By Tim Kitz and Ashton Starr

Media matters. Governments are more corrupt and unaccountable without strong media to report on them, for starters. More importantly, story-telling is one of the only ways the exploited can level the playing field against those oppressing them.

The consolidation and monopolization of traditional media (newspapers, TV and radio news, mostly) has only served as a prelude to their slide into irrelevance and insolvency. With no competition and no need for substantive journalism, real local representation, or innovation, traditional media were easily picked off by insatiable tech companies who thought disruption and breaking things was a virtue.

We’ve previously traced how the development of Postmedia/Torstar’s reciprocal monopoly back in 2018 left the “Local Media Landscape Shredded.” Suffice it to say that eliminating local competition did nothing to increase the relevancy or solvency of the remaining media. Today, somehow, local papers like the Ottawa Citizen and its national parent Post Media shuffle on like zombies who lost their purpose, demanding sustenance from governments and tech companies. But we don’t want to just curse the darkness here at The Leveller. We want to point to bright points of light.

See, we don’t just create media at The Leveller, we’re fans of media — the good stuff, anyways. And we want to share that good stuff with you! So, until The Leveller becomes a daily newspaper — powered by utopian AI content mills, presumably – here’s what you can read to feed your curiosity and desire for justice.

News From So-Called Canada

The Breach is an adversarial media outlet with a large team of veteran activists and leftist journalists. Their site hosts critical news pieces and impressive audio-video components, putting to shame the short-form sound-bites offered by mainstream news channels.

Ricochet does indie/leftist media right — or “public-interest journalism,” as they like to call it — with news coverage that isn’t afraid to be opinionated or take sides. We only wish they would publish more. (To be fair, we wish we would publish more too!)

Rabble does similar “community-drive journalism” with more of a homespun feel. They can sometimes be a bit earnest and dry, but they are also good grassroots news in the best sense.

Rank and File reports from the metaphorical and literal picket lines of Canada. They share stories of workers engaged in industrial and labour actions, while analyzing the corporate affairs that lead to those strikes and lockouts. We also appreciate the annual announcements of Scumbag of the Year, a communal nomination and voting tradition that pits the country’s business leaders against each other in a search for the country’s very best exploiter.

Press Progress, a news division of the Broadbent Institute, is a non-profit organization that focuses on Canadian political and institutional investigations. We might roll our eyes at their predictable cheerleading for the NDP, but their reporting has repeatedly blown the lid off the clandestine and unscrupulous practices and relationships of Conservative and Liberal politicians, business partners, staff, and activists. 

Canadian Dimension and Briarpatch do fantastic work in magazine-style journalism. Midnight Sun and Upping the Anti are high-quality journals respectively featuring deep analysis for socialists and radicals.

With the motto “academic rigour, journalistic flair,” The Conversation is well-worth paying attention to. It’s probably the best of a series of next generation media organizations — along with The Narwhal, which focuses on environmental journalism and Indigenous land defence.

Speaking of Indigenous land defence, Warrior Publications continues to relentlessly compile  stories of Indigenous resistance across Canadian territory, while casually scorning any source who objects to the reposting their material.

Finally, we must pay our respects our ancestors! Trent University’s Arthur, an irreverent student and community paper that provides long-form news and critical perspectives, was an inspiration for starting The Leveller. Justin Podur provided advice that remains foundational in our Writing Guide, and to this day he maintains the Anti-Empire Project website. His Anti-Empire Radio podcast involves deep and informative dives into colonialism past and present from an implicitly Canadian perspective, even if he sometimes features odd guests with bad predictions.

More Podcasts!

Speaking of podcasts — everyone’s new favourite way of consuming media, including ours — Canadaland is an essential podcast surveying Canadian politics and critiquing media from a relatively progressive and definitely power-challenging perspective. Even devoted supporters seem to have a love-hate relationship with Jesse Brown, the brash host of the Canadaland show. Brown got his start with an underground student newspaper as a teen and first broke the Jian Gomeshi abuse scandal in 2014. He founded Canadaland in 2013 as a one-man operation and has overseen its growth into a whole network of podcasts and a general hub for investigative journalism.

The best of these has to be Canadaland’s ongoing documentary series Commons. Hosted by Arshy Mann (mercifully), Commons is profoundly eye-opening and blood-boiling. With whole seasons devoted to Canadian dynasties, mining, policing, real estate, monopolies, and corruption, it’s worth listening to every episode in their archive — if you can stand having any notion of ‘Canada the good’ systematically shredded.

The Women’s War is a now-finished must-listen podcast series on the Rojavan revolution in northern Syria. We’re baffled that leftists aren’t talking every day about this feminist, ecological, anti-authoritarian revolution — a revolution and model for the 21st century, we’d argue, as opposed to the tired and historically-discredited Marxist revolutions of the 20th century. This podcast by Robert Evans is a great way to get to know this revolution.

If you can’t get enough of leftist podcasts, Harbinger Media Network hosts a massive list of socialist  podcasts with some sort of focus on Canadian political issues and culture. Meanwhile, the Channel Zero Network aggregates anarchist podcasts and radio shows; our pick of the litter would be From Embers, Crimethinc’s Ex-Worker, and Indigenous Action. (Crimethinc and Indigenous Action also have great websites hosting tons of radical resources that go back decades; From Embers is more modest but also more relevant, being produced right here in Ontario).

States of America & the World

Democracy Now is good for U.S. news — and international stories, to some degree — with a structure that resembles a traditional TV or radio news hour. 

Youtube channel Some More News covers similar ground but from a younger and more irreverent perspective. Host Cody Johnston acts as a parody of a newscaster while delivering pointed deep dives that are somehow both fun and depressing. Nobody better explains the dystopian hellscape we’re sliding into with black humour and occasional flashes of hope. 

American Prestige is an impressively informative podcast that frequently cuts through the haze of ignorance and bullshit when it comes to international news and US foreign policy in particular. 

We’d love to add some good sources for non-American international news from a leftist or power-challenging perspective here. (If you know of any, please recommend them to us so we can list them here!) The Guardian and BBC News tend to have better international coverage than anything mainstream in Canada or the US, but a UK perspective is already real close to how things look from here.

Outposts in a Local Wasteland

Capital Current is trying to do Ottawa news well but with not a lot of resources – we can sympathize but do wish it was a little stronger. Ottawa Life Magazine and Frank are idiosyncratic rags of varying quality, but publish some fun and important stuff. We don’t like how Frank buries too much of their content behind a paywall online, but their printed magazine has a trash aesthetic we can’t help but admire — and point and laugh at.

Centretown Buzz, the Glebe Report, and Kitchissippi Times are enthusiastic and worthwhile neighbourhood papers. They provide more than just boosterism — though there’s still plenty of that, there’s also fine-grained coverage of local planned developments and community happenings.

Phew, you made it! Have a tasty beverage and a laugh

It’s also important to keep a sense of humour! Leftist journalism can be so serious — at its worst, in fact, it can be downright pretentious and self-righteous. To remedy that, The Beaverton and Walking Eagle News are hilarious palette cleansers. Their headlines and little parody articles can hit harder than the most long-winded, closely-investigated work of serious journalism.

All in all, we hope this media tour has left you feeling enlightened and encouraged. We think of all these organizations as comrades not competitors and want to build with them — and you! — an alternative media and culture that can critique, resist, and overcome oppression everywhere.

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