appears to be quite arduous, and may not be worth it for small organizations.

But there are other reasons that Canada doesn’t have Knight Foundations or American Journalism Projects. “There aren’t as many families that have made as much money in journalism in Canada as there are in the United States,” Waddell told me. “In the United States, a lot of the families that have made money in media then turned around, put it in foundations, and then took that foundation money and reinvested it.” That includes Gerry Lenfest (former owner of the Philadelphia Inquirer and founder of the Lenfest Institute), Nelson Poynter (former owner of the Times Publishing Company and founder of the Modern Media Institute, later renamed the Poynter Institute), and John S. and James L. Knight (co-founders of the Knight Ridder chain of newspapers and co-founders of the Knight Foundation).

There are some media families in Canada that have made enough money to start foundations — the McConnells, Thompsons and Atkinsons, to name a few. But their foundations don’t primarily focus on funding journalism. And there is some foundation-funded journalism in Canada. For example, the Tula Foundation supports Hakai Magazine and partners with the Tyee, High Country News and Smithsonian Magazine. However, what these foundations have contributed pales in comparison to the infrastructure available to independent and non-profit media in the United States.

But times are changing. Over the last 10 years especially, there has been a growing public awareness around the increasing precarity of the news industry. The number of Canadians paying for news is growing — the Reuters Institute Digital News Report found 13 per cent now pay for news, which is still behind the 20 per cent of Americans that pay but still almost a 50 per cent increase over the previous year. Canada has more millionaires than ever before — and that’s only expected to rise.

What makes Wilkinson’s approach potentially exciting for independent Canadian newsrooms is that it provides an avenue for deep-pocketed donors to make large investments without running afoul of Canada’s tax laws or getting bogged down in burdensome and unclear regulation by the CRA.

However, it takes no huge logical leap to worry that venture philanthropy could replicate the same diversity and equity issues that plague venture capital and mainstream media. For example, a 2019 study by RateMyInvestor and Diversity VC found that most venture capitalists still give most of their money to college-educated white male founders. “The funding gap starts at day zero, because of a lack of friends and family capital,” Monique Woodard, an investor and founder of Black Founders, told Wired earlier this year. “It also happens with access to networks and access to angel investors.”

Wilkinson says that Tiny Foundation will be prioritizing funding to women and people of colour. He also said that the key criteria for funding will be if the outlet is sustainable or on the path to it. This differs from, for example, the American Journalism Project, which Sarabeth Berman says uses a grantmaking framework, “that prioritizes ensuring organizations reflect the communities they serve and our support for grantees includes support in building diverse and inclusive organizations.” (They currently have 11 grantees from across the United States.)

New union wants investment to increase resources

On June 25, 2020, Canadaland’s staff announced that they were unionizing, citing the need for clear policies around organizational structure, editorial vision and concrete measures for achieving greater diversity in the workplace. In doing so, the group revealed that sustainability is not just measured by revenue.

“We’re excited about the opportunities that this investment will bring, and are glad to be able to increase the ambitions and scope of our audio journalism,” the union told me in an emailed statement. “But we want to ensure that our resources are increased alongside that growth, so that we could have more reasonable workloads and not just more work.” 

“In transportation planning, there’s a principle called ‘induced demand,’ where building new roads to relieve congestion only ends up leading to more of it. We’ve seen a similar phenomenon at Canadaland in the past, where increased staffing has often meant more people working unmanageable schedules on newly ambitious projects, rather than relief of the pressures that already exist.” 

In response, Brown says the message to producers has been that they are not expected to do any unpaid work and should be compensated for overtime, however, he is aware that producers “under-report their hours to management,” and they’ve had many management meetings trying to fix the issue. “’I’m thrilled that our employees have taken the initiative to propose a solution themselves,” he said, adding that he is prepared to increase resources to make sure that it happens.

The other question is what happens when that initial investment runs out? For Wilkinson, the goal is for Tiny’s support of Canadaland to eventually get smaller. “I worry that too many publications become pet projects of the wealthy, with one big donor pushing an agenda, or rely 100 per cent on advertising which is its own can of worms of misaligned incentives,” he says. “As Jesse has shown, a hybrid model of sponsorship along with member support/subscription, then distributing reporting across different mediums (written plus podcasting) makes independent media far more feasible.”

But that’s not the only model. Friedlich points out that some organizations — hospitals, art galleries, museums — always have foundation funding built into their budgets. Why should it be any different for news organizations? “We don’t think philanthropy is a bridge to an independent commercial sustainable future,” he says. “We think it’s a permanent part of the infrastructure.”

