Discourse Media charts new course; in-depth reporting, avenues for action

Longer stories, avoiding pack journalism, ideas for actions related to the issues covered – that’s the promise of Discourse Media.  Their promise and their product.

In a media world where exactly the opposite is available now, it sounds enticing.

I learned about this platform today in a presentation from CEO and Editor-in-Chief Erin Millar. A start-up, just closing their first round of fund raising, they’re already running a newsroom and doing media differently. And they have big plans.

I like their aims:

  • expose hidden truths
  • break down complexity
  • inspire action.

Millar said, as a reporter (she worked with Maclean’s and the Globe & Mail, among others) she felt she was always responding to the news cycle. She and her colleagues made suggestions at the story meeting, wrote the stories, then moved on. There’s no avenue – or interest for that matter – in hearing from the audience – the consumers of the story.

new approach to in-depth reporting

The path taken by a news story. From Erin Millar’s presentation

“And there’s no information to help [the public] make sense of it or do something about it,” she added.

Discourse changes that. They have, in her words, “realigned to serve people … we’re not so much a media outlet as an engagement vehicle.”

Here’s a recent illustration of Discourse in action: Reporter Trevor Jang went to Terrace, in BC’s north, and set up a Facebook group asking people what was on their minds. In a resulting meeting two women on opposite sides of an environmental issue met face-to-face and talked about the issue and their different positions. A lot. They started to get to know each other as people. They haven’t erased their differences, but they are going horseback riding together as a next step.

Some phrases from Discourse Media’s website:

  • reporting with people not on them
  • believe the best story ideas come from the community
  • add value to dialogue … by providing the public with access to untold stories and untapped data
  • listen to communities, involve our audiences and participate in dialogue following publication.

They have 15 full-time staff – in Vancouver and Toronto. They have identified areas of focus for their in-depth reporting such as ‘toward reconciliation’, ‘education for tomorrow’ and ‘child welfare.’ The reporters have the leeway to dig, learn, meet people involved and make suggestions for action. It’s impressive. It’s what we need in these times of faltering trust in the media and our leaders.

Funding is closed for now, but stay in touch – they’re not done!

Meantime you can sign up to be a beta tester of their work.

The final word from Erin, “People will pay for content they value.”

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