Objective Journalism in the Online Age: Paramount or Pipe Dream?

The traditional ideals of journalism are under siege, colourfully illustrated during John Oliver’s entertaining diatribe on modern journalism on Last Week Tonight. In particular, the idea of objectivity – one of the cornerstones of journalistic integrity – is in flux in the online age. This is especially relevant in regards to headlines, which media outlets are beginning to be laxer with allowing their bias to show in. In an ideal world, the public should be presented with the unbiased facts that they need to come to their own informed decision, but this type of coverage is becoming more and more rare.

There is a plethora of considerations in regards to online publishing that go beyond objectivity and good writing, but in turn influence those two concepts. Headlines in an online age must keep in mind Search Engine Optimization (SEO), click-through rates, and the fact that traditional journalism has to be competitive with think pieces written by citizen journalists – which can be more appealing to share online and therefore can go viral. If mainstream journalists include buzzwords in their headlines, which are more likely to be Googled or shared, they may be adding bias to the piece – whether that bias is intended or not.

More than occasionally, social media users share or retweet articles based solely on the headline, without ever having read the article itself. Caitlin Dewey, for the Washington Post, reported on a study by computer scientists at Columbia University and the French National Institute which stated that “59 percent of links shared on social media have never actually been clicked: In other words, most people appear to retweet news without ever reading it.” Given that Facebook’s algorithm favours the posts that are most interacted with, these blind shares help determine what others read on their newsfeeds. Even for those who do click through to the article itself, studies show that they are unlikely to read it in full. In these cases, when consumers are forming opinions based solely on headlines and/or short summaries, any explicit bias in a headline becomes far more important than the editor or journalist who chose it may have originally intended.

When Oxford Dictionaries announced “post-truth” as its 2016 international word of the year, it was unsurprising in a time embroiled in emotions in regards to Brexit and the US federal election. Post-truth is defined by Oxford Dictionaries as an adjective “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” Living in a post-truth society, it is perhaps unsurprising that mainstream journalism is struggling against a tide of “fake news” that can be at best annoying and mischievous, and at worst, propagandistic. The Washington Post reported on Russia’s involvement with the fake news cycle during the US election, saying “[t]he Russian campaign during this election season … worked by harnessing the online world’s fascination with “buzzy” content that is surprising and emotionally potent, and tracks with popular conspiracy theories about how secret forces dictate world events.”

It must be noted however that the idea of “buzzy” content is not unique to fake news, with sites like Buzzfeed dominating the online world using clickbait-y headlines that promise “You Won’t Believe” what is contained in their articles (or listicles.) So, if these are the headlines that have the average web user clicking through to an article, how can the mainstream news media compete without abandoning the original ethical principles journalism? Further, should they even be “competing” at all? To take it a step further, when the news being covered hits passion points for the journalists reporting on it, should they be allowed to take a personal stance if they feel it is important? For example, criticisms of Donald Trump’s stances on immigration. Perhaps we need to look back to allow us to move forward.

The Idea of Objectivity and Bias in Mainstream Journalism

Objectivity and bias are oft debated topics in the world of journalism and ethics, going back much, much further than the 2016 election cycle. Some, like Walter Lippmann, argue that objectivity is paramount to an informed population, while others claim that it is impossible to truly avoid bias and that it is lazy for journalists to not use their investigative skills to present the public with fully formed opinions. In cases of social justice issues, the lines between what bias is acceptable becomes blurred.

So, can journalism ever achieve true objectivity? As Robert McChesney said in his essay “That was Now and This is Then: Walter Lippmann and the Crisis of Journalism” for Will the Last Reporter Please Turn Out the Lights “institutional and human biases are unavoidable, and the starting point is to be honest about it” (159). In Liberty and the News Walter Lippmann said that “the really important thing is to try and make opinion increasingly responsible to the facts” (38).

In the essay “A Test of the News” that Lippmann co-authored, he also referred to the public’s perception of the news as “a widespread and a growing doubt whether there exists such an access to the news about contentious affairs. This doubt ranges from accusations of unconscious bias to downright charges of corruption” (Lippmann and Merz 1). However, the main omission to this rule is when the news that audiences are consuming aligns closely with their own pre-existing biases. In The News: A Users Manual Alain De Botton argues the dangers of personalizing the news. That is, audiences only paying attention to subjects that are already of interest and in line with their current beliefs. The tendency to seek out news that confirms standing notions and ideologies rather than challenges them is something that becomes a risk of a society that consumes media passively. Yet, when topics that are overwhelming seen as negative are covered, for example racism or homophobia, does it become okay to allow this bias to creep into the coverage of such events? Chris Hedges, in his essay “The Disease of Objectivity,” said that aiming for objectivity takes the journalist away from empathy and passion, and distracts them from one of the main abilities of reporting: a quest for justice. These are all things society should theoretically be striving towards.

