My birthday wish: Support alternative media

Posted by in Alt Media

altmedia_kittyToday is my birthday, and my birthday wish—aside from health and happiness for my friends and especially my family—is for widespread and even sustained! support for alternative and independent media, especially from the anniversary wish-list below.

Every time we buy a Globe and Mail newspaper or watch any Canadian news program on television we are tacitly, if not consciously, supporting the status quo. The status quo, at least in Canada, currently consists of a government aggressively pursuing an economic agenda that favours corporations over people and the environment, and mainstream media that serves as cheerleaders for that agenda.

Capitalism is in a protracted state of crisis, and the structural violence, inequality and injustice inherent in that system remain invisible, washed over or camouflaged by a corporate and mainstream media determined to uphold a culture of consumption, complacency and individualism.

But there is an antidote!

To change the system we need a raucous and continuous chorus of intelligent critique, analysis, alternative ideas, dialogue and community-building.

Therefor it is my wish that every single person I know (and every person they know) supports one of the following incredible alternative and independent media projects by donating, sustaining or signing up for a subscription, where offered.

For those of us with demanding jobs and family life that have little to no time to volunteer or get involved in progressive politics and civil society, there is another kind of meaningful involvement that will have a real impact: supporting those who dedicate, often with little to no pay, their time to making the kinds of media that are pushing for that very change we want to see.

It just so happens that 2013 is a special year for alternative and independent media in Canada, with a handful of publications and initiatives celebrating anniversaries this year: Canadian Dimension turns 50, Briarpatch 40, POV 25, The Dominion and Cinema Politica each mark a decade.

And even though Bitch magazine isn’t Canadian and turns the not-so-nicely-rounded-number of 17 this year, I’m also including them as today is their last day to reach a major fundraising goal.

Supporting independent and alternative media isn’t an act of charity, it’s a way to engage with progressive forces for change as well as a way to move that change forward, side by side with those daring and generous enough to do the hard work of creating media that challenges the status quo, critiques the mainstream, imagines a better world, and crucially, helps to build that world.


The oldest of all other alt print in Canada, CD has defied all expectations (especially on the right) and prospered for 50 years without a rich benefactor, corporate money and little government grants.

A repository of progressive journalism, leftist thought, socialism and labour, CD has grown from a Winnipeg basement project run by a few activists to an impressive quarterly focusing on labour, the environment, aboriginal issues, and the many social movements that have driven progressive change North of the 49th.

I especially look forward to the “Around the Left” periodic roundup of coast-to-coast-to-coast progressive events and projects in Canada.

With the likes of Leah Horlick, Dawn Paley, Clayton Thomas-Muller and Yves Engler picking up from the course charted by Judy Rebick and others, the magazine shows no sign of relenting its sharp critique of capitalism and its thoughtful explorations of the world of alternatives that grow through the concrete cracks of corporatism like powerful weeds. Pick up the 50 Year Anniversary Issue and discover for yourself what this foundational media outlet is all about. Pick up a subscription here.


Close behind Canadian Dimension in years is Briarpatch Magazine, a scruffy upstart hatched in the prairies in 1973. BP shares many qualities with CD, but differs slightly in the way it focuses on politics and culture. Where CD offers more straight up reportage and social justice analysis, BP includes more content that is situated at the intersection of politics and culture. With photo-essays, artwork, and fiction peppering solid critical analysis, social movement solidarity reportage and investigative journalism, the magazine has something for everyone.

Like CD, BP also serves as a forum for young and emergent voices, perspectives and talents. The “fiercely independent” magazine makes no claims on objectivity and is happily polemic and extends media solidarity in its pages, captured by this quote from their about section: “Briarpatch is not just devoted to reporting on social movements — it’s committed to building them.” The magazine is also bi-monthly, and is reader-supported (no corporate or government interference). Like Canadian Dimension, the magazine does rely on major advertising revenue from Canadian labour organizations. Subscribe to the magazine here or consider making a donation here.


POV Magazine turned 25 this year, and anyone who has an interest in, or love affair with, documentary, quietly celebrated the achievement. A magazine devoted to independent documentary media and culture, POV can be bought and read online, delivered to your door, and comes with a subscription to the Documentary Organization of Canada.

High caliber writing, sharp wit and unique perspectives on documentary culture, community and industry, POV is the best documentary magazine you’ll find anywhere.

With an allergy to fluff pieces and shameless corporate promo, this stalwart of non-fiction cinema brightens my reading schedule with each delivery. Subscribe to POV magazine here.


The Dominion is a Canadian progressive journalism project that lives up to its tag line: news from the grassroots. Started ten years ago as a singular website and small print publication, The Dominion has grown into a network of news and journalism cooperatives across Canada, all gathered under the umbrella of “The Media Coop,” a member-owned network with seven operating member-sites.

Collectively operated, reader-supported, uber-accessible, and relentlessly progressive, this media initiative has consistently provided news and critical analysis that you won’t ever find in your mainstream, corporate media providers (but should, damnit!).

The Media Coop tirelessly works to make news-making accessible and non-hierarchal (anyone can become a contributor), while constantly fundraising to stay afloat. It’s really a miracle that this alternative journalism project, the only one of its kind in Canada, has survived for ten long years — nestled on the fringes of mainstream and corporate news, its a constant uphill struggle to find audiences in a mediascape saturated with marketing-driven news (private, corporate) and free-to-air banal and liberal state news (CBC).

Consider supporting The Media Coop in their current fundraising drive, subscribe to the Dominion (have it delivered to your door), or better yet! take advantage of this offer to subscribe to both The Dominion and Briarpatch at once, for a major discount.


This list just wouldn’t be my list if I didn’t take the opportunity for some shameless promotion of a project near and dear to my heart. My partner, Svetla Turnin, and I have been duking it out in the independent film trenches for ten years now, running Cinema Politica, a network of screening locations that screen independent political documentaries. As CP turns ten we’re looking back wondering: where did the time go, how did we make it this long, and will we last another ten?

CP is the largest community and campus-based documentary screening network in the world, but don’t let that fool you: we’ve done it on a shoestring, and it’s worked because we’ve allowed it colonize our lives. But most alternative media workers and organizers keep the lifeblood of projects going because they are passionate and committed, even massicistic. Still, many projects have failed for these very reasons, where too few are doing too much with too little.

We’ve survived this long because of our own efforts, those of all the volunteers and people who work with us, the filmmakers who are close to gods for us, the independent distributors who get us (you know who you are Women Make Movies, F3M, NFB!!), Arts Councils, and our supporters. We have our monthly sustainers, who generously give a little each month and this keeps us going, not just financially, but emotionally.

We’d love to have your monthly sustaining contribution, or just a random small act of kindness — both can be executed here.


Bitch magazine is religiously read in our household and it is one of the best examples of alternative media out there. Fusing activism with analysis, critique with experience, and feminism with everything, Bitch is indispensable for deconstructing patriarchy, capitalism and the lamestream, while also adventuring into the netherworlds of feminist thought, action and culture. Yesterday the magazine was less than $2,000 away from reaching their goal of $25,000 and therefore having that figure matched. Today, they are likely nearly there, so time is of the essence! Considering donating or subscribing to Bitch magazine.


So thanks to all who support and sustain alternative and independent media, and if you don’t, please consider taking the step today. Once you do, you’ll likely never go back!! And remember, it’s my birthday wish…

PS:  Shameless Magazine, an awesome publication for young women and trans youth out of Toronto, turns 10 next year and Art Threat, an online magazine devoted to the intersection of politics and art that I helped co-found (with Rob Maguire) started seven years ago. So many choices…