My career as a journalist is helping reconnect my family — and my community too

This story was published to mark World News Day. At a time when credible journalism has the power to save lives, build trust, and inform the public’s understanding of an increasingly complex and uncertain world, World News Day is a powerful reminder that journalism can be a force for good — a message that 150 news organizations from around the world intend to celebrate on Monday, September 28. World News Day is presented by The Canadian Journalism Foundation (CJF) and the World Editors Forum (WEF)  — with support from the Google News Initiative.

Being a journalist reporting on Indigenous stories in Canada is difficult to do, but being Indigenous and reporting on your own community is even more difficult — and also extremely rare.

It’s uncommon to find an outlet, aside from a handful in so-called Canada, that bother to report on my people. That’s because oftentimes, it’s difficult to get it right. 

It requires special care, attention, honesty, time and trust. 

The time and trust piece of writing stories about Indigenous Peoples is of the most importance. It also means being willing to check your privilege and be understanding of the colonial practices of media in the past that have hurt our people — and has contributed to the genocide of my people. 

I am a Syilx mother from the Okanagan territory who began working as a journalist this year. 

I wanted to do this work because I was tired of seeing headlines that make our people seem deserving of violence against us, perpetuating, for example, the disproportionate rates of our Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG). The same headlines enabled the killing of our Indigenous men, and allowed our children to continue to be taken from their families to live within the country’s child welfare system — where again, they die at disproportionately high rates. 

Mainstream media has often listened to the voice of our colonizer and the narratives twisted about us because they simply didn’t include us. 

When any journalist enters our communities, they’re often met with instant distaste and a lack of trust. It takes someone special to gain trust to begin breaking down barriers, it takes someone with time to decolonize their own practices and accept their privilege. 

With all of that work ahead of most journalists, paired with tight deadlines and the need for what we call a “quick-turnaround” story, it leaves little room for kinship building. 

When I first got hired on to be a journalist for IndigiNews, a new Indigenous news outlet meant to make way for the voices of my own people, by the voices of our people, I was hesitant at first. I didn’t want to be in the middle of backlashes that involved my own Nation. I didn’t want to perpetuate stereotypes or exploit my people, and I didn’t know how this would be different from any other mainstream publication out there. 

It was hard even for myself as an Indigenous woman to trust this career offer. 

But in the first few weeks with this new, all-women team, we discussed what our intentions would be as an outlet. I was nervous because I had no previous experience in journalism. I didn’t know if I could do it until my editor told us we were hired based on our ability to connect — writing would come later. 

That gave me great trust, hope and confidence that I took on the right position. All I wanted was to do justice by my people, to give them a voice where we have always been safer to remain voiceless. 

We began getting feedback from all over so-called Canada, sharing and expressing the gratitude for this team we created and the stories we shared. People said that they felt seen for the first time, that they felt celebrated and that our outlet was one of the few doing all of the work.

“It’s so incredibly uplifting to see beautiful hard working Indig[enous] women represent their community, their spirit, and their passion on a national platform! Badass Indigenous women who inspire, are women I want my daughter to know,” wrote one of our readers.

Other readers have also thanked us for writing in such a way that they have actually relived good moments, rather than the bad, which is something we usually feel with mainstream media. 

That is collective healing, and it’s happening here, through our outlet.

After conducting several interviews, I was able to get to know more of my own people — people I never met before because I wasn’t in the position previously to do so. It meant the world to me to get this opportunity to connect with my own people and celebrate them. 

As an Indigenous woman living in so-called Canada, I am an intergenerational survivor of many colonial impacts. I often call myself a surviving daughter of genocide. 

When I became a reporter at IndigiNews, I got the opportunity to connect with incredibly powerful knowledge keepers. I was able to interview them and strengthen my kinship with them. Through the journalism work I’ve done, and through keeping my siblings and father updated, we all got to learn so much about teachings, titles, rights, sovereignty and so much more. 

