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A letter from the editor

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Issue: 13 Section: Accounts Geography: Canada Topics: dominion, media

January 13, 2004

A letter from the editor

by Dru Oja Jay

Last February 15th, between eight and 12 million people protested Bush's imminent war on Iraq around the world. There are very few standards by which it was not an event unprecedented in all of human history, but the Globe's front page the following day featured a photo of Tiger Woods teeing off.

The Globe pays attention to the smallest rupture in US-Canada relations (four front page articles covered the infamous "moron" remark), while things like the civilian death toll in Iraq are hardly touched upon.

The Globe and Mail is not unique in this sense; newspapers that sell their audience to advertisers must actively cater to higher-income readers. It is, apparently, well-known that front page coverage of protests has a negative effect on sales. Newspapers that need to turn a profit must turn to various replacements for journalism - wire stories, superficial coverage, polls, celebrity coverage - in order to keep "healthy" profit margins. Journalists regularly file two to five stories in a day, making it quite impossible to peek, much less delve, beneath the surface of any given story.

* * *

The Dominion set out to respond to this state of affairs productively by offering not only a peek at stories not covered by for-profit papers, but a different kind of coverage altogether. Being an advertising-free, not-for-profit newspaper, The Dominion can look at stories in more depth, and from a different perspective.

We are able to decide what is important outside any particular set of interests. What, then, is important? Speaking as the editor of International News and Features sections, the most important issues facing humanity seem to be: the African AIDS crisis, massive economic inequality and the concentration of corporate power, environmental destruction and climate change, and mass movements working to gain access to basic needs like a living wage, food, water, health care and shelter... in roughly that order, though each of those issues is closely linked with all of the others listed.

Most conspicuously missing from the list is profit. Effective distribution of wealth (food, for example) that already exists is far more important than creating more wealth on both global and local scales. Because wealthy people are generally much more interested in making more money than in the redistribution of wealth (those that believe otherwise are unlikely to stay wealthy), it is understandable that newspapers which don't pay homage to economic growth as humanity's unquestionable top priority are few and far between.

The Dominion seeks to present a healthy challenge to these assumptions and others. Despite those who would tend to marginalize the Dominion as "left wing," challenging ingrained assumptions can only benefit discourse in Canada as a whole.

* * *

That said, the Dominion's approach to journalistic priorities has problems of its own - it is a work in progress. We welcome discussion on the assumptions we make, and how our coverage can be improved.

For the past eight months, the Dominion has successfully published twelve issues on a budget of $0. We have established that we are capable of producing a quality publication on a regular schedule. Now, we'd like to expand our efforts to include a serious distribution network, coverage of labour and native issues, public discussions of media ownership, and the promotion of participatory media across Canada. For these, we need your participation and support: please consider buying a print subscription to the Dominion, or make a small donation.

As a non-profit organization, the recently incorporated Dominion Newspaper Society will be supporting a number of exciting efforts to build and support grassroots journalism in Canada and worldwide.

We also need your input on how to keep improving the Dominion. Why do you read the paper? What do you miss when you read the paper? Let us know.

I'd like to briefly draw attention to a similar effort south of the border. The New Standard (newstandardnews.net) is an ambitious and exciting effort to build a worldwide progressive news organization. We'll be watching closely.

Thanks for reading,

Dru Oja Jay
Coordinating Editor

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The Dominion is a monthly paper published by an incipient network of independent journalists in Canada. It aims to provide accurate, critical coverage that is accountable to its readers and the subjects it tackles. Taking its name from Canada's official status as both a colony and a colonial force, the Dominion examines politics, culture and daily life with a view to understanding the exercise of power.

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