UPDATE: August 19th, 2016
As many of you are aware, my deadline of August 1st to discontinue the service of the Northern Hoot has come and gone. Though I have only achieved 25% of my revenue goals in the past six weeks, I am heartened by the encouragement from the readership as well as their support. Readers will also notice that the Northern Hoot has the endorsement of a few new advertisers and I am confident that I’ll be introducing more backers over the next few weeks. This support has pushed back a potential closure and keeping up the momentum that has gathered over these past weeks will ensure the sustainability of the Northern Hoot. Please encourage your favourite businesses to check us out! Many thanks to everyone who has come forward to cheer me on and to make a financial contribution towards the success and growth of the Northern Hoot. I was not prepared for the kindness of words and actions, and I am grateful.
Steffanie Petroni, Founding Editor, Northern Hoot
The article below was originally published on July 4th, 2016
When I launched the Northern Hoot on July 28th, 2014 I had a simple goal: to provide in-depth coverage, when other media outlets couldn’t or wouldn’t, about urgent social, economic and environmental matters in Sault Ste. Marie and Northern Ontario. I believe, and as an exploding readership affirms, there is need for an alternative news site that provides a platform for stories considered too controversial or risky for other publications to take on.
My vision for the Northern Hoot was inspired by one mother’s loss of a daughter to undiagnosed mental health issues and a drug addiction. Two and a half years ago there wasn’t a home for this piece- as one Sault Ste. Marie lawyer put it to a potential publisher, the story was ‘fraught with legal concerns’. In short, in a small town like Sault Ste. Marie the story was too controversial, there were too many key players involved. And more so in Northern Ontario, where news sites traditionally acquire their revenue through advertising sales, this piece had the ability to rattle a few chains, upset cohorts and offend significant advertisers. At the end of the day, accountability was to business, not to journalism, not to the truth -in my humble opinion. The story was dropped and didn’t see the light of day until its publication ten months later on the Northern Hoot. The Jacquilynne Gray story is among the most viewed pieces on the Northern Hoot today.
For almost two years, the Northern Hoot has gone beyond ‘regular news’, tailoring stories to the personal needs of the community and Northern Ontario. The Northern Hoot is a balanced publication offering fun pieces about blueberry farms, wild food foraging and tiny houses, and provocative pieces about green energy, hunting regulations and economic development. Most importantly, the Northern Hoot gives a voice to people, who are by the larger majority, considered marginalized and otherwise may not be heard. Prostitution, crime, poverty, child molestation, addiction and mental health have been difficult topics to write about but they are pressing issues in Northern Ontario that are overdue meaningful attention.
Over the past several months, I have been overwhelmed with writing requests from across the region. People have flooded me with their fears, frustrations and anger and require a platform for their story and someone to write it. I am the only editor and the only full-time writer developing 90% of the site’s original content. I simply cannot take on all of these requests by myself and I mentally shudder to think that perhaps these untold truths and undiscovered stories might remain hidden, buried beneath the unfairness and corruption that dictates what is newsworthy. Once, it was you –the reader, who decided that.
Living and working in a small Northern Ontario community, I’ve had plenty of dismaying opportunities to witness firsthand how the truth can be stifled and manipulated until the facts become entirely their opposite. Even more unsettling, is that few people feel safe enough to call it out. Getting to the truth can be gruesome and lonely.
In a digital era where ‘media’ is ubiquitous, subjective and free, the expectation for a news standard has been watered down by a society that is distracted, lost in a sea of infotainment and current affairs. News outlets are competing for clicks, struggling to keep their head above water –today it’s about surviving, not swimming upstream.
What journalists require to fearlessly break open the truth is a society that demands the truth. What the Northern Hoot requires to continue offering quality, alternative journalism that pushes the boundaries, is support from the readers.
It is with a broken heart I must share that the service of the Northern Hoot will no longer continue should a viable revenue stream not be established by August 1st, 2016.
I love what I do and I love my community. I want to continue supporting this region as a journalist. And more than that, I would like to see the Northern Hoot expand beyond just myself. I’m hoping to hire other journalists that can bring a new perspective to the site. But today, I can’t pay even the most basic bill. If the Northern Hoot cannot be sustainable, for my sake and my family’s sake, I have to walk away from it, which is the last thing I want to do. This is why I’m appealing to my readership to support the Northern Hoot, to support independent and alternative journalism that is not beholden to big business and politics.
The Northern Hoot readership has mushroomed almost overnight, indicating that you, the reader, also believes that the Northern Hoot as an alternative news source is worthy of investment. If loyal readers could make a recurring monthly donation of any amount, I believe this platform will survive. Recurring monthly donations provide me with a steady income, giving me peace of mind while I write and someday, the ability to hire regular contributors.
It’s easy to do. If you can make a recurring monthly donation, just click here. Once you’ve done that please encourage your friends to do the same. If you’re a potential advertiser or if you would like to be a Northern Hoot sponsor please contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org or 705.975.0574.
I believe that quality journalism should be accessible to everyone regardless of their ability to pay for it. That is why I am depending on donations from readers, not subscriptions, to develop the economic foundation for the Northern Hoot.
To the readers who have generously made donations and to the advertisers who have recognized the value of the Northern Hoot over the past two years –thank you.