We all became so engaged in my work that we reconnected with the responsibilities that we share together — not only to the land, but for the land and on the land. 

Being Sqilxw (an Indigenous person of and on your land) it is our responsibility to keep our land healthy and keep the spirit of our land alive by visiting it.  It’s also beneficial, in these days of colonialism, to actively utilize our sovereignty.

During the third week of July this year, my family and I went out to the land to pick xusem (soapberries) together for the first time ever. We have never been on the land, or even off-reserve, to harvest anything together, my family has been programmed by the colonial mindsets of staying on reserve. 

Through my work in interviewing these knowledge keepers, we learned that we must utilize all of our traditional territory. It’s important not only for our sovereignty, but for our connection to the land that will love us as we love it. 

We spent the whole day on the land. My little sister and I taught my father, my step-mother, older sister and all seven of the grandchildren about the proper way to harvest, sharing teachings along the way — something we learned from interviewing Elders. 

My nephew found a large eagle feather, his first one, and my parents got on a strong roll when picking, utilizing our traditional methods. We harvested all we needed for the year, then went to the creek that gives life to the area and ate together, laughed and reflected on the day. 

I think this is a tradition that we will continue to do every year, with all of the knowledge that we gained through connecting with the knowledge keepers of our Nation, through my work for IndigiNews, to whom I’m forever indebted. 

As an Elder once shared with me: “Knowledge is not power, it is a responsibility, if you know better you do better.” This is what I live by. Being given this knowledge means it’s my responsibility to now share it. 

When we live by our teachings and we take responsibility for the land as we were always meant to, we are actively giving back to our future generations everything that colonialism has taken. 

Why listening and learning is a crucial part of reporting

This story was published to mark World News Day. At a time when credible journalism has the power to save lives, build trust, and inform the public’s understanding of an increasingly complex and uncertain world, World News Day is a powerful reminder that journalism can be a force for good — a message that 150 news organizations from around the world intend to celebrate on Monday, September 28. World News Day is presented by The Canadian Journalism Foundation (CJF) and the World Editors Forum (WEF)  — with support from the Google News Initiative.

As we raise awareness about the role of journalists in helping people make sense of the world, let’s reflect on the role it plays in shaping and changing narratives. 

As a Romani woman from the former Yugoslavia, I saw first hand the effects journalists, filmmakers, writers and documentary makers had on the Roma. 

From an early age, I knew that representations of Roma in the media were always done from a very othering perspective, serving the imagination of non-Roma. We were either fascinating non-conforming romantics or criminals. We were objects of dissection, not humans — never part of the audience newsrooms wanted to serve. 

This representation has a big effect on our communities, who often try to hide their identity or feel embarrassed to be Roma.  

But what would it mean for the media if more Romani people became journalists and if we became part of the media audience? How would news about us be shaped and how would policy makers, professors and employers then perceive us?  

In order to be part of that change, I decided to be a reporter. I recently launched La Converse, a new media outlet serving Francophone Canadians. That sensitivity I have about my own community’s misrepresentation is important to better understand other communities underserved by media narratives and to reflect on positionality. Through a community-powered and dialogue journalism approach, we believe we can trigger positive change. 

What does this look like in practice? 

Transparency 

We need to build media that fuels trust. For years we have been told that objectivity is key. Through the biases fueled by the white supremacy that pervades our newsrooms, we have harmed too many communities. Hiding behind objectivity just doesn’t make the cut anymore. At La Converse, we decided to deliberately opt in for transparency without opting out of journalistic integrity. Every story begins with a transparency note from our reporters who tell readers why we have chosen this story, what our process is, what we have learned and what, in retrospect, we could have done better. 

Conscientiousness

In order to develop trust we need to respect the people we speak to and engage with, by taking the time to listen and understand the issues we cover. As Candice Fortman, Executive Director of Outlier Media puts it: “breaking stories is breaking communities”. 