What Would Walter Lippmann Say?

Robert McChesney, who I quoted in the previous section, is a scholar and professor, concentrating on the history and political economy of communication with a particular interest in journalism and self-governance. During his essay “That was Now and This is Then: Walter Lippmann and the Crisis of Journalism” he addresses many common criticisms of Walter Lippmann’s popular works, such as claims of him being elitist and “anti-democracy.” Most of the piece, however, focuses on Lippmann’s lesser known works that deal directly with journalism: “A Test of the News” an essay co-authored with Charles Merz, and Liberty and the News, a short book.

Lippmann was a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, writer, and political commentator, who was outspoken in his views regarding journalism’s role in democracy. He is best known for his works Public Opinion and The Phantom Public. However, McChesney argues that the importance of “A Test of the News” and Liberty and the News is magnified by the fact that they were written at what he calls “the climax of the last truly great defining crisis for journalism” (McChesney 153). This lends to a feeling of them being intensely timely and “of the moment” for the 1920’s. And this is, of course, relevant to today because we are now in another defining crisis for journalism.

The main issue of the day was the emerging trend towards organized propaganda, or what we now consider public relations. Lippmann referred to the public’s perception of the news at the time as “a widespread and a growing doubt whether there exists such an access to the news about contentious affairs. This doubt ranges from accusations of unconscious bias to downright charges of corruption” (Lippmann and Merz 1). With the rise of fake news, and further the fact that media is relying on native advertising and content marketing to fund online publications, these same doubts are once again becoming realized.

In “A Test of the News” Lippmann focuses on the New York Times coverage of the Russian Revolution from 1917-1920. He was upset with how the news was colored by “the wishes, distortions and lies of [anti-revolutionary] forces as gospel truths” (McChesney 153). The New York Times was particularly guilty of being misled by its reliance on the government as an official source of information. The frightening implications of such a system led Lippmann to propose that journalism not be considered a private enterprise, but as a public institution, and therefore suggested that public money should be used to improve its quality.

Lippmann, somewhat surprisingly given his socialist background, had no class analysis when evaluating the state of the commercial news system. He did not “entertain the idea … that those with property and privilege greatly benefited by an ignorant and ill-informed populace.” (McChesney 155). To him, the power of the news was in the hands of the editors, not the publishers. On that particular note, McChesney commented that Lippmann did not take into account how the concerns of said publishers influenced who became the editors, which fairly clearly shortsighted.

Lippmann particularly respected C.P. Scott, publisher and editor of The Manchester Guardian. After his death, his family placed The Guardian in a nonprofit trust, to “preserve the financial and editorial independence of The Guardian in perpetuity while its subsidiary aims are to champion its principles and to promote freedom of the press in the UK and abroad” (McChesney 176). Today, The Guardian is still widely read and respected around the world.

Despite his support of The Guardian becoming a nonprofit newspaper, Lippmann was not actually calling for all news media to adopt the model. Instead, he was calling for them to change course from the current status quo, and to embrace professional training. He called for standards of “the highest quality of factually accurate and contextually honest information unpolluted by personal, commercial, or political bias” (Lippman and Merz 41).

In his work Lippmann wanted to stray away from society remaining “dependent upon untrained accidental witnesses” (Lippmann 46). However, it seems that we are currently moving closer towards that again, with the rise of citizen journalism, which quite often invites personal biases.

Despite common criticisms of being elitist, Lippmann was determined that for the news media to succeed in changing for the better, the public needed to become more loudly involved. “Change will come only by the drastic competition of those whose interest are not represented in the existing news-organization” (Lippmann 60).

He posed the following as “jobs” for the reporter:

  1. Ignore bias (personal or otherwise) to ensure an accurate understanding of events
  2. Operate under, and enforce, a professional code of honor.

