Meet our February 2021 INC cohort

We’re introducing journalist-entrepreneurs from across North America

Indiegraf Staff  - March 5, 2021

Indiegraf is thrilled to announce the newest cohort of the Indie News Challenge. 

From stories of people and places in the Coachella Valley, to anti-racist reporting in Tacoma, Wash., to environmental news in Michigan, this cohort of INC represents a diverse group of journalists from across North America.

What is the Indie News Challenge?

Over nine weeks starting in March, a group of journalist-entrepreneurs from across North America will work together to build and grow their outlets. Through weekly Zoom seminars, exercises, one-on-one feedback with experts in the field and a community of like-minded peers, they’ll learn how to develop their idea into a clear product with early traction that they can present to funders.  

The previous cohorts of INC have accomplished so much. Ayesha Barmania and Will Pearson expanded Peterborough Currents from 20 to nearly 2,000 email subscribers. Hannah Sung created her fast-growing newsletter At The End Of The Day. La Converse grew its newsletter subscribers and conducted market research that contributed to a funding proposal that secured multiple grants. Sask Dispatch launched a Founding Member campaign that generated over $10,000 from readers to fund their website build. The Resolve launched its newsletter, grew its first 2,000 subscribers and developed a clear plan that secured seed funding.

Introducing the third INC cohort  

We’re excited to welcome these eight projects* to INC and the Indiegraf network. 

Inua Inuit Media, Nunavut

Inua Inuit Media is a planned independent Inuit media outlet to be based in Iqaluit, Nunavut.

Jessie Fraser is an Inuk and former journalist who advocates for her culture and language, and looks forward to gaining knowledge and experience in order to further elevate Inuit worldviews.

Killaq Enuaraq-Strauss, also based out of Iqaluit, previously studied English and anthropology at the University of Florida. They are currently studying Inuktut language at Pirurvik Centre with hopes of creating a comprehensive Inuktut language curriculum for Inuit Nunangat (Inuit regions).

“We at Inua Inuit Media recognize the importance of using media as a tool for reclaiming sovereignty by creating a space to tell our stories, while allowing for artistic expression and the sharing of perspectives and opinions without being diluted by colonial frameworks,” says the team.

Planet Detroit, Mich.

Planet Detroit is a weekly email newsletter that aims to help readers get smarter about the environment in Detroit and the state of Michigan. 

Nina Ignaczak is a Detroit-based journalist and the founder and editor of Planet Detroit. Erica Schopmeyer is also based in Detroit, and manages Planet Detroit’s development efforts, partnerships and audience growth.

“We focus on explanatory, solutions-based and investigative reporting, and have a deep commitment to community engagement around local environmental issues,” says Schopmeyer.  

Since launching in 2019, Planet Detroit has been filling a gap in climate and environmental reporting in Southeast Michigan, and now the team behind it is looking for ways to grow and expand its capacity. 

Hyper-local site for Gen Z in Atlanta, TBA

Cheri Pruitt-Bonner is an early-career journalist who worked for MSNBC and Georgia Public Broadcasting. She’s based in Atlanta, where 28 per cent of the population is under 25 — and there is no news directly for them. “Opportunity is nutty. I was given a chance and flew with it and so can you, reader. Tomorrow is promised to no one. Help others with your talents today,” she says.

Do you want to be a part of the next Indie News Challenge?

Applications are open now for our May cohort.

We are currently accepting project ideas from startup and established publishers in Canada and the United States. If you’re ready to start sharing your idea with the world, then INC is for you. We especially encourage BIPOC journalists and storytellers to apply. We are committed to supporting the growth of Black, Indigenous and POC-owned media.

Anti-racist hyper-local news in Tacoma, TBA

Jason Gamboa is a Tacoma-based creative entrepreneur and community organizer who served on the Commission on Immigrant and Refugee Affairs and currently serves on the board of The Grand Cinema and the Tacoma Creates Advisory Board.