Today, rapid news cycles and limited budgets prevent journalists from delving deeply into stories. We believe in slow journalism and accountability, which serves to develop and deepen relationships with our audience. Through long-form human stories, we have been able to change narratives within a very short period of time. 

The first story we wrote, Nourrir pour réunir, about food solidarity programs that gathered the Muslim community together during Ramadan, featured one volunteer program run by Sister Sabria, who has fed thousands of people over the years. 

That story brought a positive change we could not have foreseen. Written by our reporter Takwa Souissi, it inspired a donation of $60,000 by a French Canadian reader to Sister Sabria. Having read about her in La Converse, he said and wanted to donate money as she “reminded him of Mother Teresa.” In such a divided place as Quebec, where Muslims are often targets of hatred, seeing that act reminded us of the power of storytelling. While not all of our stories will have that much visible impact, they certainly can change how people perceive others and bridge divides. 

Community participation

Journalism is a service that answers needs. This means that newsrooms should be made up of people who come from various walks of life and backgrounds. Our journalism is guided by the needs of the communities we wish to serve. In order to do this, we must rethink traditional approaches to journalism and develop relationships with our audience, but also work with reporters who can develop these relationships. 

I always say our stories don’t begin in our newsrooms, they begin in your living rooms.  Everytime we draft a story we consider its impact on the community we report on. Who are we serving? What does our journalism do concretely for the community we want to serve? We have to do our jobs in a way that we can develop relationships with people and listen to them before writing the stories. 

This approach no doubt requires harder work, but it is our core belief that it is also more impactful. It has real potential for communities that have been disempowered by the media.  

Coming from a community that has been harmed countless times by the media, I really believe this type of journalism is a starting point and a catalyst for reconciliation. For me, the values of transparency, conscientiousness and community participation we put forward ensure that BIPOC and all marginalized people are reported on with integrity. It’s human rights journalism that can bridge divides and foster change. 

Municipal reporting can fix systemic problems

This story was published to mark World News Day. At a time when credible journalism has the power to save lives, build trust, and inform the public’s understanding of an increasingly complex and uncertain world, World News Day is a powerful reminder that journalism can be a force for good — a message that 150 news organizations from around the world intend to celebrate on Monday, September 28. World News Day is presented by The Canadian Journalism Foundation (CJF) and the World Editors Forum (WEF)  — with support from the Google News Initiative.

It’s a bizarre time to be alive. There’s a pandemic, police violence, a presidential election that’s devolving into chaos — and everyone has a front-row seat from the comfort of their home. 

As all of this is happening, the media landscape has changed drastically in the past four years. The legacy media outlets struggle to cover a president who’s willing to abuse the trust and authority of his office for political gain and cheap shots on Twitter. He’s changed political reporting so much that a journalist asking basic follow up questions is notable. The proliferation of news-ish websites has launched a new era of the partisan press that’s taking root in Canada. At the same time coverage of the most critical level of government, municipal politics, is on the decline.

There has never been a more important time for municipal journalism. It’s the reason why I’m launching a publication dedicated to covering municipal politics in Halifax. 

Systemic discimination is easiest to identify and stamp out at the municipal level. Take, for example, affordable housing in Halifax. Long story very short: Halifax’s vacancy rate is too low, and the cost of housing, especially rental housing, is too high. The city wants to do something about it, but can’t because the province of Nova Scotia has jurisdiction over affordable housing. Halifax’s city council has jury-rigged a workaround within their bylaw process to make affordable housing part of development agreements so they can at least do something while waiting for the province. 

Recently, as part of this bylaw process, one of Halifax’s city council committees decided to approve a development on the Bedford highway that included affordable housing. Great success?

Let’s take a look at the details.

In Halifax’s charter “affordable housing” is defined as “housing that meets the needs of a variety of households in the low to moderate income range.” Although some staff reports acknowledge that affordability usually means spending less than 30 per cent of pre-tax income on housing: rent, heat, hot water and electricity. Affordability for the Bedford highway development is defined as 30 per cent less than market value. This is important because while the market value for rental units should correspond with income, that’s not always true. 

