For more than a decade, Observer Media Group has led the digital re-invention of Canadian media, driven the national conversation on energy and climate change, and made history as the first all-digital publication to win a National Newspaper Award and a Michener Award citation. And our Democracy and Integrity Reporting Project placed us at the centre of Canada’s battle against online misinformation and electoral manipulation. Observer Media Group owns Canada's National Observer.
Canada's National Observer publishes investigative reporting, in-depth analysis, solutions journalism, multi-media features, opinion and daily news coverage. We pursue stories that seek to identify and explore problems in society. We also cover success and innovation to ensure that decision makers and members of the public are empowered to make informed choices. We have a special focus on how governments and industry make decisions as well as the factors that influence their policies.
Founded in March 2015, CNO strives to meet a high standard of ethics and to build trust and a loyal, engaged audience through transparency, accountability and evidence-based reporting. We are committed to producing journalism that is accurate, fair and complete, and our journalists strive to act with honesty, transparency and independence, including from conflicts of interest. We correct errors and provide significant clarifications quickly and prominently. You can find our ethics policy here.
Canada’s National Observer is a member of the Trust Project consortium. Through its ongoing collaboration with the public and top news executives around the world, and with the support of big search and social media companies, National Observer works with The Trust Project on defining both public-facing and technical standards for quality journalism using standards that can be easily understood. It is an acknowledgement of our ongoing commitment to diversity fairness and accuracy in our reporting. Find out more about The Trust Project and National Observer here.
We believe knowledge is an asset and that the public depends on journalists to bring them accurate, timely information. This information provides people with the wherewithal to make important decisions and to engage with society's challenges. We believe in the power of investigative reporting to improve the lives of Canadians. We ask hard questions, check facts, reveal and correct mistakes when we make them, and listen to feedback from our audience.
We aspire to make our publication gender-balanced, to give women and those identified as nonbinary or LGBTQ a voice as sources and as subjects of stories, and to have our sources, subjects and images reflect Canada's diversity. We recognize that we do not always live up to our own aspirations and regularly discuss how to make improvements. We are ambitious about our work as a journalism organization.
We believe in climate action now, in challenging the status quo, and in focusing resources on stories that move the dial.
Readers and subscribers are Canada's National Observer's lifeblood. We believe that public feedback is not a one-way street -- that is, simply publishing your comments or letters. We are committed to engaging with you and taking action based on your suggestions, complaints and other feedback. You may help us develop an individual story or line of coverage, answer questions that a story may raise, identify related or under-covered issues, and teach us about new and diverse sources, experts and perspectives.
In line with this, we are committed to providing greater transparency about our journalism and offering regular points of contact and interaction. We believe that news organizations have a responsibility to engage with the public on the values, issues and ideas of the day, and that we have much to gain in return.
We use a variety of programs and techniques toward this end. Our programs include a virtual interview series focused primarily on thought leaders in the climate movement, podcasts, as well as public events in Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver. Our events are participatory.
Founded in 2015 by Linda Solomon Wood, Canada's National Observer broke new ground in May 2017 when it became the first digital-only news site ever to win a National Newspaper Award. The award came in the business reporting category for Bruce Livesey's reporting on the Irving family of New Brunswick. When Livesey's 8-part series entitled 'House of Irving' won the National Newspaper Award, Tracy Glynn, who. was editor of New Brunswick Media Co-op, said that "National Observer is changing the media landscape in Canada, showing that business can be reported on in a way that has the public interest at heart, which is the task of journalism."
We landed as a finalist for the Michener Awards, which are given by the Governor General at Rideau Hall. This is one of the highest honours in Canadian journalism and National Observer was the first online-only publication ever to have received a Michener citation, as a result of Mike De Souza's reporting on dysfunctions in the regulatory process governing the proposed Energy East pipeline.
