It is with mixed emotions that I announce to you today that Mike De Souza is leaving Canada’s National Observer for a job with the investigative team at Global News. Three years ago, when Mike came to work with us — not quite a year after National Observer launched — we could never have imagined that the organization would grow as much or as quickly as it has to become as important and significant as it is today in Canada.
I know that the core strength of National Observer comes from you, the thousands of readers and subscribers who encourage our work, who understand the urgency of what we’re trying to do and who believe in the power of journalism to protect our democracy and hold corporations and government accountable to ordinary people like you and me. Particularly now, as we are headed into a federal election and when the window is closing on our opportunity to lessen the climate crisis, our joint mission of keeping the environment we live in front and centre in the national conversation is so pressing. The information atmosphere is clouded as never before by disinformation and our job as journalists has never been more pressing.
In his time at National Observer, Mike really took our mission to heart and made a significant difference with his reporting from coast to coast on a range of issues. In countless investigations, he exposed weak government oversight of the oil and gas industry and he uncovered inappropriate actions by federal officials involved in the review of major pipeline projects such as Energy East and the Trans Mountain expansion. After winning honours for multiple awards, including a Canadian Association of Journalism award for investigative reporting as well as a Michener Award Citation of Merit, Mike has also brought distinction to his work with other reporters, providing invaluable mentorship and editorial support, and putting ethics, accuracy and fairness first. This has helped to define who we are as a company and, as a publication, and I’m so appreciative of this.
I’ll never forget witnessing Mike’s excitement as he went to a post office in a convenience store on a quiet street in Gatineau, Quebec, and the smile on his face as he came back out with his arms full of documents he’d just received as a result of a Freedom of Information request. You wouldn’t have believed what was on Mike’s desk in terms of the pile of documents containing revelations meant for urgent national investigations still waiting to be written. He never had enough time, once he chose to become managing editor, to pursue all of those investigations himself. So he began working with reporters individually and multiplying his impact.
Perhaps in the last three years you have heard me talk about the way it took Mike days, weeks, sometimes even months, to pore over these documents to piece together stories that revealed problems in government oversight and official processes. You’ve probably heard me describe Mike as a rock star in Canadian journalism. That is who he is, and I know he will continue to rock in his new position with Global.
I am certain that he will carry forward into his new job what he has learned from all of you and from the challenges we’ve faced and overcame together over the last three years, and that he will make us all even prouder in the future. The journalism world in Canada is small. I’m happy that we will remain part of the same extended community as colleagues and friends and perhaps, at some point again, as collaborators.
Meanwhile, every time we produce a story revealing the facts about climate change or the environment, or disinformation, every day we publish a story that has impact and that no other publication would have produced, we show that the light of truth burns brightly — and that it isn’t going to be extinguished by those who choose to look away from, or even intentionally attempt to cloud the truth. That gets down, once again, to all of you.
I am encouraged by knowing that Mike is going into a job where he will continue to ensure that journalism’s mission as protector of truth and defender of democracy only strengthens in Canada.
Canada’s National Observer stays the course
As editor-in-chief, I promise you that National Observer will continue its important investigative reporting on corporate influence on the economy, while also holding the government accountable to promises and goals on carbon reduction, encouraging Canada to lead in the fight to stop runaway global heating. We will continue our reporting on Doug Ford’s cuts to the policies protecting the environment in Ontario, the ongoing pipeline debate in British Columbia, the threats to multiculturalism Quebec, on First Nations successes, and disinformation in the federal election and beyond.
There is so much important work that remains to be done, and I intend to ensure that National Observer punches above its weight to lead the way.
As editor-in-chief, I will now begin the process of looking for Mike’s successor. I look forward to the future, with the support of the stellar reporting team Mike and I have built over the last few years which includes Carl Meyer, Fatima Syed, Emma McIntosh, Alastair Sharp, Caroline Orr, Stephanie Wood, and columnist Sandy Garossino.
During this process, Carl will become interim managing editor, responsible for coordinating news coverage. We hope to have a permanent managing editor in place in the coming months, so Carl can return to reporting on climate policy using the knowledge he has honed over years of working with Mike in our office near Parliament Hill. We are also looking for a new reporter to join Carl in our Ottawa office.
The only thing we can really count on in life is change, so although it is with regret that I share these changes with you, I also celebrate the opportunity and growth this transition brings us.
Thank you for your loyal support. I leave you with a few words from Mike below.
Linda Solomon Wood
Canada’s National Observer
A Message From Mike De Souza
Dear readers and subscribers of National Observer,
At around this time three years ago, I got a phone call from Linda.
The situation was serious.
She told me that we had run out of money and would be shutting down operations at the end of August.
We had just set up digital subscriptions, asking people to pay for access to our content, but only had a couple hundred people who actually signed up and wanted to pay.
I told her that there was still much important reporting to pursue and that I would do what I could to keep the lights on, even if it meant working for free for a few months.
We continued to discuss options and, a few days later, we had another conversation about how we could move forward.
I offered a few more suggestions about strategy, and then noticed I had a beep coming in on my call waiting from a Calgary phone number associated with the National Energy Board, Canada’s pipeline regulator.
I also noticed an email landing in my inbox at that moment with the words “apology from the NEB” in the subject line.
I must confess that I have no idea what else Linda said during that conversation, since I immediately opened up the email and began to read it.
I then gave her a brief summary of the email and explained that I would have to hang up and start working on the story right away. It was a big one.
The NEB had claimed, one month earlier, that nothing inappropriate happened at those meetings. But when I obtained internal documents and handwritten notes from the meeting showing that they hadn’t told the truth, they were forced to apologize.
They had discussed an active review of the proposed Energy East pipeline project privately, behind closed doors, even though their review was supposed to consist of public and fair proceedings.
We published the story. There were protests, and the members involved, including the regulator’s chief executive officer, were forced to recuse themselves from the process. This caused the suspension of hearings into the multi-billion-dollar pipeline project — the largest ever to be proposed in North America.
National Observer kept publishing after that. We cut salaries and reduced our operating budget, sadly saying good-bye to a few talented colleagues. We continued producing exclusive investigative pieces for the remainder of 2016, with only one other full-time reporter on staff, Elizabeth McSheffrey.
A flood of you responded in the thousands by signing up and subscribing. You told us that you valued in-depth, investigative reporting of issues that matter. You helped keep the lights on for investigative journalism.
Three years later, the lights are still on at National Observer and we are shining them on Canada’s democracy as this small but mighty media outlet continues to grow.
We’ve recruited some of the strongest emerging journalists in North America — Carl Meyer, Fatima Syed, Emma McIntosh, Alastair Sharp, Stephanie Wood and Caroline Orr.
We set the agenda every day with groundbreaking, in-depth investigative reporting. It is journalism that is changing and perhaps saving lives. The momentum we have is powerful and it will continue as the country heads into a general election.
For those of you who have subscribed to follow my work, I’d like to thank you and encourage you to help our team carry on this work with your ongoing subscriptions.
Personally, I also plan to continue supporting the work of my National Observer colleagues, joining you as a subscriber.
If you haven’t yet done so, now’s your chance to subscribe and help sustain National Observer’s never-ending quest for truth.
I leave to pursue a new challenge in journalism, but I am confident that the staff is capable and determined to carry out National Observer’s mandate. I know that all of them are going to step up and seize this opportunity to be leaders of Canadian journalism in a time when our democracy needs it the most.
Mike De Souza
Managing Editor 2016-2019