Indiegraf, the Vancouver-based startup helping small digital news publishers serve diverse and underserved communities, is the recipient of the inaugural Canadian Journalism Foundation (CJF)-Facebook Journalism Project Digital News Innovation Award.
The new $10,000 prize recognizes initiatives by news organizations that advance the quality of digital journalism and power the medium’s future.
Led by sisters Caitlin Havlak and Erin Millar, Indiegraf was established last May by The Discourse founders. The network of independent journalism entrepreneurs and community-owned publishers aims to help digital startups in so-called “news deserts” by pooling resources to reduce the cost of technology, distribution and marketing.
Indiegraf launched with seven partner publishers, including The Discourse, Sun Peaks Independent News, Peterborough Currents, IndigiNews, La Converse, Spark YQL and APTN News. By the end of last year, it had grown to serve 18 publishers in 23 communities. Thanks to investment from New Media Ventures, a U.S.-based fund focused on innovation, Indiegraf is now also working with publishers stateside.
“Even in a strong field of contenders, sometimes there’s one application that stands out from the rest,” said jury chair Susan Harada, associate professor of journalism at Carleton University’s School of Journalism and Communication, in the CJF announcement. “For the jury, it was Indiegraf. Its work—powered by a public-spirited desire to provide meaningful local journalism to Canadians—is underpinned by the foundational belief that journalism exists for the greater good.”
The Canadian Press and Glacier Media Group received honourable mentions. Glacier Media, headquartered in Vancouver and serving Western Canada, helped its legacy community media sites provide timely COVID-19 information by text for hard-to-reach audiences in rural and remote areas—such as migrant farmworkers and Indigenous communities—via a tool called Subtext. Glacier was the first news outlet in Canada to use the tool for this purpose.
The Canadian Press addressed the pandemic data-reporting challenge presented by new statistics rolling out across the country, requiring constant updating, by launching a new tool generated by its Digital Data Desk. The tool gathers, automates and presents numbers in a time-efficient, coherent way in English and French, freeing up reporters to tell the stories behind those numbers and allowing newsrooms across the country to drive their own reporting.
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