May: Defending independent global media

May: Defending independent global media r1 ...

May @ SOVI

Image shows an illustration of a person holding a newspaper. From the newspaper is a sea of different information and people. It shows a banner reading,

Image shows an illustration of a person holding a newspaper. From the newspaper is a sea of different information and people. It shows a banner reading, "Another world is possible!" and people holding signs that read "End the war." Bordering the illustration reads, "Independent Alternative Media Worth Fighting For!" Credit to Ricardo Levins Morales.

FEATURE INTERVIEW

Journalism is fundamental to learning about global crises and human rights. Organizations and individuals working toward sustainable development and justice seek information, context, and explanation from news. Through mainstream media, and newer, alternative forms of journalism, we learn about the world and people outside ourselves. Our feature interviewee knows how imperative this work is.

Dorothy Settles is the co-founder and president of the Vancouver based non-profit publication, Spheres of Influence. After graduating with a degree in International Relations and History in 2020, Dorothy was frustrated with a few things: the lack of extensive and diverse coverage of global issues in mainstream Canadian media, and the lack of accessibility in academia. She co-founded a publication to bridge gaps in understanding, and provide opportunities for young people interested in global issues. Now, Spheres has 80 worldwide volunteers. The publication aims to make learning about global issues more accessible, with a focus on underrepresented stories and marginalized voices.

Spheres of Influence is particularly focused on the global– how do you encourage folks to read news without the local connection associated with traditional journalism?

It’s tricky. A lot of people live in their own bubbles, in their own communities. I do think people are generally interested right now, since the local and global are more intertwined than ever. From pandemics, to climate change, to global refugee flows, we feel how things across the world affect us. We try to constantly emphasize that connection in our articles. It’s also the focus of our upcoming podcast– which will connect Vancouver and British Columbia-centric issues to global ones. For example, our first episode will link the opioid crisis in the Downtown Eastside with the opioid crisis globally, specifically in the Philippines’ war on drugs and how it is policed and criminalized.

Why should readers seek out publications outside the ‘mainstream media’ and how can they do this critically?


Oftentimes, the mainstream media model is about covering the same few issues over and over. Other arguably more pressing issues are swept under the rug. I think it’s especially evident with global affairs, like when you compare coverage of the war in Ukraine with conflict in places like Yemen or Somalia. It’s not as high-interest for the West. Independent and smaller media sources may also do a better job at covering lesser-known, specific topics; I think of The Narwal, Passage, The Breach as examples.

We often consider the role of neutrality in journalism at Spheres. I think many big media sources are hellbent on being as neutral as possible. It’s important to avoid biases that will then triumph over facts, but when you try too hard, it creates an echo-chamber. When you commit to neutrality in covering issues of oppression and discrimination, which most ‘global affairs’ reporting includes, you often benefit the oppressor. That’s something we’re mindful of. We want writers from the regions experiencing atrocities, and we want to be critical. It’s great to read different takes from a variety of sources, as long as the reporting is backed up.

What’s the process to ensure your articles and coverage are more accessible to the average reader?

Each of our articles is edited by two people, including the editor in chief. It’s thorough, and our editors are trained to edit under the assumption that our readers have zero background on the issue we’re covering. If there are unclear terms, explain them. Reference a historical event, then provide context and a description, as well links to background information. We’d like for youth to be able to understand and engage with our work. We also like to mix the explanatory and analysis– with the explanation up top, followed by analysis to dive deeper into the topic.

What are the challenges, and benefits, of operating as a non-profit journalistic outlet?

The challenge and benefit is we’re youth-led, and figuring it all out together. We started Spheres with a passion for international affairs and journalism, but figuring out the business side is a challenge. We are able to hire people this summer, and even managing payroll is hard. It’s a learning experience unlike anything else.

The biggest struggle of being a nonprofit is money, and relying on donors and grants constantly. It’s uncomfortable to ask for money, but we have to do it. Until last week we were entirely volunteer based, though we’re hoping to pay more people moving forward. The upside is that with volunteers, you know everyone here is doing the work because they’re passionate about it. Our team wants to tell these stories, do the research and be part of a positive collective space.

Spheres mentions in its mission that it reports on stories that are less ‘geopolitically sexy.’ How can folks tune themselves in, learn, and act in support of global issues they may have never heard of?

It’s difficult, because what we see within traditional media is limited, and then what we see on social media often repeats that. It requires individual effort to break out, and actively seek different sources. It also requires reflection; ask yourself, “What is happening that I’m not aware of?” Once you do this, it’s easier to stay in the loop.

There are a lot of amazing local newspapers and outlets across the world reporting on their own areas. If you’re trying to learn about a specific region, or issue, look into the local news to see what’s happening and how it’s covered. Listen to the people who are there, because when it gets processed through traditional media, and put through the neutrality filter, it’s harder to see what’s actually happening. One I love is called Frontier Myanmar.