This is going to get dense.

In the report submitted to the committee, city staff wrote that the Bedford development is “reasonably consistent” with the city’s affordability plan. 

This is because Halifax used the “housing income limit” set by the province for affordable housing. The housing income limit includes what people spend on heat, hot water and electricity.  It is the maximum income which people can earn and still qualify for provincial affordable housing programs. 

This limit is based on a Canadian Mortgage and Housing Association’s 2018 rental report, which says that in 2018 the average rent in Halifax for a one-bedroom unit built in 2005 or later was $1,206. Which is, notably, not based on income. 

Housing Nova Scotia’s 2019 housing income limit for a one bedroom, based on that report, sets the maximum rent at 30 per cent of $35,000 annual pre-tax income, which is $844 a month. 

The city used that number as the bar for affordable rent at the Bedford highway development. Rent for a one-bedroom is set at $840 a month, and so therefore affordable. It is a great success! 

Oh, except for the minor detail that it’s not affordable on an income of $31,010 ($775.25 a month for housing) which is the median income for women in Halifax. Which, as could be expected with median incomes, is roughly half the women in Halifax

And even though a city spokesperson said heat, hot water and electricity “formed part of the alternative policy that staff provided for Regional Council’s consideration,” the developer said in an email that electricity isn’t included in the Bedford highway development affordable rental rates. When electricity invariably costs more than $4 a month, it goes over the housing income limit.

Which means the Bedford development doesn’t really meet affordability criteria.  

Now, no one believes politicians or government staff in Halifax are sitting around being cartoonishly evil, purposely designing an affordable housing framework that discriminates against women or isn’t actually affordable. And no one’s saying Halifax doesn’t need more housing in the middle, and so a higher affordability bar isn’t in and of itself bad. 

What probably happened for this development is that staff plugged the rent number into the Housing Income Limit number and hit divide and like magic, it’s affordable. Halifax’s city councillors, pressed for time and political staff, probably assumed city staff did due diligence. Or if they were keen, did some surface-level math on non-gendered income averages, saw that it seemed to check out and voted to approve. It’s also possible the implicit bias of councillors inadvertently blinded them to gendered aspects of societal issues.  

City councillors in Halifax don’t run as members of political parties; they have more flexibility to explore problems facing the city. The downside is they don’t have the staff and resources to always know what the problems and solutions are. 

The reason municipal reporting is so important is because policy details like what the definition of affordability is and how it will be applied just don’t seem to be heavily scrutinized in municipal councils and committees; it’s not malicious or nefarious. It’s just what happens when newsrooms get cut and can’t afford to send anyone to committee meetings. Especially the boring ones. 

Often all it takes to solve a problem is to have someone in the room asking: “Wait, sorry, what makes this affordable? How did you get those numbers?” 

If the chaos and instability of the world is causing despair, the easiest thing to do for peace of mind is to pay for local journalism. That’s the simplest way to make sure your city council always has someone in the room asking questions on your behalf. And then call or email your councillor if you don’t like the answers. At the municipal level, things can actually change for the better. 

Journalists striking out on their own give me hope for the future

This story was published to mark World News Day. At a time when credible journalism has the power to save lives, build trust, and inform the public’s understanding of an increasingly complex and uncertain world, World News Day is a powerful reminder that journalism can be a force for good — a message that 150 news organizations from around the world intend to celebrate on Monday, September 28. World News Day is presented by The Canadian Journalism Foundation (CJF) and the World Editors Forum (WEF)  — with support from the Google News Initiative.

Recently, a young journalist asked me what the biggest threats are facing the media industry.

I admit, I found myself flummoxed at how to answer. Where to begin? Should I start with the hedge funds that have sunk their claws into newspapers to bleed them dry? That it is an industry that increasingly relies on the precarious labour of young, racialized creative workers, while the full-time jobs and senior roles disproprotionately go to men and white folks? How about the fact that there just aren’t that many jobs left even for those who still have the will to fight for them?