CNO was honoured by the Canadian Online Publishing Awards in the following categories: 'Best News Website' in Canada, 'Best Column or Blog, 'Best Continuing Coverage of a Story,' and 'Best Photo Journalism.' In November 2016, the COPAs named us 'Independent Publisher of the Year," and gave us top awards in the following categories: 'Best News Coverage', 'Best Digital Solution,' and 'Best Column or Blog,' for associate editor Sandy Garossino's powerful and popular commentary. National Observer ranked second in COPA's all-Canada competition for 'Best News Website,' right behind the Toronto Star, and has received numerous nominations for investigative journalism awards from the Canadian Association of Journalists.
In 2019, for their reporting on 'How Alberta kept Fort McKay First Nation in the dark about a toxic cloud from the oilsands,' Emma McIntosh and Mike De Souza were honoured for a collaboration with The Toronto Star by the Canadian Association of Journalists for human rights reporting. We also received a second Michener citation, this time as part of a large collaboration with journalism schools, Le Devoir, and Global News, and The Centre for Investigative Reporting at Concordia University on The Tainted Water series, which exposed high levels of lead in drinking water in cities across Canada. In 2019, Sandy Garossino was honoured again by The Webster Awards with a nomination for best column of the year in British Columbia.
For a complete list of awards and nominations, go here.
Climate Desk & Other Collaborations
Climate Desk is a multi-media journalistic collaboration dedicated to exploring the impact—human, environmental, economic, political—of a changing climate. The partners are: The Atlantic, Atlas Obscura, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, CityLab, Grist, The Guardian, High Country News, HuffPost, Medium, Mother Jones, Canada's National Observer, Newsweek, Reveal, Slate, The Weather Channel, Undark, Wired and Yale Environment 360. Climate Desk was convened by Mother Jones in 2009 and has provided climate coverage to a global shared audience of over 300 million. National Observer joined the collaboration in 2018.
"For one thing, more hands on deck and more outlets mean we can do more coverage, bringing our various strengths and audiences to bear. Partner outlets have broader access to climate coverage from many of our partners and an opportunity to have a bigger reach for their own work. We also occasionally collaborate on stories, whether it’s an investigative story, a United Nations conference, or a television special on the 2020 election. Plus, given the transformation of the media business, collaboration is part of the future of journalism," Climate Desk explains.
We also partner with the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto, The Toronto Star, Concordia, Ryerson, UBC and other universities on investigations.
We belong to the National Newspaper Association and to independent media association Press Forward.
Observer Media Group was incorporated with the launch of Vancouver Observer, a hyper-local publication founded and edited by Linda Solomon Wood, which grew from a community blog into a news site publishing award-winning reporting and covering issues in communities across British Columbia.
Observer Media Group is a corporation, registered in British Columbia. We chose this financial structure because we believe that treating journalism as a business makes us more innovative and forces us to strive to create a unique, exceptional publication. Linda Solomon Wood is the majority shareholder. Eleven independent investors also hold shares in the company as well as long-term team members.
In July 2016, the company launched its paywall with a goal of becoming reader-funded. Our success in charging for our journalism gives us confidence and allows us to continue to improve and expand our journalism capabilities. Subscription sales accounted for fifty percent of our revenue in 2019. These sales come from individuals and universities, The Government of Canada, foundations, NGOs and ENGOs, businesses and associations. The remainder of our revenue comes from fundraising campaigns for special projects and a tiny fraction from advertising.
We have no financial safety net, nor have we ever had one. We typically operate with a 3-6 month financial runway with an imperative to persistently inspire more people to subscribe and support our journalism. It is an enormous, but worthwhile challenge within a tumultuous and competitive environment. Financial realities compel us to go head-to-head for subscribers and donors with iconic publications like The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Guardian, as well Canada's established corporate and independent news media. Nonetheless, we intend to cover 100% of our operations through subscription sales inspired by excellent journalism within the next few years. We are well on our way to meeting this goal–– half of our operations were covered by subscriptions in 2020––thanks to thousands of readers who bought subscriptions or gave subscriptions as gifts. Although about a third of our articles are offered for free, we are otherwise a pay-walled publication. Our product is public service journalism.
In July 2019, Canada's National Observer was accepted to participate in The Trust Project, after a rigorous audit of our fact-checking processes, transparency and ethics that took more than a year. The Trust Project is a global consortium of news organizations that implement standards called Trust Indicators to help audiences evaluate the quality, integrity and reliability of journalism.
