New outlet will invest in investigative and critical journalism.
This week, Canadians welcomed a much-anticipated collaboration of justice-focused journalists and videographers to the indie journalism scene: The Breach.
Within hours of launching on March 10, The Breach had already raised tens of thousands of dollars from its Founding Members campaign. We caught up with contributing editor Martin Lukacs, as he refreshed his campaign spreadsheet for the umpteenth time and fielded text messages, to learn more about its “journalism for transformation.”
You just launched last week. What’s the response been like?
It’s seriously overwhelming. I think it goes to show just how much appetite there is for this kind of journalism — journalism that actually reflects people’s hunger for transformative politics, that doesn’t just malign or dismiss their desire for change.
So, what is The Breach?
The Breach is an independent media outlet that will be adversarial, action-oriented and critically optimistic. We think it’s time to reject notions of “objectivity”; it’s possible to be transparent about having strong, progressive values and opinions and still be rigorous and fair in how we do journalism.
There’s this oft repeated adage about journalism: speak truth to power. But the phrase we prefer is one that Naomi Klein has used, that journalism should speak truth about power. I think that people tend to overestimate how much the powerful are phased by the truth. They aren’t really. What the powerful care about is power.
And we think journalism has a role to play in helping people better understand how power works, who has it in our society, to whose benefit it’s being used and how ordinary people can have more of it if they organize.
What type of content will we see?
There’s so much good independent media that exists in Canada. But I think that there are gaps that we would like to fill around in-depth journalism on everything from corporate influence on politics, land theft under the guise of reconciliation, racism and policing, foreign policy and the forces fueling the climate crisis. We’re planning video shows and explainers, as well as analysis and profiles of emergent social movements.
One thing that’s sorely missing is journalism that helps imagine what a just future could look like, and how we might get there. I think the team of journalists and writers we’ve assembled have done that brilliantly.
Writers like El Jones, for instance, who has been incredible at forecasting what a world without prisons, without police, without carceral logic would mean for people. Or filmmakers like Avi Lewis, whose video storytelling with Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez and Molly Crabapple in A Message from the Future imagines what society would look like, decades into the future, if we could win a Green New Deal now. Or Pamela Palmater and Russ Diabo, two of our Indigenous columnists who are brilliant at helping understand the profoundly beneficial impact we’d see in Canada if Indigenous rights were actually respected and implemented.
Where did this begin?
Some of our team members were involved previously with a project called The Dominion and the Media Co-op, which was a bimonthly magazine and network of local media outlets which published from 2003 onward. It did some innovative things in terms of building a progressive media model — including being a solidarity co-operative in which readers had democratic say over our decisions. It’s a real hustle to do independent media, but a few of us decided that the time was right to try it again.
And just as we were starting to strategize about how we could pull it off, we got wind of the inaugural Indie News Challenge. The timing was serendipitous. After going through their bootcamp, which helped us hone our vision and learn lessons about the business side of running an outlet (not always the forte of journalists!), we became one of Indiegraf’s inaugural publishers. Indiegraf has been an incredible support. The chance to combine Indiegraf’s digital, fundraising and organizational know-how with our previous media experience has been instrumental to any of our success so far.
Who is The Breach for?
The Breach is for anyone who is hungry for transformative journalism and transformative change. You know, two-thirds of people in this country think the “economy is rigged to advantage the rich and powerful.” Almost three-quarters want to see a Green New Deal. And more than half have a positive opinion of socialism, if you can trust the polls. But what media is there that this majority can turn to for a reflection of their values, answers to their doubts, stories showing that another world is both popular and possible?
How does it feel to launch the same week Buzzfeed shut down Huffpost Canada and laid off 23 journalists?
Mixed emotions! The corporate-owned model of journalism hasn’t only failed its readers, it has failed its journalists. On the other hand, we’re also in a moment of renaissance for independent media in Canada. And it feels really exciting to be throwing our hat in the ring at this moment.
I actually think there’s never been a better time for reader or member-supported independent media, in a moment of predictable crisis for the establishment media that is becoming apparent to more and more people.
Any words of advice for the prospective journalist-entrepreneurs out there?
There’s that great line from Samuel Beckett: Try again. Fail again. Fail better. As with so much of journalism, you have to be ready to make a lot of mistakes.
The Breach is inviting people to become founding members to sustain its in-depth, ad-free journalism.
Have you ever wanted to start your own news outlet? Applications are now open for the May cohort of the Indie News Challenge, Indiegraf’s flagship accelerator to help independent digital media launch and grow.
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And one more thing…
We just want to take a minute to appreciate all of you for supporting Indiegraf this year. It’s been a very exciting few months with several of our partner publishers launching and starting membership campaigns. And we can’t wait for you to see what’s to come.