Under these guidelines, schools of journalism boomed after World War I, and “the notion that the news should be unbiased and objective became commonplace” (McChesney 158).

However, McChesney pointed out that somehow the current standard of professional journalism in the United States has “veered dramatically from the core values [Lippman] prescribed” (McChesney 158). He cites the coverage of the lead up to the War on Terror as a large example of the presses tendency to take the claims of the government at face value.

Knowing the history and context of Lippmann’s works, we must acknowledge that his vision is not entirely feasible in a world ruled by the commercialism he disregarded. The resources that Lippmann’s theories relied on are no longer in place, and instead we are left with what McChesney calls the shambles of commercial journalism in a significantly monopolistic news media system.

What Should We Be Aiming For?

In the case of news stories related to social justice, where empathy and passions are more likely to be involved, it becomes a question of if the news has an obligation to report as objectively as possible, or if reporters can fulfill their personal, moral obligation to express distaste towards subjects such as homophobia and racism. When it’s a topic that is overwhelmingly seen as outdated or distasteful, should journalists be allowed to show their bias as long as it does not affect accurate and fair reporting? Potentially, emotional decisions could be made, leading to inaccurate reporting being posted online. In the days of the Internet, tides of public opinion can change quickly. With the rise of citizen journalism and the blogosphere, opinion being touted as fact is becoming increasingly common, and the mainstream media (especially in regards to news reporting) should be held to a higher standard of objectivity.

This is not to say that journalists cannot follow their passions and take up the mantle for a cause like Chris Hedges recommended. Rather, they just must keep journalistic integrity in mind while doing so. Perhaps rather than trying to remain wholly objective, they should be trying to examine more angles than just the standard two disparate ones that journalists look for to prove they are unbiased. While standard news writing does not allow for in depth analysis due to both word counts and time constraints, reporters such as the late David Carr of the New York Times are champions of well-researched, dogged investigative reporting. Acknowledging that a certain amount of bias is unavoidable, and doing their best to align opinion with fact is integral to journalists keeping the public informed on world issues while staunching the flow of rampant misinformation. For society to progress beyond issues of sexuality and race, which should be outdated and obsolete, it is important to have passionate whistleblowers who have the skills and training necessary to get to the heart of the story.

The crucial lessons in Lippmann’s works remain relevant today, no matter the format journalists are publishing in ­– online or in print. The relationship between journalism and democracy, and the importance of the public’s role in holding them accountable, remain. Therefore the difficult, but not impossible, mission of creating an independent fourth estate is central to ideas of self-government and freedom. Despite journalists’ bias and feelings of moral obligation, the mainstream news media must do their best to maintain unbiased coverage. Presenting the facts of a news event without using language that leads their reader to a conclusion, but rather allows the reader to come to their own, is one of the main purposes of media coverage. Citizen journalism can be extremely biased and one-dimensional, and as such, it is increasingly important for the mainstream news media to remain unbiased in their reporting. If the tendency towards bias can be ignored by professional journalists, mainstream media has the potential to infiltrate the Internet with better researched pieces.


Works Cited

Botton, Alain De. The News: A User’s Manual. New York: Pantheon Books, 2014. Print.

Dewey, Caitlin. “6 in 10 of you will share this link without reading it, a new, depressing study says.” The Washington Post 16 Jun 2016. Web. 25 Nov 2016.

Hedges, Chris. “The Disease of Objectivity.” Will the Last Reporter Please Turn Out the Lights. New York: New Press, 2011. Print.

Journalism: Last Week Tonight with John OliverLast Week Tonight with John Oliver, HBO, 7 Aug 2016.

Lippmann, Walter and Charles Merz. A Test of the News: An Examination of the News Reports in the New York times on Aspects of the Russian Revolution of Special Importance to Americans, March 1917 — March 1920. New York: New Republic, 1920. Print.

Lippmann, Walter. Liberty and the News. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Howe, 1920. Print.

Maksym Gabielkov, Arthi Ramachandran, Augustin Chaintreau, Arnaud Legout. “Social Clicks: What and Who Gets Read on Twitter?.” ACM SIGMETRICS / IFIP Performance 2016, Jun 2016, Antibes Juan-les-Pins, France. 25 November 2016.

Manjoo, Farhad. “You Won’t Finish This Article.” Slate 6 Jun 2013. Web. 18 Nov 2016.

