#5 Not For Profit – The Media Co-op and Rabble.ca

Posted: February 16, 2011 by Adam Hodnett in #5 Not for Profit

Rabble.ca informed me that the CEO of Goldman Sachs, Lloyd Blankerfein tripled his salary from $600,000 to $2 million during the Egyptian uprising. Rabble.ca is a Canadian nonprofit, independent media source that has been making a point lately of giving attention to important news that have been overshadowed by Egypt.

Rabble.ca and the Media Co-op, are the two major nonprofit news sources that I know of in Canada, and they both strive to report on issues neglected by the “mainstream media.”

I use to be confused as to what “not for profit” really means. When Greenpeace is rumored to give out half of its funds in salaries I always wonder how that didn’t count as profit. The reality is that “nonprofit” really just means that they don’t pay out their surplus. The salaries can still be huge. So I’m always skeptical about the “nonprofit” label, but I’m glad to see it in conjunction with “Co-op,” like the Media Co-ops of Canada.

There are Media Co-op “Locals” in Halifax, Toronto, and Vancouver. They all have roughly the same website, but put up articles relevant to their area. (The NB Media Co-op is a separate organization, but they do share stories with the Media Co-op and have members active in both organizations.)

The Media Co-op is member-run and is “formally organized as a solidarity cooperative (also known as a multi-stakeholder co-op) with three kinds of members: readers, contributors and editors,” according to their website.

They put out one monthly print publication called The Dominion, on top of their web publications. You can download the PDFs from the site, and they encourage you to give it away for free.

As a point of principle they are funded entirely on reader donations. They’ve been putting out the Dominion since 2003, so it seems to be working for them. But I don’t think they have a regular paid staff.

I do know that they pay $100 an article, for two articles a month. Their guidelines are online and they push for “grassroots” reporting.

“Grassroots” means that for each topic we cover, we talk to the people directly affected by policies or activities first. Once a journalist thoroughly understands the story of those directly affected and has time and resources left over, she brings their questions to those making the decisions: politicians, corporate executives, and so on.

They also encourage anyone to write, which may be their weakness.

There’s something unappealing about the layout of Media Co-ops and The Dominion, and I often don’t get very far into the articles. I’ve always loved the idea of them, but lately I’ve been paying less and less attention. I think this is largely due to being a volunteer based organizations. Good journalism requires training and practice, and the ability to keep our attention online requires clever designing. That’s not to put them down—during the Olympics and the G20 I was checking their sites daily, and I often find very interesting articles from their RSS feed. I’m also impressed that they exist to begin with.

But for me, Rabble.ca picks up where the Co-ops drop off. They don’t put out a print publication, so they rely entirely on the website—which is far more appealing than the Co-ops. They’re also more progressive. They have their “Babble” section, which is basically a forum to encourage interaction amongst the visitors. They have a Podcast section where they aggregate Canadian podcasters. And they have Rabbletv, which is their official video channel.

I’ve been saying for years how if a Canadian version of Democracy Now were to come out, it would probably be involved with Rabble. They seem quick to adapt to any changes on the Internet, and they seem to have more resources, mostly because—unlike Democracy Now—they do sell advertisement.

I’m not sure why advertising is usually deemed unethical—as long as those managing advertisement are separate from the writers, I don’t see a problem.

Unfortunately, I don’t really consider either of these sites to be extremely high quality, but they are nonprofit, and they are learning how to operate with the internet.

Here’s a video from the Media Co-op:


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