One month ago, The Discourse launched our spring campaign. Since then, we’ve been asking you to support our community-powered child welfare reporting by helping us foot the bill. Our goal is to get 1,000 supporters by June 15 — that’s three days away — so we can continue serving you, our community members.
I say “reporting” because it’s a convenient catch-all, but if you’re familiar with our work, you know it’s about more than recording interviews and writing stories. The Discourse is all about listening to and collaborating with community members to uncover important local stories that are overlooked, like our Spotlight: Child Welfare series.
As we near the end of our campaign, I want to tell you what this job means to me and how my work has served community:
1. I’m privileged to work in service of a community that’s profoundly underserved by establishment media. The child welfare system is full of women and youth who’ve been silenced and misrepresented. The need for deeper child-welfare reporting is so clear, and Discourse has given me time to build relationships and organize workshops for journalists, so we can explore ethical questions together. Discourse has also supported me in launching Spotlight: Child Welfare, a collaborative project that’s brought (women) reporters from different media outlets together. I’m so proud of how we’ve worked with youth, parents and other community members to come up with an editorial plan full of stories, data and perspectives that are currently missing from the media landscape. And I’m excited to expand this collaboration across Canada.
2. I get to spend time just listening to community members, hearing their concerns about how journalists typically report on child welfare, as well as other issues and systems impacting Indigenous people. I’m also encouraged to challenge the status quo. At Discourse, we’re a team of misfits who believe strongly in the social value of good journalism, but we share a deep frustrationwith the way establishment media too often misses the mark, perpetuates racist or otherwise oppressive narratives and deepens divisions. We’re tired of newsrooms led by white, straight, able-bodied, cisgender men. We want to see more humility in our industry, more acknowledgment of the damage we’ve done and more openness to change. I see that openness in my colleagues, particularly our CEO and founder, Erin Millar.
3. I’m encouraged to pursue ideas and take risks. When I said I wanted to follow one mother’s child-protection case through the court system, my editor had my back, even though it’s not common practice to cover family-law cases. This meant spending 24 workdays in court, observing and taking hundreds of pages of notes. I wasn’t pressured to file stories daily. I was given time to process a very complex case, and to discuss different angles with my editor. As a result of this reporting, I’ve received dozens of letters from parents across Canada who’ve asked me to cover their family’s story. It’s been overwhelming, but through Spotlight: Child Welfare, I’ve been able to connect other reporters with some of these parents.
4. I feel secure, empowered and valued at work. I hear this is a rare, extra-special-unicorn feeling to have as a journalist. Friends tell me they don’t feel safe raising concerns in their newsrooms. They feel disconnected from management and insecure in their jobs. Some of the more experienced folks on our team joke that Discourse feels like rehab for journalists recovering from toxic newsrooms. Don’t get me wrong — our internal culture’s far from perfect, but we’ve worked hard to create an environment where power is distributed and everyone feels safe to speak up. This safety allows for better work.