“In college, I wanted to become a writer. I wasn’t ready to pursue a career in journalism then and settled for a day job,” Gamboa says. “But, eventually in my spare time, I started telling stories through streetwear, organizing cultural events, and working with underserved communities. Now, it’s time to build our platform and tell our stories.”

Hyper-local site for Interior B.C., TBA

Brandi Schier is the publisher of Sun Peaks Independent News in Sun Peaks, B.C. and is dedicated to learning and living new journalism models to better serve communities. 

“I am working to launch a new digital publication in Interior B.C., that embraces in-depth journalism and engaged community reporting to shed light on important stories requiring a slower approach than the regular news cycle,” she says.

National opinion site for BIPOC, TBA

Jeanie Tran is a journalist based in Tkaronto/Toronto who most recently worked at BNN Bloomberg as a digital producer. She hopes to launch an online magazine about everything and anything to do with race in Canada, featuring opinion columns written by racialized people, with no claims to objectivity. 

“Race and racism are always relevant, and discussing them openly, honestly and personally is necessary for the dismantling of white supremacy and its hold on our everyday lives, systems and institutions,” says Tran.

Hyper-local site for the Coachella Valley, TBA

Mark Talkington is a California-based journalist with three decades experience in print and online news media, serving for the better part of the past 20 years as a homepage editor at MSN.com. “I’m hoping to launch a digital digest that tells the stories of people and places in the Southern California desert,” he says. 

*One more project will be announced at a later date.


We’d like to introduce you to two members of our new INC cohort, so you can learn a little more about the journalist-entrepreneurs we’re working with.


Meet the publisher: Mark Talkington

What led you to applying for this round of the Indie News Challenge?

I’ve seen the work being done by members of earlier cohorts and really admire what they’ve done in and for their communities. When I saw that Indiegraf has a formal program to help independent journalists launch similar efforts, I jumped at the chance. It perfectly aligns with what I hope to accomplish in my community

Did you ever plan on becoming a journalist-entrepreneur?

Not exactly. My very first publisher, at the weekly newspaper in my hometown, became my mother-in-law. So, I saw up close and personal how difficult it is to run a community news operation and then ran in the complete opposite direction. I eventually ended up working at Microsoft for the better part of 20 years. I’m fortunate that now I can try doing community-service journalism as a passion project in true service to a community I love.

How has news coverage in the Coachella Valley changed in the last few years? How will your project address the gaps?

Over the past few years, the corporate media budget axe has swung hard at the paper. Its staff has dwindled, and they are now trying to cover an area with nine cities that stretches more than 164,000-square-miles with about a dozen reporters.

I’m focused right now on a free daily newsletter I launched covering only one city — Palm Springs. That’s where I live. Monday to Friday I do basic, community-service journalism that I learned at weekly newspapers, trying to serve the people who keep all the resorts, restaurants and golf courses running. Cops, courts and city hall: for sure. But I’m also interested in providing news nobody else has time or interest in covering. Teachers being honoured at the monthly school board meeting, a diaper drive, extra hours at the food bank, what’s going on at the senior centre — those types of things.


Meet the publisher: Cheri Pruitt-Bonner

Had you always wanted to start your own project or is this something that’s evolved in the last few years?

I’ll be honest with you, I probably just would have been fine if I was in a regular corporate job. But with different times and things just changing, I was like, there’s nothing really holding me back at all from doing this. And it’ll probably help a whole other, unseen community. And I want to help people.

What particular issue do you feel like you’re addressing?

I’m focusing more on Generation Z. As a generation, we are basically just coupled with social media and that’s it. But in terms of contribution that defines who we are, there’s not really a whole bunch of that. So I wanted to expound more on that and just work on that.

There’s been so much focus in national media on Atlanta recently. How do you see your project fitting in with that?

I feel like it would probably go seamlessly with it only because with this generation, we are people who have different interests, either in politics or government or news and culture. So I feel like it would be easier to at least have a younger contribution to what would happen on a national or worldwide scale. 

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