Could you highlight a few articles new readers should check out, to understand the essence of Spheres work?

One of my favourites is Mapping for Justice: How Participatory Mapping Has Furthered Indigenous Land Rights in Guyana by Vaishnavi Panchanadam. It highlights marginalized affected by colonialism, and shows how they’re taking steps to reclaim land. Indigenous groups in the region used traditional knowledge and satellite tech to make maps of their area, and through that, claimed their Indigenous land to protect it. It’s a great story about Indigenous conservation.

Another is Mental Health of Afghan Youth: A Neighbor’s Concern, written by Maham Kamal Khanum. The article interweaves her personal experience with wider explanation and analysis of events in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The premise is that one of her neighbours in Pakistan was an Afghan refugee, and he was experiencing a lot of mental health challenges after fleeing his country. The article explains her personal relationship with this person, then talks more about the war in Afghanistan and how folks are grappling with its legacy. It’s a powerful story.

CHAPTER NEWS

Currently, SOVI is developing our strategic goals and objectives for the year ahead. This process has allowed us to reflect on our past ambitions, our successes as a small chapter, and where we can deepen our efforts. We thank our team, networks, and community for the opportunity and space to strategize and move forward!

The Anti-Racist Community of Practice continues to meet monthly. This space is open to newcomers! To learn more about ARCoP, check out our website. For any inquiries about our programming, reach out to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

RECENTLY

Image shows a photograph of a young person holding a sign at a protest which reads It is not an easy time to be a journalist. This week, the results of the first ever national study on the mental health of journalists in Canada were released. The Taking Care survey found media workers show negative mental health symptoms “far above” the rate of the average Canadian, high rates of trauma exposure, and rampant online harassment. This echoes findings and anecdotes growing for years; in March, The Tyee reported on the barrage of hate campaigns and online attacks specifically affecting racialized and marginalized journalists. Censorship and vitriol seem to worsen around reporting concerning COVID-19, environment, and race– critical issues requiring more attention, not less. Further, journalists are seeing increased attacks and threats in person. Experts warn how this culture of distrust risks press freedom, and careers; the demographic experiencing the worst mistreatment are BIPOC women. On a global scale, the dangerous conditions for journalists was highlighted in the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh, a Palestinian-American Al Jazeera correspondent well known for covering Palestinian and Israel territories. Abu Akleh was killed while covering an Israeli raid in a Jenin refugee camp, and was wearing a press vest. No official investigation has yet identified blame for her death. Though “the dominant narrative, based on eyewitness testimony, places the blame on Israeli sniper fire,” and some members of the international press have called it an intentional killing to silence journalists. We must pay attention, and act to support journalism both locally and abroad, both independent and traditional, to ensure reporters are able to continue their work, which is integral in the fight for human rights, social justice, and democracy.

WHAT'S NEXT...

  • Migration + Resilience = BC: An Untold History I May 27th I National Association of Japanese Canadians

  • Diversity Works! Immigration & Employment in the Capital Region I June 7th I Greater Victoria Local Immigration Partnership
    • Join this event for a conversation about making the Capital Region better for immigrants and employers! Gain better understanding of local labour market challenges, employment barriers for immigrant job seekers, and the opportunities that are generated by a diverse work force.

    • Register for Diversity Works! here.
  • Clean Air Day I June 8th I Canadian Environmental Network
    • This year, Clean Air Day has an important focus on the intersections between air quality, climate action and human health. The goal of this event is to highlight the work of environmental NGOs presenting unique solutions to improve air quality and mitigate the effects of climate change in their region.⁠ Join the effort to mobilize political will and resources to address global problems!

    • Click for details on Clean Air Day.
  • 2022 Women’s Economic Resilience Summit I June 8-9 I Future of Good
    • Women and gender-expansive people have rich histories of resilience in the face of oppression and exclusion. What if they didn’t have to? How might policymakers and social purpose organizations build economic systems that work for women and gender-expansive people? This summit will convene changemakers and speakers working to advance gender equity and economic empowerment from across Canada and around the world.

    • Buy tickets for this virtual event here.
  • Spotlight on Honduras: Women Waging Hope I June 11 I CoDevelopment Canada
    • Honduras is the femicide epicenter of the Americas, and one of the poorest and most unequal countries in the Western Hemisphere. It experiences endemic levels of gender-based violence, narcotrafficking violence, and poverty. Women have organized to defend public services and workers’ rights and fight sexism and gender-based violence. This event brings together Women Waging Hope in sweatshops and classrooms, in homes and on the streets.

    • See details for this fundraiser, here.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

“Journalism can never be silent: that is its greatest virtue and its greatest fault. It must speak, and speak immediately, while the echoes of wonder, the claims of triumph and the signs of horror are still in the air.”

- Henry Anatole Grunwald

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SOVI is based on the stolen lands of the Lək̓ʷəŋən Peoples (known by the colonial name of Victoria, BC). To contact us directly, please write us at r34.

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