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Publisher’s Letter: How The Grind Is Keeping Independent Journalism Alive

In February, VICE announced that it was shutting down its website and news operations. That same month, CTV made a massive round of layoffs while its parent company Bell posted profits. And in March, SaltWire on the East Coast filed for creditor protection and might shut down, which would leave nearly two dozen communities without a local paper. 

These discouraging announcements feel almost routine at this point.

We’re not so delusional as to think The Grind is the answer to these problems. We don’t even have one permanent staff member yet, let alone dozens or hundreds. 

But we are a non-profit media outlet growing as fast as we’re able to, and we believe we’re bringing something valuable to Toronto. A number of you have told us as much since we launched in October 2022.

We ran a fundraising campaign in March to raise $8,000 to pay off a bunch of bills so we could publish this issue. In the course of one week, 103 people generously gave and we raised just over $10,000. Thank you so much to those of you who supported us!

There are no wealthy investors behind The Grind, setting the direction, looking to make a buck, ready to shut the thing down on a whim. It’s just our team of passionate — and often exhausted — media makers calling the shots. 

There is a big opportunity for The Grind to grow as old models of corporate media ownership continue to fail. But it’s going to take your support.

We haven’t mentioned this publicly before, but we actually looked into buying NOW Magazine back when its owners, Media Central, declared bankruptcy in March 2022. We entered negotiations and looked at the financials, but they had millions in debt and we didn’t have a deep-pocketed backer, so it just wasn’t possible for us. 

We heard other groups were looking to buy NOW, mainly corporate media investors looking to make bland content factories putting out clickbait for ad money.

Vancouver’s The Georgia Straight, which was a similar print mag to NOW, was sold to Overstory Media Group, which is run by a supposed billionaire. It has stayed in print, announcing it would focus on events and the arts. 

The Straight has not published anything about Israel and Palestine in its Commentary section since Oct. 7, and nothing in its newsy section “City & Culture” in months either — despite huge protests in Vancouver and major happenings within the B.C. government. On this and other issues, an outlet which once had decent politics coverage has been greatly diminished. It’s a big loss for the city.

We were concerned about a big corporation taking over a chunk of Toronto’s media landscape. What if the old NOW got subbed out for a timid knock-off?

Would Overstory, Narcity or BlogTO have put out a free print issue in TTC stations with a “CEASEFIRE NOW!” cover headline in November? Would they have included on-the-ground reporting from the West Bank, and original coverage of protests, like the Hands Off Rafah march that went by Mount Sinai Hospital? Would they call out the anti-Palestinian bias of major media outlets?

Our ability to cover what we do comes from our independence and our belief in doing quality journalism on issues that matter to us and to you. That belief comes before the pursuit of dollars.

But the reality of producing this type of critical journalism means that we also need money. 

It costs about $18,000 to publish each issue of The Grind, without any permanent staff.

Ads cover about $9,000, and we get $750 per month from monthly supporters.

So we’re down $7,500 every issue.

We occasionally run fundraising campaigns like the one this March that raised $10,000 — which will give us enough to cover one issue and a bit. The rest of the budget shortfalls are covered by taking on personal debt and by asking friends and family to support. It isn’t sustainable.

We need a bigger base of monthly donors. 

To make The Grind viable long term, we need over 1,000 monthly donors. We have 75 now. We’re asking you to help us double that before our next issue.

Become a monthly supporter today.

Ad revenue can’t be relied on, and neither can grants. Both tend to come and go, and grants usually have conditions. Reader revenue is the key to a sustainable, independent publication. 

The Grind takes ads but we don’t take advertorials, which are ads that look like articles. Sometimes advertisers get upset with us over our coverage. That’s okay, it’’s part of the biz. But by not pandering to advertisers like some other outlets do, we are banking on readers liking what we’re doing and supporting us along the way.

At this point, we’ve been around since October 2022 and have put out eight print issues. It hasn’t been perfect. The website was awful until two months ago (sorry, it’s better now!). We had an embarrassing typo on one of our early covers. But we’ve consistently put out coverage we believe is important and interesting to readers in the GTA.

Many community publications have shut down in part because readers thought someone else would support it. But that’s rarely how it works, especially with the more critical outlets like The Grind. It’s important for you — yes, you!  — to support the media you want to see.

We want to stick around. There is so much more we want to do, and so many articles we want to work on and publish for you. 

So, dear reader, if you want to keep reading The Grind and you’re able, please consider becoming a monthly donor. Thank you!

Become a monthly supporter today.

This article appeared in the 2024 May/June issue.