In the news


  • LION publishers is putting together a package of templates new media outlets can use in the startup phase. If you think you can help, check out what they need here.
  • The Online News Association is hosting a seminar on June 30 on how newsroom managers can better support journalists of colour in their newsrooms. 
  • The Ottawa Community Foundation is launching the Journalism Endowment Matching Program, a pilot program aimed at strengthening philanthropic support for journalism organizations. News organizations can apply to be considered for funding now.

And one more thing… 

In a normal year, I’d be trying to attach Twitter profile photos to actual faces at several journalism conferences right now. Failing that, get the online experience with ONA Insight’s online sessions — you can watch all the seminars online here.

Thanks for reading,

H.G. Watson
Senior Editor, Indiegraf

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How listening to your readers can help you build a better outlet

This week, I wanted to ask a question fundamental to media entrepreneurship: How do you know when you’ve got an idea for a viable outlet? It’s one thing to dream about how you would run a great publication — it’s an entirely different matter to do it.

To find out, I spoke to a woman considered one of the biggest successes of the non-profit news sector: Anne Galloway. She’s the founder of Vermont’s VTDigger, a statewide news and watchdog site that averages about 300,000 pageviews a month (pre-COVID), has won numerous awards, and, by 2022, expects to have an annual operating budget of almost $3 million, according to the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy.

Here’s how she became a publisher.

In 2009, Galloway was laid off from her reporting gig at the Times Argus, a daily newspaper serving Montpelier, Vermont’s state capital. She needed a new job.

Even before she was let go, Galloway was thinking that Vermont needed stronger enterprise and investigative journalism. 

“I had a sense that there would be demand from readers for the kind of reporting I thought was really missing in the landscape.” She wanted to start her own media outlet — one that would do the type of in-depth journalism Vermont needed.

But first, Galloway decided to find out what people wanted from news outlets in Vermont, using some good old fashioned reporting skills. She called about 100 people across Vermont, focusing on people involved in the business community. “That was important because I just needed feedback,” she says. “About half the people I talked to said, ‘Oh God, you’re insane.’ The other half said, ‘You know what? This is okay — maybe I can help you.’” Making those connections were essential in building an audience. That group that offered to help Galloway became her first readers.

What she heard from people was that they felt coverage of Vermont’s legislature was weak. So that became her beat. It had the added benefit of keeping her in one place, while still being able to report on issues affecting all of Vermont. “It was one of the smartest decisions I made because it enabled us to reach everyone in the state pretty quickly,” Galloway says.

Listening to the community has guided the Digger since its inception. Editors and reporters pay careful attention to pitches, following up on everything. “Because people know that we look into things and will write stories based on their tips, on their concerns, that direct reader engagement is what fuels the whole operation,” Galloway says. She is clear that part of what they do is meet the needs of readers — and that’s how they successfully encourage them to become members or make large donations. “I don’t like to think of it as the sort of paternalistic, journalists-know-best kind of approach,” she adds.

The success of this approach has been most apparent as the COVID-19 pandemic rages on. VTDigger has been inundated with questions and tips that led to reporters doing extensive coverage of the state’s unemployment insurance system, among other things. “We [had] about 350,000 to 400,000 readers a month last year, and the beginning of this year,” Galloway says. “In March 2020, we had a million unique visitors, and in April, we had 1.2 million. We’re in a state of 626,000 people.”

Galloway says all the things that make a business – the legal side, the grant writing, running it — are not that hard to learn. 

The tricky part is figuring out what it is of value you can offer people. 

In the news

  • It’s that special time of year when the Reuters Institute releases its annual Digital News Report. This year’s edition has found that attracting subscribers often comes down the distinctiveness and quality of information they are getting — that said, big brands still dominate subscription revenue. In Canada, there was a four-point jump in the number of people willing to pay for news.
  • For the Columbia Journalism Review, James Ball explains why micropayments are a hard sell for the news business.
  • If we can’t trust the cops, how do we reimagine crime reporting? Allegra Hobbs spoke to a few reporters on what the future of the beat might look like. (This one is for Study Hall patrons only — a good excuse to sign up.)
  • Here’s how The Compass Experiment got two outlets launched during the COVID-19 pandemic.


