APTN and The Discourse are collaborating to cover Indigenous news on Vancouver Island

Partnership aims to serve local First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities, while contributing to the long-term sustainability of independent Indigenous news in Canada.

The Discourse and the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN) are collaborating to support independent Indigenous news coverage on Vancouver Island. 

We are hiring three reporters (click here to learn more) and will work with communities in the region to inform our coverage. 

“Indigenous Peoples are not well served by local and national news media. What a news story is to a mainstream editor is often not the information Indigenous Peoples need to make decisions in their everyday lives,” says Cheryl McKenzie executive director of news and current affairs at APTN.

This is part of a larger endeavour to support local journalists focused on serving First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples, that began in the Okanagan. When it comes to Indigenous news, there is a long history in this country of a lack of representation, perpetuation of stereotypes and journalists causing harm.

“As the world’s first independent Indigenous broadcaster, APTN has been part of changing that in Canada,” says McKenzie. “We know we will need new models and approaches to ensure independent Indigenous news remains strong into the future.”

The goal of this partnership is two-fold: first, to provide journalism that serves and is driven by what local communities say they want. Second, to experiment with new business models for digital local news that contribute to the long-term sustainability of independent Indigenous news in Canada. 

“We have taken a hard look at how journalism has contributed to inequity in Canada and we are committing to doing things differently,” says Erin Millar, founder and CEO of The Discourse.

“We don’t want to tell stories driven by the latest press release or tragedy. We want to start by building relationships and listening to people, so that we can serve them through our work,” Millar says. 

Covering health, child welfare and education 

To fill Indigenous news gaps on Vancouver Island, The Discourse will be hiring three reporters: A full-time Indigenous health reporter, a full-time child welfare reporter, and a part-time Indigenous education reporter. While there is often in-depth reporting on issues related to the environment, the economy, and politics, these issues are rarely covered in an ongoing way — despite their importance. 

“We are excited to get more voices and stories out there from Vancouver Island,” says McKenzie. “Our intention is to genuinely listen and provide value to local communities by covering these topics.”

If you are connected to these issues on Vancouver Island, we want to hear from you. How could the media serve you better? What stories need to be told? Whose voices need to be heard? Click here to tell us what you think. If you’d rather have a phone conversation or meet in person, email lindsay@thediscourse.ca. If you are a journalist who wants to apply for these jobs, click here to learn more.

These positions are funded through the Government of Canada’s Local Journalism Initiative.

How did this partnership come to be? 

The Discourse and APTN first began exploring collaboration on this initiative after APTN’s former executive director of news and current affairs Karyn Pugliese and The Discourse’s founder and CEO met at a Public Policy Forum workshop in Ottawa in March 2018. The event brought together news industry leaders with Canadian Heritage government officials seeking feedback on how to implement the $50 million Local News Fund announced in the 2018 federal budget.

Pugliese and Millar found common ground on many issues facing news media in Canada, including a vision to diversify media, in ways that ensure news serves underrepresented communities. 

“We both understood how new technology is disrupting the journalism industry, and that the industry had never been fully representative of Canada’s diversity,” says Pugliese, who is now an assistant professor at the Ryerson School of Journalism and a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University. “We understood changes were going to happen to the industry with or without us.  We could be frightened of change or embrace the opportunity to build something new.”

Both Pugliese and Millar were hesitant about media relying on long-term government funding. But they could see a role for a short-term intervention to support journalism while their organizations innovated new digital and business models. 

“It was especially important to me that the hard work the APTN team had done to make space for Indigenous voices in the public space would not go silent,” says Pugliese.

The following June, Pugliese convened a group in Winnipeg to discuss digital innovation, including The Discourse and Journalists for Human Rights (JHR). In the following months, the three organizations combined their visions for how to support a more diverse and sustainable media industry into a proposal to Canadian Heritage’s Local News Fund, which eventually became the Local Journalism Initiative.

“We looked at the root of problems facing the media sector in Canada and what each organization could bring in terms of expertise: APTN’s experience serving Indigenous communities, JHR’s successful media development programs and The Discourse’s digital and business model innovation,” says Millar. “We proposed something that could really move the industry in the right direction for the long run.” 

While that proposal was not successful, APTN and The Discourse continued to seek ways to work together to achieve the same goal. 

The Discourse and APTN have partnered on major journalism projects including Spotlight: Child Welfare, a collaborative journalism project focused on deepening reporting on child welfare in B.C., and Tracking Trans Mountain, an investigative journalism project that was focused on presenting a more clear picture of the state of consultation across all of the communities affected by the Trans Mountain Expansion Project. 

“After years of working together on smaller projects, we are thrilled to work together to create this new digital media outlet,” says McKenzie. “APTN’s mission is to share our Peoples’ journey, celebrate our cultures, inspire our children and honour the wisdom of our Elders.”

The partnership will draw on APTN’s experience serving First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples and The Discourse’s six years of experience developing in-depth local news offerings in underserved communities, including Vancouver’s urban Indigenous population. It will build off of The Discourse’s successful digital journalism outlet, The Discourse Cowichan. [end]

Lindsay Sample is the executive editor of The Discourse based in Vancouver on the unceded territory of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and səl̓ilwətaɁɬ / sel̓íl̓witulh (Tsleil-Waututh). She has worked in the industry for over eight years, four of which have been spent developing a new model for in-depth and community-driven local news at The Discourse. As a journalist and a settler, Lindsay is committed to decolonizing journalism. She earned her masters in journalism from UBC, where she participated in Duncan McCue’s Reporting in Indigenous Communities program


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