CEO Millar sees the current shake up, gaps in media coverage as an opportunity to reshape ownership
Whether your outlook on traditional news media is optimistic or pessimistic, it’s hard to dispute it’s been a challenging time for the media.
Every year, newsrooms downsize, reporters are laid off, and legacy publications either crumble or downsize. Sometimes, large populations can find themselves lacking reliable local news coverage.
While most would see these events as the death knell of the industry, Erin Millar, co-founder and CEO of Indiegraf, sees opportunity to change the industry for the better.
“Indiegraf is a platform for independent journalists and publications,” Miller says. “That narrative (of the indutry dieing) sort of overlooks the opportunity we have for independent, small additional players to fill a lot of these local community news gaps.”
Indiegraf recently launched, in association with the Facebook Journalism Project, its BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and Persons of Colour) Media Growth Program. It’s a series of $25,000 grants offered to small media productions with the specific goal of building back a media landscape that offers more diverse voices and perspectives.
“We see this opportunity in the space right now, where more and more journalists are striking out on their own to found outlets,” Millar says. “Our mission is to give those independent digital outlets the advantages of being part of a larger chain. Cheaper access to technology, access to revenue opportunities …while continuing to maintain local ownership, and obviously, editorial autonomy.
“People of colour, and immigrant communities as well, are among the under-represented and underserved communities in Canada, and the traditional, established media has really not kept up,” Millar says. “There’s a long history of problems around diversity. When you actually look at who owns these organizations, it’s still lagging behind the general workforce on representation.
“Our fear was that, if we just continue on this track, we’re just going to replicate the diversity problems of the previous media ecosystem. The disruption that’s happening right now is really an opportunity to change media ownership.”
Wafa Alamm and her husband both had years of experience as journalists under their belts when they moved to Halifax from Lebanon in 2019.
“For me, it was a decision that I wanted to continue my career …I don’t want to start from zero. I want to give this experience to the province, to the media industry here.”
Alamm chose to launch her own media company, One Frame Production. Currently, One Frame offers media marketing to businesses and non-profits, and media services for the film and television industry in Halifax.
Alamm didn’t apply for the BIPOC Media Growth Program before applications for the first round closed, but she says a grant like that would provide a lot of wind beneath her fledgling media wings.
“I’m renting some cameras, mics, from here and there; I don’t have my own equipment,” Alamm says. “I still need to buy many [pieces of] equipment, which would help me to work independently.”
Millar says someone like Alamm is an ideal candidate for future BIPOC grants, and she expects there to be future BIPOC grants for Alamm to apply for. Millar says 67 per cent of the 34 publications they’ve supported or worked with in the last year have been owned by BIPOC owners.
Sign up for future updates on Indiegraf’s BIPOC Media Growth Program on its website, indiegraf.com/news/applications-open-bipoc-media-growthprogram/.