The Independent is a trailblazer in Canadian independent journalism, publishing out of St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador since 2011. Formed from the ashes of The Independent—an award-winning print newspaper that ran from 2003-2008 in St. John’s, also previously known as The Sunday Independent—TheIndependent.ca launched as an online-only publication in early 2011. It was on the verge of folding six months later, but contributors and a devoted readership recognized the need for independent media voices in the province and came together to keep it going. Editors Justin Brake and Rhea Rollmann, who assumed leadership of the publication following the collapse of its for-profit structure, oversaw the The Independent’s transformation from for-profit newspaper to not-for-profit media collective later that year.
In 2016, The Independent fundraised to send Brake to Labrador to cover Indigenous opposition to the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric megaproject. The Independent provided coverage of the growing Indigenous protest movement months before any other provincial or national media demonstrated interest, as part of its commitment to decolonization and to providing voice for those ignored by the province’s corporate media. Brake made multiple trips to Labrador as the movement grew, and when land protectors stormed and occupied the Muskrat Falls workers’ camp in October 2016, Brake followed them and provided on-site coverage of the occupation. Criminal charges were filed by the RCMP and Nalcor (the provincial government’s energy agency) against Brake, in what would become an unprecedented challenge to freedom of the press. In 2020, the final charges against Brake were dropped—a hard-won victory for journalists’ rights in Canada.
In 2018 Brake left The Independent to pursue other journalistic endeavours, and Rollmann brought on Michelle Porter as editor. In 2019, Drew Brown replaced Porter as editor.
For a decade, The Independent has provided readers in Newfoundland and Labrador and beyond with powerful investigative reporting and community-centred news coverage grounded in a commitment to decolonization and social justice, operating within a professional journalistic framework. Its strong opinion and commentary sections have provided space for a wider diversity of viewpoints, perspectives and insights than any other publication in the province’s history. The Independent has also covered the province’s vibrant arts and entertainment scene, and for a period produced its own journal of creative arts as a supplementary publication.
The Independent and its contributors have won a number of awards over the years, including a Michener Award for Public Service Journalism in 2004 (Stephanie Porter), an Atlantic Journalism Gold Award for commentary in 2017 (Rhea Rollmann), a Canadian Committee for Press Freedom Award in 2018 (Justin Brake), and the 2018 PEN Canada/Ken Filkow Prize for Freedom of Expression (Justin Brake).
The Independent has been described (by CBC) as “feisty” and “the scrappy low-budget underdog of the local media scene, always up for a fight.”
The publication does not rely on ad revenue and rejects paywalls as contrary to the mission of accessible, public service journalism. The publication relies on grants, fundraising, and above all the support of a growing body of subscribers who support our mission to provide voice and coverage to the peoples of this province and the issues that matter to them.