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What if journalists covered controversial issues differently?

While Canadians across the political spectrum care deeply about the natural world, news coverage of environmental issues is fractious — deepening rather than healing the divides in our society. The solution? Let's get complicated

As we celebrated The Narwhal’s third birthday last week, we found ourselves reflecting upon what got us here. 

The dream of The Narwhal began to emerge in the cracks of a broken relationship between ordinary people and the journalists who serve them. Our online magazine was born of the realization that while Canadians across the political spectrum care deeply about the natural world, news coverage of environmental issues was fractious — deepening rather than healing the divides in our society. 

Was it possible, we wondered, to get back to telling the rich stories of our shared values? Of what makes Canada’s natural spaces so valuable and so worth protecting? Of the complex human realities at the heart of our industries as they face a changing world?

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Just as we were grappling with these questions, a game-changing article was published by the Solutions Journalism Network called ‘Complicating the Narratives.’ The article — written by American investigative journalist Amanda Ripley — detailed how journalists would cover issues differently if they paid attention to how humans actually behave when they are polarized and suspicious. 

Her tips on how to apply conflict-mediation techniques in journalism helped to light a path forward for our team at The Narwhal and hundreds of other journalists. That’s why we’re *over the moon* to announce Amanda has agreed to do a live Zoom event for Narwhal readers, about what she’s learned about reporting on conflict. (Ripley is also the author of a new book called High Conflict: Why we get trapped and how we get out.) 

Join me for my conversation with Amanda on June 2 at 3 p.m. PT /6 p.m. ET. 

"complicating the narrative with Amanda Ripley"

This conversation couldn’t come at a better time, as the world grapples with the fallout of the pandemic, the climate crisis and the extinction crisis.

At The Narwhal we often find ourselves talking about how The Narwhal “tells ugly stories beautifully.” What that means on a day-to-day level is that we strive to weave more complexity into our reporting to more accurately reflect the diversity of people and lived experiences in our country. We want a broad spectrum of Canadians to see themselves and their values and concerns reflected in the (virtual) pages of The Narwhal. 

Reporting on climate change or environmental issues from the inside of a coal mine’s union hall or a small oil and gas town requires a level of sensitivity to how big issues like “the energy transition” bear down on what it means to have a home, to have security for your family, to have the ability to tuck your children in at night. 

Telling ugly stories beautifully means, in part, reflecting the humanity at the core of our shared human struggles, even when these battles seem designed to pit us against one another. 

Learn more about the research behind The Narwhal’s unique approach to storytelling on June 2, in conversation with Amanda Ripley. 

Take care, and mediate your conflicts!

Emma Gilchrist
Editor-in-chief


The Narwhal on the web

Photo: Pat Kane / The Narwhal

You may have noticed things look a little different over on thenarwhal.ca.

That’s because, just in time for our third trip around the sun, we rolled out a series of website upgrades to level up on our mission to serve our readers with the finest quality journalism on the environment in the country.

When we launched The Narwhal we knew it was important to fight to keep our website ad-free. Thanks to the generous support of our more than 3,100 monthly members, we’ve been able create the beautiful, sleek pages of The Narwhal you’ve come to know and love — allowing you to absorb arresting imagery of the people and places impacted by the environmental crisis.

Our design changes allowed us to do justice to these stunning photos captured by Pat Kane of the Dene Elders guiding an effort to save vanishing Arctic caribou. Spend some time scrolling through and you’ll be transported to the barrenlands of the Northwest Territories.

We can’t wait to share more of these kinds of pieces with you in the months and years to come.


This week in The Narwhal

DFO ignored pleas from scientists, altered report to downplay risks to imperilled steelhead: docs

By Stephanie Wood

More than 2,600 pages of government documents shed new light on allegations Fisheries and Oceans Canada ignored scientists when forgoing protections for disappearing Thompson and Chilcotin steelhead. Read more.


‘We don’t have time’: scientists urge B.C. to immediately defer logging in key old-growth forests amid arrests

By Matt Simmons

One year after an independent panel recommended the province immediately halt logging in B.C’s rarest forests, no meaningful deferrals have been implemented. Read more.  


Alberta ‘undermining’ system meant to ensure oilsands companies pay for cleanup, critics say

aerial view of oilsands site

By Sharon J. Riley

Last year’s economic crash meant oilsands companies were going to have to pay an annual reclamation deposit for the first time — until the government temporarily changed the rules to prevent that from happening. Read more.


What we’re reading

Inside the international effort to disentangle Snow Cone the whale
On the water in Alaska, where salmon fishing dreams live

When you’re complicating the narrative about relationships between species. Tell your feline friends to chill out and sign up for our newsletter.

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You’ve read all the way to the bottom of this article. That makes you some serious Narwhal material.

And since you’re here, we have a favour to ask. Our independent, ad-free journalism is made possible because the people who value our work also support it (did we mention our stories are free for all to read, not just those who can afford to pay?).

As a non-profit, reader-funded news organization, our goal isn’t to sell advertising or to please corporate bigwigs — it’s to bring evidence-based news and analysis to the surface for all Canadians. And at a time when most news organizations have been laying off reporters, we’ve hired five journalists over the past year.

Not only are we filling a void in environment coverage, but we’re also telling stories differently — by centring Indigenous voices, by building community and by doing it all as a people-powered, non-profit outlet supported by more than 3,500 members

The truth is we wouldn’t be here without you. Every single one of you who reads and shares our articles is a crucial part of building a new model for Canadian journalism that puts people before profit.

We know that these days the world’s problems can feel a *touch* overwhelming. It’s easy to feel like what we do doesn’t make any difference, but becoming a member of The Narwhal is one small way you truly can make a difference.

If you believe news organizations should report to their readers, not advertisers or shareholders, please become a monthly member of The Narwhal today for any amount you can afford.

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