Hard, beautiful, inspiring: Reflections on a year with IndigiNews

Emilee Gilpin shifts from role as managing editor into advisor, facilitator and contributor, encouraging others to fill the space and breathe new life into IndigiNews.

I’ve been speaking about the need to drastically change the media landscape in Canada since entering the world of journalism years back. While Canadian newspapers have historically been used as an arm of the state — used to narrate and defend a colonial agenda — ongoing shifts in the country’s political, legal and social tides over the last decade have demanded a new standard of practice for the industry, and IndigiNews has been answering that call.

I was living in Bahia, Brazil, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, when the Discourse Media team reached out and pitched the role of managing editor, for this new independent media project meant to amplify the voices of Indigenous communities in B.C.

We went back and forth on Whatsapp and Zoom, talking about what revenue models would support the platform, how to best reach out to potential reporters, and what the future of an Indigenous-led media platform could look like. I agreed to take on the role for a year, helping to lay the foundation for IndigiNews. As a mixed person (Métis, Filipina and settler/European), I felt uniquely positioned to work with the team. I wanted to really put an anti-oppressive approach to journalism to practice, to help out where I could, to support other aspiring writers, storytellers and journalists, and to be a part of a team with aligned visions and goals.

Now that the year is up, as planned I am shifting my role at IndigiNews. I will continue to support the team as an advisor, facilitator for future training workshops, and contributor. And we are looking for a new managing editor to bring forward their expertise and skill set and continue to support this team of badass storytellers.

This year has been hard, it has been beautiful, it has been inspiring. We’ve all had to adapt and fight to survive this ongoing shape-shifting global pandemic, traumatic news and events, unprecedented climate change and political unrest. In many ways, everything was set up against the idea of starting a new media platform that drastically changed the way things were done, but those of us who stood up to the challenge brought our all.

Last summer, we hired a team of mostly Indigenous women and non-binary conforming people. We started a mini journalism school, bringing in Indigenous journalists weekly to train up the reporters, engaging constantly around the tension of anti-oppressive and trauma-informed approaches to a practice embedded in colonial values and ideals.

I have been incredibly inspired by each reporter who has worked with the IndigiNews team, the stories they have brought forward, the distances they’ve traveled, the tears they’ve cried, the solutions they’ve sought out, the hours we have committed to breathing life into the term “representation matters.” A team of mostly mothers, community members, all with other jobs, responsibilities and commitments, showed up regularly, passionate about changing the media landscape, telling the truth, pushing back against the harmful and inaccurate stereotypes that intentionally exist in this country.

It’s a struggle for any independent media outlet to maintain sustainable revenue streams that don’t inundate readers with advertisements or that aren’t steeped in bureaucratic policies, but we did what we could with what we had available. I truly believe we’ve made a significant difference, contributing to a critical new blueprint for navigating society’s demands from the media in an ethical and meaningful way. 

I’m especially proud of our series on reproductive health, sharing stories about pregnancy, birth, barriers and victories in healthcare for Indigenous families. We investigated the harmful practice of birth alerts signalling a government body to try and silence our investigations. We have written story after story about success, self-determination, reclamation, Indigenous joy, humour, love, grief, resistance, all while hustling to meet the quotas required by the Local Journalism Initiative — a federal program which funds the bulk of our reporting.

Holding truth to power

Despite the odds against us, IndigiNews continues and will continue to make a difference — sharing stories that are otherwise ignored or misrepresented. 

While this year has felt like a year of experimentation on many fronts, we’ve never been clearer on our belief in anti-oppressive and trauma-informed approaches to journalism. And there’s clearly a need for this. 

We are about to host our first trauma-informed anti-oppressive journalism training. When we announced this, we quickly had over 200 people sign up to attend. You know what this tells me? People want to do better and people have more stories to share. Even seasoned journalists are being called to change their ethical standard of practice, to refuse to cause the same harm mainstream media has caused over the last century.

So, while I am stepping into another direction in my career, it is with an open and honest heart that I urge anyone who may be the right fit for this role to apply to be IndigiNews’ new managing editor. While Kelsie Kilawna will take on a new role as cultural editor (or “Senior Auntie as we say in our virtual newsroom), I will shift into a role of advisor, facilitator for future training workshops, and contributor.

IndigiNews stands on the frontlines of the ever-shifting media landscape in Canada, composed of a team of hardworking passionate storytellers who understand the importance of holding truth to power. If you or someone you know may be the right fit to continue to support this good work, please don’t hesitate to reach out. 
If you’re interested in attending our  journalism workshop from Oct. 25-27 — covering everything from trauma-informed reporting from a syilx perspective, journalism 101 for beginners to investigating the future of anti-oppressive media — please submit your email in this form and we’ll be in touch with an email and ZOOM link.


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