Or, should I have responded to the young journalist with what is in my heart of hearts, that despite all the threats, I still believe in the future of journalism?

I know, I know. It’s cool to be a cynic. But the uncool truth about me is that I am a hopeless optimist. I love telling stories. I love reading stories. And I love the joy other people find in stories. That, at its root, is what drives me to journalism and what will keep me here even if, one day, all that means is I am the person weaving a tale around the campfires lighting our way in the post-apocalyptic future.

But even I cannot deny that things are dire. Even before COVID-19, I have watched my talented colleagues, peers with reporting skills beyond my wildest dreams, drop out, struggle with anxieties, and question their own talents because of work environments that did not let them thrive. I know this because I too have lived it: most of my career has been marked by precarity. It’s hard to thrive when you are wondering where the next contract will come from, or whether this freelance cheque will pay the rent.

And yet.

When I was a media reporter, I gathered stories of people fighting to keep journalism alive close to me, like the embers keeping a fire alive. In these, I found stories of resilience and perseverance, of hope. 

Early in 2020, Erin Millar, a compulsive optimist herself, emailed me and asked if I’d like to help launch a new newsletter to promote her new project Indiegraf, a startup that supports the growth and development of new digital news media outlets. She and her partner and sister, Caitlin Havlak, were taking what they learned about building independent media from their successes and failures founding The Discourse, a media outlet that provides in-depth journalism to communities that have lost or been excluded from local news coverage— in some cases, training journalists from the ground up.

The newsletter would highlight those who were nurturing new models for news in their own communities.

Since delivering Indiegraf’s Indie Publisher newsletter, I’ve had the opportunity to meet people like Brandi Schier, a millennial who bought the Sun Peaks Independent News, and transformed it into a reader-funded digital and print outlet and Lela Savić, a journalist who has fought to bring La Converse, community-powered Francophone journalism, to Quebec.

I’ve learned there is a tightly-knit community of journalist-turned-entrepreneurs who are taking their reporting dreams into their own hands  and building futures for their journalism so that getting a layoff slip doesn’t mean it’s the end of their career. (More than 2,000 journalists have been laid off across Canada as the pandemic hit.) I look at places like LION Publishers, who, like Indiegraf, are fostering new generations of independent media outlets.

There are people fighting for journalism. You can find them all over the world, adapting and changing newsrooms. Some work remotely, or practice slow journalism or maintain open communication with their readers. Some do it despite bad bosses or owners; others are striking out on their own and becoming the bosses and owners.

What many of those people believe — and what I believe — is that if you listen to communities and offer them information they need, you can build something that is valuable: a news outlet that reflects peoples’ lived realities back to them, and holds to account the most powerful. And many are increasingly proving you can build something sustainable too.

Here’s how journalists are building crowdfunded newsletters

Christopher Curtis had been, until recently, a reporter at Postmedia’s Montreal Gazette — when he became tired of the nine-year grind of meeting the daily demands of a newsroom amidst the backdrop of a shrinking media industry. 

“(I thought) if I could be free from the constraints of constantly having to do like, a night shift, where I just call the cops or match a story written by someone else’s outlet… then I’d start producing stuff that I think is really good,” he says.

That’s why Curtis left his job and started, alongside fellow independent venture Ricochet Media, The Rover, a reader-supported newsletter that aims to tell stories in communities that are underrepresented. 

Curtis is one of many independent journalists across the globe who are turning to a crowdfunding model to support their own work. 

Simon Owens is a journalist and freelance content strategist who covers the media. Owens’ own Substack has what he says is “a few thousand free subscribers and a few hundred paid subscribers,” but his audience has been growing since he started on TinyLetter in 2014. However, he didn’t monetize that portion of his work until 2020. 

“Patreon was a really first big mover in the space, but now we’ve had several others dedicated to different mediums from podcasting, to YouTube, to now writing with Substack and Medium. There are a lot of these tools coming to the market that instead (of presenting more barriers) are making it a lot easier for these writers to access (their audiences).