McChesney, Robert. “That Was Now and This Is Then: Walter Lippmann and the Crisis of Journalism.” Will the Last Reporter Please Turn Out the Lights. New York: New Press, 2011. Print.

Timberg, Craig. “Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during election, experts say.” The Washington Post 24 Nov 2016. Web. 26 Nov 2016.

Inclusivity in the Online Age: Maybe We’re Not Doing as Well as We Think We Are

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During the twenty-first century, there has been a massive societal shift towards inclusivity. That is, the act of including those who may otherwise be excluded or marginalized. This shift is not new in publishing, particularly here in Vancouver, with magazines that aim to publish a diverse array of voices and stories such as Room operating locally. However, what is relatively new is our commitment to speaking out about it more publicly.

The Magazines West Conference, commonly referred to as MagsWest, is put on by the Magazine Association of British Columbia and takes place every November. This year’s conference boasts two events focused on inclusivity: the keynote speech by Léonicka Valcius which is titled “On Equity and Inclusion” and a session by Jónína Kirton, with Chelene Knight, called “Encouraging Inclusiveness in Magazines.” Kirton and Knight, both editors at Room, also took part in a panel called “Inclusive Magazine Publishing: Barriers and Strategies for Writers and Publishers” at this year’s WORD Vancouver festival, also sponsored by MagsBC. They were joined by Elee Kraljii Gardiner, the founder of Thursdays Writing Collective, and the panel’s moderator, broadcaster and novelist Jen Sookfong Lee. Throughout the discussion, panelists addressed the barriers that marginalized writers regularly encounter in their quest to get published, and tried to put forward solutions that magazines could implement in an effort to become more inclusive. One of the points that Kraljii Gardiner, who works closely with residents of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, put forward is that publisher’s reliance on the web is problematic for swaths of potential writers. As a person who comes from a place of “e-privilege” (a term that Kraljii Gardiner used) I had only ever experienced the ways that the web has made publishing more inclusive, and throughout this essay I want to explore the ways in which publishers have become reliant on the web to the point of exclusivity.

I do not believe I had been alone in my perception that the internet has made publishing more inclusive, largely because in some ways it is true that is has. It becomes an interesting dichotomy because in many ways the internet has allowed for easier, less expensive access. Students like myself, who tend to be lower-income but have easy access to the internet at school, tend to rely on web access a lot. In general, eBooks are less expensive, and less intrusive in limited space, than print books.

In his TED talk “Laws that choke creativity” Lawrence Lessig spoke to how the internet allows for user-generated content, and the celebration amateur culture. In this case he was speaking about non-commercial use, but this has become true for many aspects of publishing. Online publications do not have to worry about page counts the same way print publications do, and therefore have the ability to publish more content by a more diverse array of voices. In fact, due to this many online versions of print magazines actually offer additional content compared to their print counterparts.

Self-publishing, both articles and eBooks, gives the author more control over their work. Further, the web, and particularly social media, gives them the opportunity to both self-promote and to find or establish the niche communities that make up their intended audience. Websites like Medium have been developed to give an established platform to those who wish to publish articles online. Online editorial collectives help those who cannot afford to hire a freelance editor to prepare their manuscript prior to self-publishing or submitting to traditional publishing entities.

Inclusivepublishing.org was created to help publishers learn how to create digital content “in formats accessible to people with print disabilities.” As such, the web has allowed those who were previously unable to partake in much of today’s traditionally published content to now access it.

However, all of these aforementioned benefits are only available for those who have easy and regular access to technology. So in what way is the publishing world excluding those who do not?

Marketing and Advertising

As I was walking along West Hastings Street on my way to school early this September, I was surprised to see an entire wall plastered with posters for the Vancouver Writer’s Fest. As a person who has a Twitter account primarily to keep track of submissions deadlines and literary events in the city (another example of my e-privilege), it struck me how rare it was to see printed marketing materials around the city.

Social media has begun to be perceived as a “silver bullet” — though marketing professional Zoe Grams of ZG Communications cautioned our Masters of Publishing class against viewing it that way when she spoke to us this fall. This is due to the fact that it is relatively low-cost, as the largest budgeting consideration for social media is simply time, as opposed to the printing costs associated with posters, bookmarks, and the like. The Key Performance Indicators are easy to track, as likes, shares, and posts using dedicated hashtags provide notifications to whomever posts the content. Further, the broad audience reach of social media makes it easier to disseminate ideas and content. If a company does content marketing well, their customers become brand ambassadors. Thus, publishers have begun advertising their contests and deadlines primarily online, and particularly through social media.