  • The Fund for Investigative Journalism has launched a rolling grant for U.S. journalists covering police misconduct.
  • On June 25, Investigative Reporters and Editors is hosting a webinar on looking for investigative angles on education stories in the age of COVID-19.
  • Early bird prices are available for Pandemic University, which announces its summer semester lineup on July 1.

And one more thing

“It’s grossly unfair how often racialized staff everywhere make ourselves vulnerable just so our workplaces are more bearable, never mind actually fair. We organize workshops, sit on committees, and respond to white colleagues’ inquiries—which are well-meaning and even intelligent, but also labour, for which we should be recognized and paid.”

Anyone working in newsrooms, especially white journalists with assigning, editing and hiring power, should read this Chatelaine piece by Denise Balkissoon about why she left the Globe and Mail.

How speciality news outlets pivot to cover a single story

Welcome to week three of the Indie Publisher. Thanks for joining us! If you’re liking what you’re reading so far, subscribe below or forward this article to someone else you think may enjoy it.

Soon, I’ll be sending out my first mailbag edition, where I answer questions about media entrepreneurship from readers. No question is too big or too silly — fire away. Just make sure you get your question to me by June 17 at the latest! (If questions come after, I’ll save them for a future newsletter.)

Today, I’m handing the reins over to Cherise Seucharan, who found out how publications with a speciality niche — be that a topic or location —  pivoted their editorial plans in response to COVID-19, and how that has impacted their engagement and revenues. 

Thanks for reading,

H.G. Watson
Senior Editor, Indiegraf

Niche publications find COVID coverage boosts readership

By Cherise Seucharan

Media outlets that specialize in topics that don’t have a clear connection to the COVID-19 pandemic — like sports, the environment or fashion — are facing an entirely new challenge. As a single story dominates our lives, how does a niche publication stay relevant?

Outside Magazine’s new coronavirus section is testing the best bidets and publishing guides on meditation for people struggling to stay indoors. The Athletic, no longer able to cover sports games, is focusing on the impacts of the lockdown on teams and players, in the midst of significant layoffs. As-yet-to-be-launched The 19th, a digital magazine on gender and politics, has maintained its original launch date but is re-focusing on how the pandemic impacts women.  

When COVID-19 hit, B.C-based The Narwhal, a non-profit magazine focused on environmental investigations, decided to put publication temporarily on hold in order to take stock of how they could best serve their audience. 

“The Narwhal doesn’t have an obvious role to play in covering a global health crisis,” wrote managing editor Carol Linnitt in a widely-read piece. Instead, she wrote, they were going to focus on sharing well-reported news on the pandemic, and contributing analysis when it fit. 

But a month after publishing that first announcement, co-founder and editor-in-chief Emma Gilchrist said things shifted once again, as the way that COVID-19 is impacting the natural world became  clearer.

“Before there just wasn’t a lot of oxygen left for anything else,” Gilchrist said. “But we didn’t fully imagine that COVID-19 was going to end up touching on all the topics that we cover.”

Gilchrist said in April that The Narwhal is beginning to dive back into non COVID-19 coverage, with plans to put some larger investigations back on the publication schedule.

Despite their pause and not covering COVID-19 specifically, they actually saw a “distinct uptick” in readership starting in mid-March, coinciding with an overall increase in Canadians reading sources of news. The sudden need to be informed, coupled with the increase in time spent at home likely drew in new readers, said Gilchrist.

The Narwhal also pivoted on a membership campaign planned for late March. 

“We were planning to do a membership drive around then on a different topic, and then when COVID-19 hit we decided to kind of pivot and make it more related to the moment,” she said. 

The drive resulted in over 200 new members. As a perk for joining, new members were sent their annual print edition, a “quarantine read” which Gilchrist said garnered positive feedback from readers. 

And with 30 per cent of their funding coming from readers — and the rest from grants — The Narwhal has not seen a major hit to their funding so far.

Some other speciality media organizations have seen success by going deeper into local reporting. The Capital, which produces in-depth stories on politics and crime in Victoria, is taking advantage of their unique position as a news startup to pivot direction.

Editor Tristin Hopper said that the media outlet put larger stories on hold to report almost exclusively on local, pandemic-related news — which has resulted in attracting many more local readers.

They have gained approximately 20,000 newsletter subscribers since mid-March, coupled with a spike in opens, which are now at about 50 per cent.

“Suddenly, all these people [in Victoria] were realizing, I wonder if I can go to work or if I can take the B.C. ferries — there’s all this local news to worry about,” Hopper said.  

“I think we’ve just been able to take that cohort and put them in our wheelhouse, and now we have to work very hard to keep them there.”