Our masthead includes Editor-in-Chief Linda Solomon Wood: started her career at an enterprising newspaper in Nashville as an investigative reporter; her reporting led to national reform in the insurance industry; Managing Editor Adrienne Tanner: In 2001, she joined the Vancouver Sun as assignment editor. She then became city editor where she helped transform the newspaper to a digital publication. She served as deputy editor from 2012 until 2017, overseeing the investigative team and political reporters; Deputy Managing Editor David McKie: 2020 winner of Canadian Association of Journalism Charles Bury award for outstanding contributions to Canadian journalism (his second Bury award), spent two decades at the CBC, was part of a team that won the Michener Award for its Taser coverage, most recently worked as a producer for Power and Politics: considered the top data journalist in Canada, Afternoon Managing Editor Dana-Filek-Gibson, who joined National Observer after working for two years on the Global News copy desk.
Survey results show National Observer readers to be active, engaged thought leaders who view the world through the lens of progressive and humanistic values.
Canada's National Observer's seed funding came from two Kickstarter campaigns: 'Reports from the Energy Battlegrounds,' and 'Reports from the Race Against Climate Change' and equity from Canadian social impact investors and convertible loans. We continue in this tradition, returning to our readership to raise money for specific areas of coverage about twice a year. As we are not a charity, we are not able to issue tax receipts for these generous and important gifts. We do report back to donors large and small on the reporting their gifts made possible.
We collaborate with a number of foundations to produce in-depth coverage of journalism that we could not afford to do otherwise. As with all of our journalism, we retain full and complete editorial control of all of our reporting. We publish the names of foundations we work with on the project pages of the stories we produce with them. We've collaborated with the following foundations and companies on journalism projects:
First Nations Forward: BC Real Estate Foundation, Vancity Credit Union, Vancouver Foundation, Victoria Foundation, Catherine Donnelly Foundation, Echo Foundation, Community Foundations of Canada, I-SEA, the Koerner Foundation, the Canadian Centre for Journalism and the Donner Canadian Foundation. Canada's Clean Energy Transition: The Ivey Foundation, Trottier Foundation, and Vancity Credit Union. The Gordon Foundation: reporting on water. United Way of Lower Mainland (for Syrian refugee reporting in 2016); Vancity, Teck Inc. and Tides Canada (for Great Bear Rainforest reporting in 2016); Earthways Foundation (for environmental reporting in 2015) and Tides US (for general reporting in 2015). In a recent round, Observer Media Group attempted to raise one million dollars but fell short of the goal, selling $750,000 in shares at a $5 million valuation, working with the SVX platform housed at MaRS in Toronto. Shortly thereafter, Earthways Foundation made a convertible loan of $100,000 to help National Observer implement its marketing plan.
Observer Media Group was invited by The Canadian Journalism Foundation to participate in The Facebook Journalism Project's 2019 Accelerator on Audience Development and to receive a $100,000 grant to implement learnings from the accelerator. We received support from Heritage Canada's Canadian Periodical Fund in 2018. In 2019, we partnered with the European Union on a panel on climate change and have another panel planned with the EU, on climate change and a green recovery, this time on Zoom, for the fall of 2020.
In 2020, we received grants from The Government of Canada's Local Journalism Initiative for reporting from Quadra-Cortes Islands (local reporting), Ottawa (federal policy regarding Vancouver and B.C.), Vancouver (food security) and Toronto (civic society and youth). We have received other business-relief assistance from the Government of Canada during the Covid-19 pandemic that we are deeply grateful for.
I-SEA recently received $60,000 in support in the spring of 2020 from The Ivey Foundation and the Trottier Foundation for collaborations with the Canadian Centre for Journalism and Canada's National Observer for reporting on a green stimulus package for Canada and $20,000 from the Donner Foundation for reporting on Indigenous stories in Ontario in 2021.
Observer Media Group's reporters unionized and the company became part of The Canadian Media Guild in 2020.