Ethnic Media Find Success Being ‘Anti-Mainstream’

by Danica Samuel in Toronto 

News outlets that report on Canada’s ethnic communities and other niche media sources are standing out more than ever, while mainstream media companies are taking a hard hit. 

“Niche reporting has somewhat found a way to make the business model work,” explains April Lindgren, professor at Ryerson University’s school of journalism. “We don’t know how successful it will be overtime, but that’s one area that is successful and it’s one area where newcomers, especially, are able to survive.” 

She says the mainstream media business model is heavily influenced by technological change and that because ethnic and niche media outlets aren’t reporting the same things as the mainstream, it is easier for them to co-exist. 

“When you’re smaller to begin with and when you’re niche, you might better weather the storm,” says Marci Ien of CTV Canada AM, a division of Bell Media. 

[quote align=”center” color=”#999999″]“[W]hen you’re niche, you might better weather the storm.”[/quote]

The future of journalism in Canada

In November 2015, Bell Media cut 380 jobs from its operations, including national broadcaster CTV, while in January another major broadcast competitor, Rogers Media, announced 200 job cuts were on the way.

Print media has also been impacted across the country.

The Guelph Mercury daily newspaper announced it would stop publishing its print editions, impacting 23 full-time and three part-time jobs.

Postmedia announced 90 job cuts will result from a move to merge newsrooms in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Ottawa and reduce $80 million in expenses.

Torstar, the company that owns Canada’s largest circulation newspaper, The Toronto Star, announced last month that it will be laying off more than 300 production and editorial employees.

In Halifax, Canada’s oldest independently owned newspaper, The Herald, stated it wanted to lay off up to 18 workers to cope with economic challenges. 

These job cuts came off the heels of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) being warned that half of the country’s local TV stations could be off the air by 2020 without a boost in revenues to pay for local programming. 

These job cuts have left many media professionals and observers worried about the future of journalism in Canada. 

[quote align=”center” color=”#999999″]A part of this revolution is finding ways to tell stories and report on news differently.[/quote]

Lindgren says the business model of journalism is completely broken. 

“The internet came in and disrupted the news business to such a great extent, that more traditional news organizations are failing and the industry and people in the news have yet to figure out a replacement model.” 

For niche media, however, this may not be the case.

Chelby Daigle, editor-in-chief at Muslim Link, an online community newspaper based in Ottawa, says that niche media outlets can now utilize the Internet as a “hub of information.” 

“We tell stories, but our approach is different. We also have event listings, a directory, and advertisements; so there’s reasons why traffic comes to our site. It’s a resource.” 

The revolution of journalism 

Lindgren is confident that the changes in journalism stem from how we consume news. She calls it a “revolution.” 

“The Internet killed the classified ad sections of newspapers, and really broke the audiences for the newspaper sectors, magazines and television,” Lindgren emphasizes. “Readers’ habits of where they go for news are changing.” 

Lindgren adds: “All of this combined has mounted to a revolution in the news business, and with revolutions, often things get torn apart before new systems are invented to replace them.” 

A part of this revolution is finding ways to tell stories and report on news differently. 

“It’s the industry changing, but at the same time when things like that happen, I think there is opportunity, but you just have to do it in a different way,” says Ien. 

The difference is what Daigle describes as cheaper, innovative and independent. 

“We used to be a print newspaper and we stopped doing that. It’s too much work, craft and labour,” she says. “Online we have a better way of tracking our readership and who clicks on our ads.” 

[quote align=”center” color=”#999999″]They can carve out their own pieces of pie, do it well and service an audience that maybe isn’t being serviced that way.”[/quote]

How niche and ethnic media stand out 

Daigle says that while there are changes in the way people consume news, the most important aspect of niche media is that it should service the public. 

Ethnic and niche media outlets cater to demographics that use their content as a resource to keep them close to their respective communities. 

“They are anti-mainstream,” says Ien. “They do the stories the way mainstream doesn’t and that’s what makes them successful. They found areas that maybe the mainstream isn’t touching on as much. They can carve out their own pieces of pie, do it well and service an audience that maybe isn’t being serviced that way.” 

Like Daigle, Ien says that the stories being told by smaller community-oriented news outlets can often times heighten the content of mainstream media. 

“It’s interesting because a lot of mainstream media follows us, and get story ideas from our content,” explains Daigle. “We made it easier for people to know about our community.” 

Ien says she even brings some of these ethnic stories to the newsroom at CTV. 

“There’s no way you can be in this country and not have had various people from different races touch your life.”

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