Discourse Media, a digital news media company founded on the traditional territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm, Skwxwú7mesh and səl̓ilwətaɁɬ / sel̓íl̓witulh peoples, has reached an agreement to acquire Sun Peaks Independent News Inc. Local news publisher Brandi Schier will become CEO of Discourse Community Publishing, bringing The Discourse, IndigiNews and Sun Peaks Independent News under one umbrella.
“I’m thrilled to join this group of inspirational journalists,” says incoming CEO Brandi Schier. “These exciting changes allow us to take our community reporting into its next chapter, well resourced and equipped to continue to lead the journalism industry, while maintaining a lean and effective business model and journalism practices built on community trust and connection.”
Discourse Media, which recently won seven Canadian Online Publishing Awards, has been on a mission to contribute to a more sustainable and equitable news ecosystem since its founding in 2014. In 2018, the company pivoted to local news and launched The Discourse Cowichan, innovating a new model for in-depth news in underserved communities. It has since expanded The Discourse in other B.C. communities and adapted its model to create a storytelling space for Indigenous communities by launching award-winning IndigiNews in partnership with the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network. In 2020, Discourse Media spun out a subsidiary, Indiegraf, to help other independent media grow community-powered journalism. To date, Indiegraf has partnered with more than 50 independent news publishers across North America.
Sun Peaks Independent News is celebrating its 20th year of publishing as the sole newspaper serving the community of Sun Peaks, located on the traditional and unceded territory of the Secwépemc peoples in the interior of British Columbia. Sun Peaks Independent News was one of the first publishers to partner with Indiegraf in early 2020. When COVID-19 arrived, local advertising revenues plummeted and Sun Peaks Independent News rapidly shifted from a print and advertising model to digital and membership so it could continue serving its community. The company continues to operate under a hybrid revenue model and has expanded its journalism throughout the pandemic.
“Since we began working with Sun Peaks Independent News, I’ve admired the essential role it plays, informing and bringing together its community,” says Erin Millar, co-founder of Discourse Media and CEO of Indiegraf. “Brandi Schier’s innovation and steady-handedness has been key to its growth in the most challenging of times. Our family of news publications will be stronger by walking this journey together, and Brandi brings the savvy feminist leadership that will support us to make a major impact on the local news ecosystem in Western Canada.”
As part of an equity and cash deal, Discourse Community Publishing will become a majority owned subsidiary of Discourse Media Inc. Erin Millar and Jean La Rose, CEO of Dadan Sivunivut, will serve on the board of Discourse Community Publishing. The deal is expected to close within four weeks.
Under Discourse Community Publishing, operational changes will create new opportunities for collaboration and shared resources between the outlets. Jacqueline Ronson, lead reporter who developed The Discourse Cowichan, will become Managing Editor, supporting the network of publishers while continuing to serve the Cowichan Valley as an editor and reporter.
“To have a growing family is so important,” says Jacqueline Ronson. “The ultimate goal is to raise the bar for community journalism not just in our publications but everywhere. I’ve already seen that happening in Cowichan. Others are doing better because they see us doing better.”
Shalu Mehta will become a lead reporter for The Discourse, building on her community connections on Vancouver Island. Tegwyn Hughes joins the company as Community Editor, to add digital publishing capacity. Nanaimo editor Lauren Kaljur is supporting the company’s expansion into new B.C. communities. Lindsay Sample, executive editor of Discourse Media, is taking on a new opportunity while becoming a part-time advisor to Discourse Community Publishing. Eden Fineday recently joined IndigiNews as its new Business Aunty and Partnership Lead to expand its work. Kelsie Kilawna has become the team’s Senior Aunty and Cultural Editor.
“I’m proud to be joining this powerful team of women,” says Eden Fineday. “Traditional newsrooms have not been welcoming to Indigenous people and our worldviews. IndigiNews is disrupting the traditional newsroom by being a space where it’s safe to bring our whole selves to our storytelling. In doing so, we hope to give Indigenous Peoples representation; a place where they can see themselves reflected back and be proud. We’re also sharing our traditional knowledge and cultural wisdom with all of our readership, thus contributing to stronger communities through allyship.”