Submissions

If you have considered submitting your work to a local literary or arts journal lately, you have probably encountered something called Submittable, which is an online platform that publishing houses and magazines use in acquisitions.

Per the Submittable website:

“Accepting and curating content submissions for publication is the most common use of Submittable and is what the classic Submittable client uses our software to do. Without the right software, managing submissions can be a time and labor-intensive process for magazines, newspapers, and film and audio organizations. Submittable has centralized the submission, payment, and management platforms into a single online location. Allow your submitters to easily submit in any medium, including documents, images, sound, video, and more; establish your team member accounts; and vote on and accept entries in one efficient and user-friendly place. All you need is a browser.”

With such features, it becomes apparent why publishers have begun utilizing it as a tool. Some publishers have begun to accept only online submissions, whether that be via email or Submittable, due to a myriad of reasons. These include the streamlined process Submittable promises, environmental concerns (less paper is used when submitting online), and lack of space to store manuscripts (a place I interned had manuscripts piled waist high and four stacks deep.)

Conversely, other publishers have refused to allow online submissions at all. Geist, a literary magazine, used to allow for online submissions but per the submissions page on their website they no longer do. I can only assume that the relative ease of email meant that they received an onslaught of submissions. The publishing house I interned for described themselves as “a little old school” and liked to read and mark up manuscripts on paper, and did not want to take on the cost of printing their many submissions themselves.

All of the above reasons are valid in my mind, and I can understand how publishers would want to make their acquisitions as simple as possible. Juggling multiple submissions platforms can be time consuming, and logging manuscripts is generally a task delegated to an intern in a time when most publishers are trying to do more on a skeleton budget. However, the heart of any publishing program is the work they are publishing, so when it comes to submitting, shouldn’t the ease for the writers be at least tantamount in importance to making it easy for the magazine or press? Refusing to accept both hard copy and online submissions is again detrimental to making the acquisitions process truly inclusive.

Table: How 20 BC Book Publishers and Literary and Arts Magazines Accept Submissions:

Online only
(Submittable or email)
Hard copy only Both hard copy and online (Submittable or email)
The Capilano Review
Poetry is Dead
Room Magazine
SAD Mag
The Malahat Review
Anvil Press
Arsenal Pulp Press
Geist Magazine
Ronsdale Press
Heritage House Publishing Co.
Talonbooks
Adbusters
Brindle & Glass
EVENT
Greystone Books
Harbour Publishing
NEO-OPSIS Science Fiction Magazine
New Star Books
Prism International
subTerrain
5/20 6/20 9/20

As this chart shows, only 45% of the local publishers whose submissions pages I looked at accepted both hard copy and digital submissions, with 55% accepting only one or the other.

Author Platforms

When speaking of skeleton budgets, and the concept of publishers doing more with less, there has been a new emphasis on the author being expected to assist in marketing their own book. Thus, one of the considerations that publishing houses take into account when receiving an unsolicited manuscript or proposal is the authors social platforms. Are they well-followed and considered an authority on their topic on social media? Do they have a built in audience of people who will buy the book because they already follow them? While this is not the number one deciding factor in acquisitions, it does seem to be an aspect that does hold at least a small amount of weight.

Who Is Being Excluded?

According to Internet Live Stats 88.5 % of Canadians use the internet. With a population of 36,286,378 as of 2016, this means that 4,165,859 people are without internet access. In marketing class, we have discussed the concept of “personas” which are basically character sketches of an ideal audience for the product or service you are offering. When I considered the above statistics, and therefore the people that publishing’s reliance on the online world impacts, I was left with more than one persona that was excluded. For the sake of this essay, I have concentrated on five below:

