Canada, Montreal: Dominion

"The Dominion" has been providing Canada with "news from the grassroots". They shed light on issues ignored by the Canadian mainstream.

The editors. Bild: Dominion

The Dominion has been providing Canada with "news from the grassroots" since its birth as a campus-based project in Halifax in 2003. It was originally run by a not-for-profit organization as a weekly paper. In 2008 we founded the Media Co-op, which now publishes the Dominion every two months in Montreal.

In addition to the national coverage delivered by the Dominion in print, on the Media Co-op website, we also provide local coverage for four Canadian cities: Montreal, Toronto, Halifax and Vancouver. We shed light on issues ignored by the Canadian mainstream, corporate press, and provide alternative angles on current affairs.

The Dominion on the market

With its Canada-wide coverage of our bi-monthly Dominion we face competition from such national media goliaths as pro-business weekly Maclean's and the right-leaning daily The Globe and Mail. With our frequently updated local online editions, we attempt to challenge the hegemony of daily papers in the respective cities, like the Vancouver Sun or the Toronto Star.

In recent years we have been able to double the number of Dominion-subscribers from 300 to 600. About an additional 100 copies are sold at newsstands. Our online edition counts around 50,000 unique hits a month. We have a strict advertisement policy, limited to small, socially and environmentally sustainable businesses or co-operatives.

Revenue from ads contributes only around 4% of our annual $120,000 budget; 40-50% comes from subscribers and private donations, the rest from government subsidies and private grants.

Our readership consists to a large part of young, politically engaged urbanites, particularly in the cities with local coverage, as well as anybody seeking the kind of in-depth, critical coverage that the mainstream press does not provide.

What distinguishes us

Our guiding principle is to prioritize the voices of those on the front lines, directly affected by the decisions of the powerful. For example, we have put a special focus on the impacts of large industrial projects, such as the Alberta Tar Sands, on indigenous ways of life and communities.

During and after the G20 summit in Toronto in 2010, which saw the biggest mass arrests in Canadian history, the Dominion investigated issues of policing and civil-rights. Women's emancipation, GLBTQ-rights and free-trade agreements have been other topics under scrutiny. Our national editorial collective consists of 4 part-time staff. In addition there are three paid managerial positions.

All contributors work on a freelance-basis; the editors allocate compensation to some, and select the work to be published in print in the Dominion. In 2007, the Dominion was the first Canadian publication to dedicate an issue to the Alberta Tar Sands. The Dominion has also made a name for itself investigating the practices of Canadian mining companies, which dominate that industry globally. Our main challenge

Our biggest challenge is financing. Around half the budget is currently made up of government subsidies, and their availability fluctuates significantly from year to year. Another problem is insufficient visibility on the market.

We would like to shift our main source of revenue from grants and subsidies toward subscribers. That would not only provide a more stable financial base, but also increase ties with, and accountability to our members, thus further democratizing the organization.

We would also like to increase local coverage of west-central and northern Canada, by establishing local online editions for those regions. Where we want to be in five years In five years, we will hopefully have 7-8 cities with local editions, as opposed to our current 4 cities. We would also like to publish the Dominion every month, to be able to compensate contributors more adequately and to pay all staff a living wage.

The Co-op

The Media Co-op is a multi-stakeholder-co-operative, with three member categories. First, there are about 600 subscribing members, who pay $15 a year or more if they so choose, for the delivery of a paper copy of the Dominion. Subscribing members can vote in the Annual General Meetings.

Last year the Media Co-op pioneered a participatory budget process, in which all members could vote on what should be financially prioritized. Second, there are about 100 contributing members, that is, the freelance-writers of the content. Anybody can contribute to the Media Co-op. Contributors ‘earn' their membership by publishing two or more original articles or illustrations a year.

Third, there are 10 editor members. Six of the editor members are paid staff, while the other four are volunteers who put in a minimum of 10 hours of work a week. Editor members participate in a wide range of activities at the national and local levels, from editing articles to logistics and administration.