Owens advises those looking to start a newsletter to create a free product first, and not to expect a paid newsletter to become your full-time gig right away. 

“You don’t want to even launch a paid version right away. You need to figure out what your voice is,  what the direction of the newsletter is . . . and only then after you’ve built up a solid six to 12 months of time building a subscriber base, then start maybe talking to some of your most loyal subscribers about what would they value enough to actually pay for — then design an offering around that.”

Sarah Krichel's Patreon page, displaying the levels at which people can join, including a $1 level, $5 and $9.

Sarah Krichel is an independent writer and editor who recently completed her tenure as editor at the Eyeopener, Ryerson University’s independent student newspaper. Soon after graduation, she started a Patreon dedicated to supporting her work mentoring young journalists.  

Krichel says she decided to crowdfund because of the connection she could make with her growing audience. 

“I felt like it was a good place where I could put my thoughts and my criticisms of the industry into a platform that I would feel really confident in,” says Krichel. “And the fact that people have to subscribe and actively support what you’re doing means that they really want that content and they really want to know what you have to say. Obviously, the newsletter is just one tiny part of it. The main part is definitely the service tiers.”

Those service tires include options such as support for those looking to improve their journalism skills through pitch editing, a workshop for student media members and the aforementioned newsletter. Krichel has 31 patrons, providing USD$188 to her monthly, with tiers ranging from $1 to $13 a month, plus a one-time fee tier at $100 for those who are looking to build an independent outlet. 

For The Rover, initial coverage will be split between stories in and around Montreal, where Curtis has built his career, and Val-d’Or, a community in Québec that he says needs to have more of its stories told. The impetus for The Rover’s model was Curtis’ interest in that small community. 

“I told Ethan (Cox, editor at Ricochet) about this region in Québec where there’s a pretty big population of Anishinaabe First Nations residents, and there’s a lot of  reports of police brutality, there’s a lot of mining on Indigenous territory  — there’s just a lot of systemic unfairness and systemic racism,” Curtis says. “I thought it would be really interesting if we could spend a bunch of time there and uncover stories that no one else is looking into on a national scale.” 

The logo for the Rover, displaying a barking dog on top of a rolled up newspaper.

In just a few days, The Rover attracted nearly 400 subscribers and has since raised 30 per cent of its $20,000 a month goal. The outlet has an entry level subscription of $12.50, a yearly subscription of $145, and a founding member level of $300.

“I had this gut feeling that there is a yearning out there for something different and for something new,” says Curtis. “I wanted it to be about, you know, if I died today, would I be happy with my career and the choices I made? And the answer was not really. So then how do I change that? And  how do I create something that I can be proud of?”

Curtis says that, while he doesn’t claim to know the future of media, he does know that crowdfunded outlets are doing some of the most impactful work in the country.

“On a national scale, look at the biggest political story in Canada right now, it’s the WE charity scandal. That was not broken by the Toronto Star or the Globe and Mail, that was broken by Canadaland, which is a crowdfunded news outlet. If you look back to the last few years, some of the biggest stories in Canada have either come from crowdfunded outlets or alternative media outlets like the National Observer.”

In moving to a crowdfunded model as a journalist, Curtis says that his focus is on providing good representation in places that do not catch mainstream attention. 

“If I visit someone, it’s not like this is the only time we’ll ever speak. You know, I have to see that person again, and again, and again. So, I have to be accountable to that person and their community. I want to do the best job that I can representing them.”

In the news

Opportunities

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

And one more thing… 

Must read: how the journalism industry’s elitism locks out folks from underrepresented backgrounds.

“The idea that my lesser-known school could remove me from consideration for an opportunity is elitism at its core. In that moment, it felt like the journalism industry was more likely to recognize folks who attended elite private schools, rather than for the quality of their journalism.”

