In just five months, the outlet has developed a membership program and started paying contributors
In the summer of 2020, Calgary joined thousands of cities worldwide in protesting police brutality and racial inequality. This global movement naturally made headlines daily, and I couldn’t help but notice that almost every piece of local coverage I read was written by a white reporter. It was then that the gap in Alberta’s media landscape became obvious to me. I knew we needed a change.
Within a matter of weeks, I connected with a group of Black Calgarians who also agreed it was time for something different in the local media landscape. It was time for us to be able to share our own stories without them being filtered through the lens of a white editor. It was time for a hyper-local, tropeless, stereotype free platform where the breadth of the Black experience could be explored with nuance. It was time for Black voices to be amplified.
We launched Afros In Tha City Media in October 2020, and in just five months, we went from being 100 per cent volunteer-run to having an established membership program and paid writers.
The success of Afros In Tha City can be largely attributed to the partnerships we established early on, including one with The Sprawl, a local, independent news organization.
The Sprawl and Afros In Tha City are both focused on local, crowdfunded, slow journalism. And while on paper Afros In Tha City could be seen as a competing platform for The Sprawl, we chose collaboration over competition, resulting in incredible success for our new media collective.
The Sprawl was one of the first organizations to make a financial investment in Afros In Tha City Media. However, our partnership grew into a dynamic collaboration complete with mentorship, events and ongoing support.
Any new media organization can benefit greatly from mentorship, and our team was no exception. We had no idea how to launch a media publication. (Real talk though: does anyone?) Not only that, but our team of writers did not include one technically-trained journalist. The Afros In Tha City team is made up of art and sociology students, as well as public relations professionals. Needless to say, having someone within the industry to provide training and support to us was crucial.
In the early days of Afros In Tha City Media, The Sprawl provided our team with interview tips, feedback on story creation and support with identity development. The Sprawl also supported us in developing our membership program.
Events can be a great mutually-beneficial collaboration tool. For a small, up-and-coming publication like Afros In Tha City, a single event provided significant exposure. For The Sprawl — an established publication — an event with us gave them the opportunity to engage their audience with unique content.
In February, The Sprawl hosted a panel with Afros In Tha City to discuss Black futures. The event sold out with an incredible amount of engagement. Approximately 30 new members signed on to the monthly membership program.
The Sprawl amplified our message by writing a feature on Afros In Tha City, sharing our content and helping promote our membership program.
Canadian newsrooms are not the most diverse spaces, but this has led to the rise of new media outlets run by racialized people. The time to start decolonizing news is now, and as news entrepreneurs — or even just people who consume media — we all have power to amplify the messages of those who have been historically silenced.
Collaboration is a great way for existing publications to support the rise of BIPOC media. While not every outlet has the ability to provide financial support or mentorship to new publications, amplifying underrepresented voices is a simple collaboration tool that can enrich Canada’s media landscape.
Have a tip, pitch, question to ask, link to include, or opportunity you want to promote? Send it to me!
And one more thing…
Canadian publishers: help J-Source by completing the Canada Press Freedom Project questionnaire.