  • The first is an elderly person who is intimidated by new technology, and does not understand how to utilize social media. Throughout their lifetime they have had a wealth of experiences, and they participate in the oral storytelling tradition by sharing those with their children and grandchildren.
  • The second, a person who lives remotely and does not have internet access in their home, but reads print books voraciously in their spare time and journals their own experiences.
  • The third, a writer who is shy or suffers from anxiety. While they may have the technical skills to follow the magazines and publishing houses they wish to submit to on social media, they do not see themselves as having the ability or charisma to build up the kind of online presence and following that publishing houses look for in first time authors.
  • The fourth, a Downtown Eastside resident. Certain circumstances in their life have left them without consistent, safe housing, and although their ability to access the internet on a regular basis is not a primary concern, they love storytelling and have a lifetime worth of experiences to share.
  • Fifth, a writer, whom for whatever reason, wishes to publish anonymously or under a pseudonym (as is their moral right). While the initial impression may be that the relative anonymity of the internet would actually make this easier (think: the famous The New Yorker cartoon by Peter Steiner in 1993 proclaiming “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog”) events over the last few years have proven this may not be the case. There is a reason that, in 2015, The New Yorker published another cartoon that seemingly referenced the original. This one, by Kaamran Hafeez featured two dogs looking at each other and saying: “Remember when, on the Internet, nobody knew who you were?” Recent notable examples of authors publishing under pseudonyms and then being outed online include J.K. Rowling and Elena Ferrante. Rowling was outed online after publishing The Cuckoo’s Calling under the name Robert Galbraith, and Ferrante’s real identity was the subject of a much criticized witch hunt by Italian journalist Claudio Gatti. Which the prevalence of social media and the frequency with which it is used, when something like this is uncovered it can spread around the world in the matter of hours.

I have no doubt that there are worthwhile works coming from writers that fit these personas, and I can only imagine how many more would be produced should publishers make more of an effort to reach them.

Ways We Can Improve

All of this is not to say that the publishing world should not be utilizing the abilities of the web. Firstly, it would be inadvisable (if not insane) not to at this day and age, when the stats I’ve cited earlier show that 88.5% of Canadian’s are online in some capacity. Secondly, there are many ways that publishers can utilize the web to indeed be more inclusive, such as the examples I have listed throughout this essay. The point is, that in our current-day obsession with the internet, the thought of going offline no longer seems to occur to us. This is slightly ironic in an industry that romanticizes and even fetishizes printed books. So how do we, as present and future publishing professionals, utilize all the unique and important opportunities the web has given us without becoming reliant on them? A balance needs to be found.

The fourth persona that I mentioned is the inspiration behind Thursdays Writing Collective, which was founded by Elee Kraljii Gardiner who is a writer, an editor, and a founding member of CWILA (Canadian Women in the Literary Arts). The Collective holds free workshops for residents of the Downton Eastside, and they describe their mission as two-fold: “to hold a space for writers and to bring that work to a wider audience.” As such, they have published chapbook anthologies for the work created during the workshops. In 2010, they also started Thursdays Editing Collective which consists of professional editors and writers who work with the workshop participants to submit their writing to other publications.

After attending WORD Vancouver’s “Inclusive Magazine Publishing” panel, I reached out to Kraljii Gardiner via Twitter and asked her if she would be willing to answer some follow up questions to expand on some the points she made during the panel discussion. Thankfully, she agreed and provided me with some further thoughts on access and how our local literary community is doing with it.

She echoed the concerns I mentioned about publisher’s reliance on using social media, commenting that they are using “the same old rut of twitter and Facebook to reach the same old people. It is a well-worn path with which they reach the familiar audience.” This seems directly at odds with the oft stated goal of wanting to publish a diverse array of new voices that represent Canada that you hear from many publishers. As someone who has been an active part of the Vancouver literary scene, she admitted that she hasn’t “been stunned by anybody’s efforts, to be honest” when it comes to reaching out to those who do not have consistent access to the web. She did qualify this however by acknowledging her own e-privilege and the fact that she herself is very social media oriented.

Thursdays Writers Collective has instigated a sponsorship program for submissions fees, with Kraljii Gardiner reaching out on Facebook to ask if the writers she had connected with online would consider sponsoring a Downtown Eastside writer by paying their fee. They have successfully implemented this program a few times, with the most recent partnership being with subTerrain who she described as great. The group gathered names of donors, collected submissions from the writers by telling them about the opportunity and then sent them in. The donors paid Thursdays Writing Collective and TWC paid for the submission fees all at once. She explained that they did not pair donors with writers directly, saying it would be “tricky and a bit personal and heavy.” They pitched it as “if you are submitting to this contest why not consider sponsoring a DTES writer at the same time” and it got a great response. She wishes that literary magazines and organizations would commit to having a donation button on their websites for this at all times.