The pandemic has also led to more news collaborations as outlets rethink their strategies.

Hakai Magazine’s editor-in-chief, Jude Isabella, said that continuing with their planned publication schedule seemed “kind of tone deaf” once the pandemic began to ramp up. Typically, the online magazine focuses on in-depth coverage of coastal ecosystems.

But by mid-March, the small team at Hakai Magazine had temporarily merged with The Tyee newsroom over Zoom to report daily stories on the pandemic — a huge change for a team used to longer, deep dives which can take weeks or months. 

Hakai is funded by the Tula Foundation, whose founders, Eric Peterson and Christina Munck, also provide funding for The Tyee — so the partnership was a natural fit.

“It was unusual for us in terms of that fast news kind of treadmill that we were on — but it was really fun,” said Isabella.  “It gave us a sense of purpose, and we were able to provide readers with some of the news I think they wanted from their local publications.”

Isabella said that Hakai’s readership has continued on an upward trend they’ve seen since launching in 2015.

By mid-May, Hakai was returning to their regular schedule of in-depth coastal stories, something Isabella said readers might have been  yearning for after weeks of pandemic news.

In the news

  • The Canadian Association of Black Journalists and Canadian Journalists of Colour issued a statement calling for an increase in funding and support for Black-owned publications and productions. 
  • Quick recap of the week: Adam Rapoport, editor-in-chief of Bon Appetit, resigned after a photo of him in brownface makeup surfaced, and allegations that people of colour were paid far less than white staffers. So did Christene Barberich, EIC of Refinery29, after staffers came forward describing a toxic culture at the digital outlet.  Wendy Mesley was suspended from her CBC hosting duties for using “a word that should never be used.” And an internal Washington Post report on its social media policy leaked, in which newsroom staff called out a “two-tiered system” in which white, male reporters “get away with potentially problematic messaging.”
  • A support local news campaign, funded in part by Google, is rolling out across North America. From Poynter: “‘Support Local News,’ from the Google News Initiative, Local Media Consortium and Local Media Association will spend $15 million in ads in local newspapers, their sites, radio, TV and online-only newsrooms in North America for the next six weeks.”
  • According to Nieman Lab’s Hot Pod newsletter, podcasts about race are dominating podcast charts, while those about COVID are losing steam.
  • Could your star reporter get poached by…themselves? Simon Owens explains how some journalists and creators successfully went solo — and how media companies can treat this as an opportunity, rather than a loss.


Have a tip, pitch, question to ask, link to include, or opportunity you want to promote? Send it to me!

And one more thing… 

Help raise $70,000 to provide financial support for Black journalists who need mental health supports.

Apply by June 19 for the Indie News Challenge!

Have you ever wanted to start your own news outlet? Applications are open until June 19 for the second cohort of the Indie News Challenge, our accelerator to help independent digital media launch and grow. 

What is the Indie News Challenge? Over nine weeks starting in July, a group of journalist entrepreneurs from across North America will work together to build an outlet from the idea stage to actually attracting subscribers and readers. Through weekly Zoom seminars, exercises, one-on-one feedback and a community of like-minded peers, you’ll develop your idea into a clear plan with early traction you can present to funders.

The new cohort of the INC is being offered through Indiegraf, a network of journalist-entrepreneurs and independently-owned digital publishers sharing resources to serve their local communities sustainably. If you missed the announcement, read how Indiegraf helped launch six new outlets during COVID-19.

We’re so proud of what the first cohort of INC accomplished. Ayesha Barmania and Will Pearson expanded Peterborough Currents from 20 to nearly 2,000 email subscribers. Brandi Schier launched a reader-support campaign that saved Sun Peaks Independent News after advertising revenues collapsed as a result of COVID-19. We developed and launched IndigiNews Okanagan through this process, which is now expanding to Vancouver Island. Hannah Sung created her fast-growing newsletter At The End Of The Day. Melissa Villeneuve launched Lethbridge’s first independent news outlet Spark YQL. And Martin Lukacs developed a new project yet to launch with an incredibly exciting and diverse team.

“We launched our newsletter, attracted a large audience of email subscribers, gained motivation and energy for our product, secured some funding, learned how to think strategically about our product and revenue streams and received lots of encouragement,” Pearson told us after completing the program.

We especially encourage BIPOC journalists to apply for the next cohort of INC. The need for more Black, Indigenous and POC-owned media was extra clear in the last couple of weeks, as mainstream media fumbled covering police brutality protests.

