Let's change the news
We have a plan to keep this project thriving and I'd love for you to come along.
Sometimes, I catch myself thinking I’m the hero of my own story.
Maybe we all do it or maybe it’s just reporters. Or maybe it’s those among us who say they’ve read All the President’s Men when really we just watched the movie to fantasize about being Robert Redford for two hours and 18 minutes. He has such gravitas.
We see this image of a swashbuckling man who took down the Nixon presidency with gumshoe reporting and excellent hair. It’s a great story. But it’s also bullshit.
Journalism isn’t about one man versus the machine. It’s about all of us. And when you do it right, you get to be part of a community that carries you even when you’re busy feeling sorry for yourself.
A year ago, we called on you to subscribe to The Rover newsletter in hopes that we could try something new: journalism for the people, by the people, of the … well, you know how that one goes. Back then, I thought that by leaving a steady job at a daily newspaper, I was taking a gamble on myself.
But I was wrong.
I was taking a gamble on my community. Whether it’s the friends I grew up with, the neighbours who watched over my brother, sister and me while our parents had to work late or just strangers on the Internet, over 700 of us came together and raised enough money to actually make an impact.
Our very first reader-funded story, “Threats, fines and fear: a dump on Mohawk land overflows with industrial waste,” won a national award against publications that have fancy things like “employees” and “an office printer.” But more importantly, the story caught the attention of a Montreal law firm that agreed to fight for Mohawk families to know whether their land is being poisoned. When you invest in us, that’s the impact your money has.
When Premier François Legault refused to exempt homeless people from his COVID-19 curfew, we were among two or three publications that did in-depth reporting to reveal how dangerous the policy was. Ultimately, that reporting also helped lawyers get involved and they forced the courts to make it illegal for cops to punish folks who sleep outside.
And in a year where Quebec saw nearly 600 overdose deaths, we’ve been the only publication to consistently cover the opioid crisis that our government is refusing to address.
None of this happened because I’m some Redford-esque intrepid reporter. It’s because of a community that trusted journalism and invested in it. And that gives me hope.
We’ve done this with a relatively small pool of subscribers because, when you buy into this newsletter, almost all of your money goes toward journalism. Our only real overhead is the 15 per cent in fees we pay for use of the platform. That means about 85 cents of every dollar you spend on The Rover pays a reporter and an editor.
Consider the alternative. When you subscribe to a daily newspaper, you have to factor in their infrastructure expenses. The paper has to rent offices, buy equipment, pay a printing press, operate newspaper delivery trucks and staff an office with workers whose job it is to just keep the lights on.
That’s why, with a small but loyal subscriber base, we were able to publish over 100 pieces of original journalism, hire a paid intern, publish work by emerging writers and take our time on stories that you can’t find anywhere else. We did this without ads or government tax credits. We did this with a Toyota Yaris, a beat-up iPhone and a community that wants to change the way we produce and consume the news.
This was a pretty long preamble to announce that today, after a year of this adventure in an experimental new model of journalism, we’re doubling down. My partners at Ricochet and I have decided to put all of my reporting directly on the newsletter, which you can subscribe to here. We’ll still publish some articles on Ricochet, but my focus in running the newsletter will be on giving subscribers on-the-ground reporting that tells the stories of people who don’t always get a fair shake in the news.
Many of you signed up for annual subscriptions last year, and they will be renewing soon so that we can continue this journey together. I hope you’ll stick with me.
Over the next year you can expect at least two newsletters per week, a podcast and conversations with some of the most interesting people in the country. You’ll also be seeing much more work from my favourite writers, people you may have never heard of because they’re struggling to break into the industry. And we’ll pay these writers better than most newspapers would.
We’ll also be hosting live events where you, the reader, can give us feedback, put me in a headlock and connect with people you might not have otherwise met.
I believe in this project. Not because I believe in myself — like many of you, there are days where it feels like all I can do is put on a brave face and hope everything doesn’t come crashing down. No, I’m doing this because I believe in us, in the community, in this crazy goddamn thing we call journalism.
So please join us for another year of adventure and mischief. Because I’ve seen what this project can be and I’m staking the future of our unborn daughter on it. That’s right, I just used a helpless baby to guilt you.
So give us a chance and maybe together we can leave our mark on this industry.
I'll be at McCibbins around 5pm - will you? Hope they still have Murphy's.