You may have heard of Ricochet Media. With offices in Montreal and Vancouver, Ricochet is a public-interest journalism outlet— aiming to share stories from corners of the country that require awareness.
Last week, award-winning journalist Christopher Curtis announced he will be leaving his stable salary at the Montreal Gazette to become a crowdfunded investigative journalist. But what has Ricochet been providing to the national media landscape that makes this partnership so unique?
The Take: Chasing stories that matter isn’t free, but with a loyal readership and passionate journalists, public-interest journalism has been managing to do just that.
One of Ricochet’s goals is to amplify Quebec’s stories and share them comprehensively to the rest of Canada. An example of how this divide can prove problematic; is the 2012 student protests in Quebec and the way English media outlets were portraying them. The nuances of why Quebecers have had to protest for these rights throughout history created a rift between information spreading to English and French audiences.
“There are some serious divisions there and a lot of misunderstandings between the two,” said editor Erin Seatter. She is also an award-winning journalist and has reported in-depth stories on Wet’ suwet’ en, white extremism and John A. Macdonald (before the Montreal statue beheading); she has been with Ricochet since it was founded in 2014.
“We were (in Wet’ suwet’ en) before the police arrived,” said Seatter. “We were looking at what was happening in the courts, and it was very clear there was going to be another huge confrontation between police and land defenders.”
- Ricochet was able to procure many stories from Wet’ suwet’ en after sending in Indigenous reporter Jerome Turner to gather information from the ground.
- Work that gained him the Canadian Association of Journalists’ Charles Bury President’s Award earlier this year.
The conversations to have Curtis come on board with Ricochet lasted months. Ultimately the challenge was to offer Curtis a salary that would not be too severe of a pay cut to what he had accumulated at Postmedia. “Our funding is totally dependant on readers wanting to make it happen; we are a crowdfunded media outlet.”
To supplement his income (and help fund his investigative work), Curtis uses a platform called Substack to create exclusive newsletters for people who support him. The platform is popular in the United States but not widely optimized north of the border; he has accumulated hundreds of subscribers so far.
Curtis’s popularity on Substack can be attributed to the readership he has earned working for the Montreal Gazette. This branding method would not be as successful to unknown journalists and writers and is not used by Ricochet’s other contributors. Seatter sees this issue as “one of the tricky things about this model” but she believes the publication will be viable long-term.
Seatter defines Curtis as “the kind of journalist who wants to get to the heart of the story.” Curtis will be diving deep into issues facing First Nations communities living in Val’ Dor, Quebec. “There are some serious problems in that city and I think they reflect a wider struggle that we — as Quebecers, as Canadians — need to take a much closer look at,” said Curtis on his viral post.
Ricochet prides itself on amplifying local stories on a national platform. The resources they currently have will be sustainable for the foreseeable future. Still, Seatter is excited for more innovative ways to have their investigative work funded due to journalism’s changing landscape. “These kinds of endeavours at Ricochet, really depend on passion.”
The Bottom Line: Ricochet is powered through the public interest of their stories and excels due to its writers’ talent and dedication. This latest collaboration into crowdfunded investigative newsletter journalism highlights that innovation is still possible in this tough time for digital media.
- The Future of Canadian Local Journalism Amid a Pandemic
- The Challenges of Learning & Teaching an Indigenous Language in 2020