When I asked her what practices she would like to see magazines and publishing houses adopt to reach out to those without good, reliable internet access, she was able to make concrete suggestions that were also relatively low cost and easy to implement. These included:

  • Reaching out by faxing or calling mosques
  • Recording announcements for co-op and student radio stations
  • Printing out hand-sized info pamphlets for community centers and libraries
  • Craigslist announcements
  • Posting bookmarks on bulletin boards at community colleges, night schools, and ESL schools

She cited her personal experience from editing V6A: Writing from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, saying: “I used the bulletin boards in the DTES as well as COOP radio and strategic word of mouth campaigns. I also made an arrangement with the library to have a box for handwritten submissions so people wouldn’t have to pay postage. I was going off what the writers at TWC told me helped and didn’t have any prior model to follow.”

Kraljii Gardiner’s own experiences are examples of publishing professionals utilizing their online channels to promote inclusivity. Perhaps these can become a part of a new standard, the model that she had sought when she began Thursdays Writing Collective. In examining the ways in which we acquire manuscripts, both in the technical submissions process and in the decision making process for the voices we represent, as well as diversifying the way we reach potential writers, we can potentially get ourselves out of the rut we have created. Hopefully, the more we discuss these ideas in public forums such as professional development conferences, the more publishers will make true inclusivity a priority in their publishing programs.


Works Cited

“About: Submission Guidelines.” Brindle and Glass, www.brindleandglass.com/submission_guidelines.php. Accessed 13 October 2016.

“Call for Submissions: Let Them See You Sweat.” Poetry is Dead, www.poetryisdead.ca/blog/call-submissions-future.html. Accessed 13 October 2016.

“Contact.” Arsenal Pulp Press, www.arsenalpulp.com/contact.php. Accessed 13 October 2016.

“Content and Publishing Submissions.” Submittable, www.submittable.com/examples/content. Accessed 10 October 2016.

Fleishman, Glenn. “Cartoon Captures Spirit of the Internet.” The New York Times, 14 December 2000, web.archive.org/web/20141030135629/http://www.nytimes.com/2000/12/14/technology/14DOGG.html. Accessed 13 October 2016.

Grams, Zoe. “Marketing Plans for Books.” Simon Fraser University, Vancouver. 6 October 2016.

“Guidelines for Manuscript Submissions.” Ronsdale Press, ronsdalepress.com/submissions/. Accessed 13 October 2016

“Guidelines for Writers.” Anvil Press, www.anvilpress.com/submit/. Accessed 13 October 2016.

Inclusive Publishing. DAISY Consortium, inclusivepublishing.org/. Accessed 10 October 2016.

“Internet Users by Country.” Internet Live Stats, www.internetlivestats.com/internet-users-by-country/. Accessed 13 October 2016.

Kraljii Gardiner, Elee “Re: Access Questions.” Message to Jessica Key. 6 October 2016. E-mail.

Lessig, Lawrence. “Laws that choke creativity.” TED. March 2007. Lecture. Accessed 8 October 2016.

“Magazines West 2016.” Magazine Association of British Columbia, www.magsbc.com/events/magazines-west-2016. Accessed 12 October 2016.

“NEO-OPSIS Submission Guidelines.” NEO-OPSIS Science Fiction Magazine, www.neo-opsis.ca/guidelines. Accessed 13 October 2016.

Room. Room Magazine, roommagazine.com/. Accessed 13 October 2016.

“Schedule.” Word Vancouver, wordvancouver.ca/2016-festival/schedule/. Accessed 12 October 2016.

“Submission Guideline.” Adbusters, www.adbusters.org/submissions/. Accessed 13 October 2016.

“Submissions Guidelines.” Geist Magazine, www.geist.com/writers/submit. Accessed 13 October 2016.

“Submission Guidelines.” Talonbooks, talonbooks.com/submission-guidelines/. Accessed 13 October 2016.

“Submission Guidelines.” The Malahat Review, www.malahatreview.ca/submission_guidelines.html. Accessed 13 October 2016.

“Submission Guidelines for Authors.” Heritage House Publishing Company, www.heritagehouse.ca/submission_guidelines.php. Accessed 13 October 2016.

“Submissions.” Greystone Books, greystonebooks.com/pages/submissions. Accessed 13 October 2016.

“Submissions.” New Star Books, www.newstarbooks.com/submissions.php. Accessed 13 October 2016.

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