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 is the owner of Canada's National Observer.
Canada's National Observer (CNO) publishes investigative reporting, in-depth analysis, solutions journalism, multimedia 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 acknowledgment 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 non binary 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.
Information is power
A slow, silent calamity demands a daily response.
CNO believes that journalism has a key role to play in speeding the world’s transition to climate safety. At CNO we do this by empowering Canadians with accessible, reliable information through solutions journalism, investigative reporting, and visual analysis. Our goal is to inspire and empower Canadians to take strong action as consumers, voters, and citizens to protect all living beings, not in the distant future, but now. We believe good journalism can help move the dial in society beyond paralysis to action. It is our job to help people answer the question: what can I do? Every day, we focus our reporting on the escalation of global warming and its impacts, but also on the solutions to climate instability in cities, provinces and at the federal level.
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.
CNO broke new ground in 2017 for digital-only media when it received a citation from the Michener Awards, which are given by the Governor General of Canada 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. The citation was for reporting on dysfunctions in the regulatory process governing the proposed Energy East pipeline.
It happened again the same year when CNO became the first digital-only news site to win a National Newspaper Award. The award came in the business reporting category for reporting on the Irving family of New Brunswick. The 8-part series entitled 'House of Irving' won the National Newspaper Award and Tracy Glynn, who was editor of New Brunswick Media Co-op at the time, 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."
Linda Solomon Wood was included for 3 years in Harvard Nieman Lab’s ‘smartest people in journalism’ list and received an award for entrepreneurial innovation from the Vancouver Board of Trade in 2016.
Previous honours have been numerous. 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.
We 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 by The Webster Awards with a nomination for best column of the year in British Columbia.
CNO received a nomination in 2021 for 'Best Environmental Reporting' from the Webster Foundation awards for Marc Fawcett-Atkinson's reporting on plastics in Canada.
In 2022, we won a second National Newspaper Award.
This time the honour came in the 'best column' category for Karyn Pugliese's 3 brilliant pieces on the history of residential schools in Canada. The same year we were also nominated for National Newspaper Awards for reporting award for 'Friends with Benefits' (with Toronto Star) on influence of developers on Doug Ford and the Greenbelt as well as honourable Mention at Canadian Hillman Prize award for 'fearless journalism' for 'Friends with Benefits (with Toronto Star). We were also nominated for top award in big media category, excellence in journalism, Canadian Journalism Foundation, with Institute for Investigative Journalism and collaborators across Canada for series on water and for the Climate Solutions Reporting Award.
Sandy Garossino and Max Fawcett were finalists in 2022 for the Digital Publishing Awards of the Magazine Association of Canada for best columns.
In 2023, Canada’s National Observer’s The Salmon People was named a Webby Honoree in the 27th Annual Webby Awards.
Hailed as the “Internet’s highest honour” by The New York Times, the Webby Awards are presented by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences (IADAS), the leading international awards organization honouring excellence on the Internet.
“Honorees like The Salmon People are setting the standard for innovation and creativity on the Internet,” said Claire Graves, president of the Webby Awards. “It is an incredible achievement to be selected among the best from the nearly 14,000 entries we received this year.”
The podcast, which is a co-production between journalist Sandra Bartlett and CNO, tells the story of a 30-year battle to save Canada’s wild salmon. The investigation takes listeners into the waters off Vancouver Island, where juvenile wild salmon travel past fish farms on their way to the ocean. Over the years, fewer and fewer have been successful in making the journey to the ocean and returning to spawn the next generation. The podcast follows biologist Alexandra Morton as she uses science to show that diseases and organisms from fish farms are having a deadly impact on wild salmon.
"The Salmon People" is also nominated for the best in Canada for "overall excellence" in the Canadian Foundation for Journalism award for small media.
Cloe Logan’s hard-hitting expose, “Investigation: Past safety violations loom large over the reopening of Canadian coal mine,” has been nominated for an Atlantic Journalism Award in the Enterprise/Longform category. Cloe’s nation-rocking investigative reporting is up against the CBC and the Atavist Magazine in this category and is one in a three-part series. (Be sure to check out Part 2 and Part 3, too.) She is a fellow in the Metcalf Foundation’s 25th annual science immersion workshop for environmental journalists.
Our reporter Matteo Cimellaro, based in Ottawa, was honoured by the Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ) with a nomination for its Emerging Indigenous Journalist Award. Matteo’s reporting, “Native American Journalists Association bars New York Times from its conference over harmful coverage,” was one of the stories that earned him the nomination.
Marc Fawcett-Atkinson and former CNO reporter Jessica McDiarmid’s piece, “Right-wing operatives masquerading as local grassroots groups on Facebook,” has been nominated for a CAJ award in the coveted Scoops category.
The Atlantic Journalism Awards and the CAJ will announce the winners in mid-April.
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.
Ownership structure, funding, more collaborations and editorial independence
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, reader-funded publication. Linda Solomon Wood is the majority shareholder. Eleven investors also hold shares in the company as well as long-term team members, present and former.
Although about a third of our articles are offered for free, we are otherwise a pay-walled publication.
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 Publisher 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;Editor-in-Chief Karyn Pugliese: spent 8 years as head of news at Aboriginal People's Television Network, Harvard Neiman Fellow, CBC managing editor of investigations;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, and he worked as a producer for Power and Politics: considered the top data journalist in Canada;Associate 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.
Funding for big topics
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' (now retitled, 'Race to a Safer World') 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 2022-2023, CNO's Climate Solutions Reporting Project has received support from seventeen foundations including McConnell, Endswell, Ivey, Trottier, and Vohra-Miller foundations, among others; the complete list and description of the projects we produce as part of this urgent journalism can be found here.
In 2019, 2021, and 2023, CNO partnered with the European Union's Delegation to Canada to produce panels featuring EU climate officials and Canadian ministers discussing how the two countries can help each other and learn from each other, reduce dependence on fossil fuels and shift to a clean economy.
In 2020 through to the present, we have received grants from The Government of Canada's Local Journalism Initiative to support reporting from Quadra-Cortes Islands (local reporting), Ottawa (federal policy regarding Vancouver and B.C.), Vancouver (food security-support ended in 2020-2021 only), Toronto (civic society and youth) and in 2022, Urban Indigenous Communities in Ottawa. We have received other business-relief assistance from the Government of Canada during the Covid-19 pandemic and are deeply grateful for this support.
Learn more about CNO's team here. In 2019, CNO's reporters became part of the Canadian Media Guild and we signed our first collective agreement in June 2022.
We work with more than sixty freelance journalists across Canada, as well as independent photographers and filmmakers. Since we began publishing we have hosted pieces by more than 1,000 experts on policy and society.
CNO advisory board
Denise Williams, Stephen Huddart. Esther Chetner, Wendy Cooper, Fiona Conway, Edward Ngai, Margery Moore, Evan Hu, Andrew S. Wright, and Geraldine Baum.