The cost to participants is $500. The rest of the cost has been subsidized by the Facebook Journalism Project and Google News Initiative. We’re committed to making the program accessible to everyone regardless of their ability to pay, so we will waive the participant fee for those who need it.

With more than 50 newspapers in Canada shuttering during COVID-19, entrepreneurship and innovation are urgently needed to fill gaps. But media ownership can’t only be for people who can code or have buckets of money — it’s for anyone who believes in the mission of journalism.

Register for a webinar next Tuesday to learn more about Indiegraf and ask your questions. Or submit an expression of interest for the Indie News Challenge now!

Here are Black-owned independent media you can support right now

Over the past week, we’ve been amplifying Black-owned and operated independent news media organizations on our social media. We wanted to bring together some of these organizations in one place. All of us at Indiegraf want to encourage you to not only amplify these organizations, but, if you have the means, to donate, subscribe or become a member.

First, two organizations that support Black journalists: the Canadian Association of Black Journalists and the National Association of Black Journalists. Both these groups advocate for Black reporters and offer mentorship and education opportunities. NABJ is currently raising funds for COVID-19 relief for its members.

Here in Canada, BASHY Magazine is a Toronto-based quarterly magazine made by and for Jamaica and its diaspora. (You can find their Patreon here.) ByBlacks is an award-winning online magazine serving the Black Canadian community. 

In the United States, there is a large community of Black-owned independent newspapers, many of them that have been operating for over 100 years. (While researching this story, I found out that many are struggling under the pressure of revenue losses from COVID-19.) The Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder champions “voices and stories that might otherwise go unheard” in the state. The Philadelphia Tribune is America’s oldest and continuously published newspaper reflecting the African American experience. The Atlanta Voice provides a “voice for the voiceless without fear or favor” — and they need donations for their COVID-19 reporting fund.

In the digital media space, there are many new startups that have launched over the last few years. Beyond The Railroad, a news organization that tells stories through the lens of history, focused on race and culture, goes live next weekend. Flint Beat was launched in 2017 “to fill news gaps in an underserved community after Flint, Mich. residents said they needed more from their news coverage.” MLK50: Justice Through Journalism is a nonprofit digital news site focused on poverty, power and public policy. The Plug “humanizes Black people’s engagement in technology related markets and industries one investigative narrative at a time.”

This is by no means an exhaustive list — there are many more organizations out there. (There’s a list of independent Black-owned newspapers here.) We encourage you to check out our Twitter thread, which includes links to donation pages for many more outlets.

And as always, I’m always looking for innovative independent media to write about — if there’s a Black-owned newspaper or digital outlet I should do a story on, let me know ASAP. I’m also eager to take pitches from BIPOC writers who are interested in writing about where journalism and business meet. If that’s you, give me a shout

In the news

  • Journalists have been attacked by U.S. police more than 120 times since May 28. Does your newsroom, however large or small, have a safety plan for your reporters who are covering demonstrations? A good starting point might be these 23 guidelines from Poynter.
  • This week, we said goodbye to Civil, a blockchain-backed incubator for digital news startups. Founder and CEO Matthew Iles told Poynter that “he still believes that a self-governing, decentralized incubator for journalism startups has merit but would not predict how and whether the concept could be revived.”
  • Reporters Jessica Davey-Quantick and Charlotte Morritt-Jacobs take us inside their collaboration on a series of stories about the 20th anniversary of the founding of Nunavut, and what lessons newsrooms can learn about working together.


  • Big news: the second round of Indiegraf’s Independent News Challenge is opening for applications! You can find out more here. Applications are due June 19.
  • We’re also offering a new product: the Indie Network. The Network’s home is an exclusive Slack workspace where membership gets you access to exclusive community learning and funding opportunities from the Indiegraf team and the community as a whole. You can sign up here.
  • The Pulitzer Center offers local reporting grants on a rolling basis — perhaps a good opportunity to help shore up revenues during a difficult time.
  • If you’re a NABJ member impacted by COVID-19, you can apply for relief funds here.

Have a tip, pitch, question to ask, link to include, or opportunity you want to promote? Send it to me!

And one more thing…

Today, I leave you with the words of journalist Nam Kiwanuka.“Discomfort should not mean silence. Looking away won’t change the real-life consequences that others experience. So the next time you feel uncomfortable and would rather look away, ask yourself: Why is your discomfort more important than the very real wounds that are being inflicted on others?”

Read the rest of her story on

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