Imagine if The Discourse was in your community. What story needs investigating? What would it mean to your neighbourhood to have dedicated in-depth journalism? This week, I’m inviting you to imagine The [INSERT YOUR TOWN HERE] Discourse for this reason: We plan to bring The Discourse to three new communities in the coming months and we want you to tell us which ones.
Answer a few quick questions in this survey to tell us about your community and what stories need to be reported there. I’ll share what we hear soon.
Here’s an example of what The Discourse can do for a community. This week, we published an investigation into fake art that found that 75 per cent of Vancouver souvenir shops are selling some knock-off Indigenous art, produced without any collaboration with Indigenous artists. Many of those artists argued for more control over their cultural symbols, and pointed to a landmark case in the U.S. that sent two people to jail for misrepresenting fakes as genuine Navajo art.
The investigation resulted in immediate impact: As of this writing, the stories have been shared over 400 times, amplified in other media like CTV, Policy Options and Indian Country Today, and prompted two stores — Inukshuk Gallery and Wickaninnish Gallery — to promise to stop selling questionable products. Those stores, and we expect more to follow, are actually changing their supply chain in ways that could benefit the local Indigenous cultural economy. Woot!
This investigation is the perfect example of what The Discourse is all about: It responds directly to what Urban Nation community members told us they wanted to be investigated, and is powered by members of the community who can afford to fund it.
Another reason I’m asking you to imagine your community’s version of The Discourse is because I’m hoping you will support our vision for the future of local news by making a financial contribution. As you likely know by now, we launched a campaign this past Tuesday to reach 1,000 supporters by June 15. (Thank you for tolerating our frequent asks for support these four weeks!) We’re looking for 1,000 true believers to vote with their wallets to say: Yes, I want in-depth local reporting — weekly newsletters about the people and news in my community, events that connect us, investigations informed by me — enough that I’m willing to pay for that.
Some of our followers have asked me: But Erin, why should I support The Discourse if I don’t live in one of the communities you currently serve?
Because your support is an investment in the future of local news, making it possible for our scrappy team to develop a new approach to a problem that impacts all of us, and our democracy. Our vision doesn’t end at our current three communities. We’re building a movement to create media that genuinely reflects our country’s diversity.
Here’s our plan: Starting in Urban Nation, Scarborough and the Cowichan Valley, we are developing a new approach that we can then bring to many other communities that either lost a news source or have seen a huge decline in the depth of local coverage.
While news poverty impacts hundreds of communities across Canada, people underrepresented in the news are impacted the most. That’s part of why we chose these three communities to start. They are very different: both urban and rural, large and small and, while they hail from many nations, the members of Urban Nation all share a sense of Indigenous identity, while Scarborough’s identity is very diverse. But all three communities have this in common: Existing media serve them poorly.
A couple of weeks ago, I told you about how reporter Jacqueline Ronson’s community-powered reporting is making an impact in Cowichan. People there value her work so much that one community member, Isabel Rimmer, wrote to me about “BJR” — as in “Before Jacqueline Ronson” — to describe the period of time before Jacqueline began serving the community.
“We had literally no voice outside of social media,” she wrote. Another pitched in $5,000 before our campaign even started. Two people overcame the barrier of never having made an internet purchase before just to support The Cowichan Discourse. Another supporter sweetened the deal by giving Jacqueline homemade preserves to thank her for her reporting.
Our next step is to find other communities that want journalism as badly. Is that your home? Or somewhere else close to your heart? Click here to have your say about where The Discourse goes next.
And show us that you value in-depth local journalism enough to pay for it, by voting with your wallet here.
5 years of The Discourse! Let’s celebrate
Join us on June 5 at Tangent Café in Vancouver to show your support. It will be a fun evening of stories, live music and connection, with some very special guests in town for the Women Deliver conference. Raise a glass to celebrate our fifth birthday and what, with your help, could be possible in the next five years. Admission is free. Food and drinks will be available for purchase. RSVP here.
“Let me first just say that I am a total fan [of] The Discourse. As a Scarberian myself, I truly believe you guys are helping to fill in a massive gap that needed to be filled in our media landscape.”
— Mandeq Jama, community member of Scarborough Discourse