Six Feet of Separation is by kids, for kids

It took only a few days after San Francisco closed its schools in mid-March for Chris Colin to brainstorm an idea to occupy both his time and kids across the city. A father of two and a working journalist, he noticed how his children were looking for things to do beyond watching him eat his morning cereal.

His Bernal Heights community was filled with parents like him wondering how to occupy their kids’ spare hours, so he sent a few emails to his neighbours to find out if their kids would be interested in jotting down their thoughts about how the pandemic has affected them.

The submissions rolled in almost immediately.

So began the journey of Six Feet of Separation, a U.S. first in being a digital newspaper born during COVID-19 that’s by children for children. This wasn’t Owl or National Geographic Kids; instead of an adult masthead, children would be the main contributors and readers (along with their parents), and Colin would serve as the volunteer editor, publisher, layout designer and marketing director.

“Writing is a distant cousin of therapy,” he says. “Just putting some thoughts down on paper can be a great way to process how you think about major things, such as this pandemic.”

He wanted to bring that same approach to his young contributors, who had a lot to say about the pandemic’s affect on their lives. As he told a blog network recently: “If they could have a little bit of agency at this time, if they could see their voices out there, that would be a good thing. Kids have so little control in life, in general. I mean, they can’t even reach the peanut butter on their own.”

Available online via the interactive magazine maker Flipsnack, Six Feet of Separation has published six issues, each with around 25 contributions ranging from a nine-year-old’s take on being stuck at home to comics about chickens to the state of the San Francisco transit system during the lockdown.  More than 100 writers and illustrators have been published in the outlet, hailing from five countries beyond the U.S.

At first, Colin didn’t reject many submissions. “I had a ‘say yes’ attitude in the beginning, ignoring grammar errors, ignoring if the content wasn’t focused on the pandemic.” Then in later issues, he had a more discerning eye for what worked for Six Feet of Separation, and would ask some children to hone their pitches or stories after that first email.

He says that what he learned was similar to what parents learn when they want to extract information about their child’s day. “It doesn’t work to ask, ‘How was your day?’ Gradually I began to find writing prompts and story ideas that were loose enough to be flexible, but not so open-ended as to cause paralysis.”

He goes on to say, “I wanted them to feel confident and ambitious, and ease them into writing for the newspaper, and I wanted to also let them know they didn’t have to mimic the style seen in newspaper writing,” he says.

Delilah Kaden, a 14-year-old San Franciscan, has written several pieces for Six Feet of Separation, and says it was valuable to do some extracurricular writing while school was shut down. “With Six Feet, it was nice not to have any constraints of what I could write about. And I’d really like to see this magazine reach a lot more teens in the future.”

The news outlet relies on word-of-mouth buzz and Colin’s press appearances to boost traffic, while funding challenges have now been eased somewhat: AT&T awarded Six Feet of Separation a grant, some of which will go towards a partnership with the non-profit youth writing network 826 National

“They have relationships with students around the country, so we’re working with them to help us accomplish our mission,” Colin says.

The business model is volunteer-based right now, and the kid contributors aren’t paid, but Colin’s vision for long-term sustainability will likely include a mix of funding from periodic grants and “the generosity of readers and parents and/or a deep-pocketed, civically minded organization or individual coming along at the right time.”

He doesn’t want Six Feet of Separation to be the sole trailblazer. His goal is for other communities around the world to get inspired by the success of his newspaper. Hopefully, that encourages other parents and kids to share their creativity and opinions with a publication open to their ideas.

While he doesn’t have firm plans yet, Colin is also going to use some of those grant funds “to ensure kids who don’t have access to computers and smartphones can get those phones, so they can contribute to Six Feet of Separation as well.”

He envisions the newspaper remaining relevant for readers even after the pandemic’s current wave. “I think kids and their families will be feeling the aftershocks of COVID-19 for a long time. I hope our outlet can be there to help all of them process it all.”

In the news

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

And one more thing… 

We’re eagerly following The Tyee’s experiments in getting its reporting out to residents of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

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