“I still believe that if your aim is to change the world, journalism is a more immediate short-term weapon.”-Tom Stoppard
“Journalism without a moral position is impossible. Every journalist is a moralist. It’s absolutely unavoidable. A journalist is someone who looks at the world and the way it works, someone who takes a close look at things every day and reports what she sees, someone who represents the world, the event, for others. She cannot do her work without judging what she sees.”
Just two days before I officially stepped into my role as lead editor of The Independent, the lights went out on our website. Some server somewhere in the United States crashed and they said all we could do was wait. Except, as the wait grew longer and we were no closer to getting back online, I decided to use this as an opportunity to rebuild theindependent.ca.
STORIES OF THE BUDGET Maybe I was inspired by my interview with economist Dave Thompson who came to Newfoundland and Labrador in December (see our Q&A). In some ways, he offered simple message, but it really resonated with me: he said that the stories we tell about our challenges shape the ways we collectively respond—and what we think is possible.
The budget and the economy are perfect examples of that. Like the rest of Canada, the province is facing economic challenges. Sure, we can act out of fear and cut budgets without planning for the long-term and we can take away some of what makes life here so good. We can do that, and we’ve done it before (I’m in the middle of Ray Guy The Final Columns and have been struck with how repetitively certain kinds of budget cuts are offered up as the solution to whatever problem is at hand). What the Province needs to do is remember that we are building the future of Newfoundland and Labrador through our responses to economic challenges. Our budget cut decisions will in no small part determine what our future looks like. For that reason, I have all sorts of questions about how we decide which budget cuts to make: What are the long-term implications of different approaches to cutting and saving? What kinds of spending improve our long-term prospects? What kinds of thinking form the decisions that are made?
WEBSITE JITTERS But, back to the new website. We look a bit shinier, I suppose, but we’re as committed as ever to telling alternative stories and presenting dissenting points of view. Our new masthead uses a font very close to the one used by a newspaper of the same name in the 1948 – just as the debate about the confederation reached its highest pitch. So, we’re looking to our past as well as to our future. The unofficial, but beloved flags appear as two sturdy icons to the left of our name, giving a simple, bold look to the masthead. The flying flags that were central to our previous masthead are used at the bottom of each page in honour of our recently-built foundations, and you will see those flags featured on other pages on our website as well.
To be honest, I wanted to hold our launch back, to make it perfect. But you, our readers, want good content above all else. So, I decided to let it go, imperfections and all (with no small thanks to fellow-editor Hans Rollman’s encouragement). We’re not perfect. I suppose we never will be. We’re a human publication—and with that humanity comes acceptance of those little things we don’t always get right the first time even while we’re aiming for more and better. So, I’m unbelievably excited to present this website to all our readers, even as we’re still working on it.
OPINION So what’s on the go? Lots of opinion, of course. It’s one of the things I think The Independent has always done well: providing a platform for alternative opinions, for dissent, and for disagreement. We don’t always agree with each other, but it is so, so important to be able to publish and read pieces that help us imagine this place and our future in this place in different ways.
JOURNALISM You can expect more of the kind of in-depth alternative storytelling and journalism you’ve come to love at The Independent. Perhaps we won’t publish stories at the same breakneck pace of corporate media, but they will be well-researched and as accurate as possible, with the kind of local storytelling and journalism you won’t find anywhere else. You may notice a strong divide between opinion and journalism, one that allows each to flourish in their different genres. I’m going to try out a few things over the next six months and have a lot of fun while working really, really hard.
ETHICAL JOURNALISM In all the journalism we do, we aim for: accuracy, independence, fairness and impartiality, humanity, and accountability. We aim to meet the Canadian Association of Journalism’s ethical guidelines. But we have other standards, as well. We are committed to diversity of content and contributors and to covering stories from perspectives not always found in the mainstream media. And, important to me is a commitment to relationality.
RELATIONALITY Relationality came to my attention when I was studying toward my PhD at Memorial University. As a Red River Métis woman from Alberta, I struggled to find a way to direct my research so that it honoured this way of being and allowed it to grow with me as I studied, learned, and changed. Relationality is one idea I borrowed from the Shawn Wilson’s book about Indigenous research methods, Research is Ceremony. Wilson wrote that “relationships do no merely shape reality, they are reality.” In journalism this attention to relationality, as Wilson wrote, is an “intention to build a relationship between the readers of this story, myself as a storyteller, and the ideas I present.” It’s about being open about who you are, where you come from, and how that relates to the people you are with and the stories you are telling. Like many displaced and landless Métis from Western Canada, I moved around a lot when I was growing up, so attention to the slowness of building relationships was not always possible. In my role as The Independent’s lead editor, I want to be aware of where I come from and of how this impacts the work I will do and the perspectives I bring to the stories I write. I want to take the time needed to build relationships with diverse communities across the province. In building those relationships I’m continuing to build The Independent into a publication with a strong reputation for good, quality journalism and engaging, diverse opinion.
So, the lights are back on at The Independent. I’ll be looking to you, dear readers, for your support, for your enthusiasm, and for your guidance.