June 1, 2014
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CANADALAND
#35 Ricochet: Crowdfunding The Next Journalism
A people-powered journalism startup from Montreal has quickly earned the support of hundreds of backers. So what is Ricochet and who’s paying for it? Editor Ethan Cox explains.

UPDATE: this episode resulted in some fallout – Rabble Editor in Chief Meagan Perry took issue with Ethan Cox’s allegation that Rabble had censored content (among other charges). He responded, and I pressed (unsuccessfully) for full details. To read about Rabble vs. Ricochet, click here (link). 

Episode Rundown

5:38 “Right now in the media landscape in Canada, everybody knows that media is in crisis. The funding model is broken. And I think for your average consumers at home it’s becoming increasingly inescapable that there is something wrong with the quality of media they’re consuming, if they’ve been reading a daily newspaper for the last ten or twenty years, they will notice a downward spiral of the content. It’s no fault of the journalists but through what they’re being asked to do.” Cox laying out his issues with the current model.

7:23 “The advertisements of the corporate interest become so pervasive that they become the content. We’ve seen examples of that with the deal Postmedia had with the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.” The “native advertising” deal Cox is referring to is explored in more detail in the Vancouver Observer  (link)

8:43 Yes, but what is Ricochet? “First and foremost it’s investigative journalism, that’s something that’s fallen by the wayside in recent years because it’s expensive and time consuming and it’s contrary to the model of instant news that’s become pervasive on the web.”

9:10 An example, please? “We commissioned two journalists, Michael Lee-Murphy (link) in New England and Emma Pullman (link) in British Columbia. Both investigative journalists with solid track records, to look into oil by rail and pipe lines” Cox.

9:34 Cox: “Oil by rail has increased by almost 6000% over the last couple years. And there hasn’t been much looking at what the impact of that is, what the safety is, of course we lacked it around Lac Megantic”. (Actually, it’s increased by 28,000%) (link)

10:51 Cox: “I was working as a journalist in 2012, covering the student protests and I became incredibly frustrated and so did many of my colleagues on the French side, with what a profound disconnect there was between coverage in English and French, and what the rest of country was being told about what was happening in Quebec.” Cox talking about the 2012 student protests (link)

11:13 “Most of what was being reported in English media to the rest of Canada had no relation to what was happening in reality. People were being fed a line about riots and danger and insurrection and things being out of control. And nothing could be further from the truth.” Cox

11:45 “It’s to provide a bridge between Quebec and the rest of the country, because the communication across that provincial border has been historically terrible.” Cox talking about why Ricochet is needed.

13:43 “There are some great outlets in Canada.  There’s the Tyee in British Columbia. The Vancouver Observer as well out there. Press Progress which has just been launched by the Broadbent Institute, I really like what they’ve been doing. In terms of taking more complex information and putting into visuals and graphics that can be shared easily on the web.” Cox (link) (link) (link)

14:38 Ethan’s open resignation letter to Rabble, accusing them of censorship and exploitation (link)

15:58 “One of the foundational principles of Ricochet is we’re going to pay writers for their work. We don’t believe in unpaid writing. And we think it’s critically important to resist the Huffington Post model of journalism. Which is to devalue the work of journalism to the point where we’re all supposed to work for experience and exposure and somehow use that to pay the rent and put food on the table.” Cox

20:05 “Kevin Libin at the National Post is a friend of mine. He’s the news editor and I like him a lot but he’s one of the most right-wing guys I know.” Cox (link)

20:38 “This is public interest journalism, the role of Ricochet is to inform the public. To make the world a better place. But the truth comes first.” Cox

21:36 “Andrew Coyne might be a conservative pundit but he’s been merciless to Stephen Harper.” Jesse

21:56 “Were not going to be partisan, were going to criticize the NDP and the Conservatives equally when we think they deserve it. We’re going to criticize left wing parties, labour unions, you name it. No punches will be pulled.” Cox

24:49 “…members will be able to vote on three proposals for a long form investigation.” Cox

26:24 “I’ve got to tell you that even if your endorsement was from Ron Paul and not Noam Chomsky….this is tremendously exciting” Jesse

28:20 “…at least half of the donations have come in from Quebec….People have this perception that Quebecers are all sovereignty and hate Canada but the fact of the matter is, no one is more desperate for this model of interaction and exchange than people here in Quebec.” Cox

29:31 “Because if we fail and we’re not able to figure out a way to get Canadians to chip in, to get people to fund truly independent journalism, I shudder to think where we will be in 10-15 years because already so much of our mainstream media coverage is directly influenced by corporate interest.” Cox

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