OKANAGAN VALLEY — A new digital platform for local news serving First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities in BC was launched on Tuesday. IndigiNews is a joint venture of The Discourse and APTN, IndigiNews serves Indigenous Peoples in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley and will soon expand to Vancouver Island.
The joint venture aims to address the long history of Canadian media poorly representing and perpetuating stereotypes about Indigenous communities. The goal of IndigiNews is two-fold: first, to provide journalism that is driven by local communities’ needs. Second, to develop new business models for local digital news that contribute to the long-term sustainability of independent Indigenous news.
“Indigenous Peoples have never been well served by local and national news media,” said Cheryl McKenzie, executive director of news and current affairs at APTN. “As the world’s first independent Indigenous broadcaster, APTN has worked to change that in Canada. We know we need new models and approaches to ensure independent Indigenous news remains strong into the future.”
The launch comes on Giving Tuesday, a global day of giving and unity that is an emergency response to COVID-19. Supported by The Discourse and APTN, IndigiNews launches in the midst of a crisis for local news: more than 50 local news outlets closed in the past six weeks in Canada as a result of the global pandemic.
“The problems with local news that IndigiNews exists to solve — the decline of local advertising and extreme lack of diversity — all existed before COVID-19. But the crisis has accelerated those problems enormously,” said Erin Millar, founder and CEO of The Discourse.
“With local news experiencing an extinction event, underserved communities are getting less coverage and journalist layoffs have set back efforts to diversify newsrooms by many years. We can’t wait until the economic uncertainties caused by COVID-19 pass to ensure our communities get the local information they need to thrive during and after the pandemic.”
To start, IndigiNews will distribute coverage produced by a team of Indigenous reporters hired by The Discourse in the Okanagan Valley with funding support from the Local Journalism Initiative. In the coming weeks, the platform will grow to serve communities on Vancouver Island. Content will also be published by The Discourse and APTN.
“The world looks differently right now than it did before COVID-19, and maybe that’s not a bad thing,” said Emillee Gilpin, IndigiNews advisor and editor. “The Canadian media sphere has been out of balance for a long time. But with every great disruption comes profound growth and transformation.”