When there’s only one story: how The Narwhal is thinking about its role during the COVID-19 pandemic 

The role of journalism is more important now than ever. Our team will prioritize sharing the best health and science coverage while we keep our heads down to ensure untold stories see the light of day

There’s hardly enough time to come up for air in between reads of breaking coronavirus news. Growing cases. Borders closed. Daily lives dramatically changed as Canadians brace for a climbing death rate.

The country seems poised on the edge of an invisible inflection point, with all the unanswered questions about the effectiveness of self-isolation and social distancing left like another unseen virus hanging in the air.

We’d be hard pressed to name another moment that so urgently reflected the importance of good reporting. And yet, as a publication that focuses exclusively on reporting on Canada’s natural world, The Narwhal doesn’t have an obvious role to play in covering a global health crisis. 

On Friday we decided to temporarily hit pause on our publication schedule as we reassessed the The Narwhal’s role in serving the public interest at this uncertain moment. 

Here’s what we’ve decided: we are going to prioritize sharing the excellent work of other journalists covering COVID-19 with our audience. We’re also going to share some of our best work from the last year to help you cope with the challenges of social distancing and staying at home. And, where it fits with our focus, we’ll provide thoughtful coverage and analysis of the coronavirus.

The current news cycle presents us with a unique opportunity too: The Narwhal regularly operates well beyond capacity. During this global health crisis, we’re intentionally slowing down our publishing schedule to give our team a chance to prioritize longer-term investigative work. 

We are also going to continue reporting on stories about Canada’s natural world, when the moment feels right. This rapidly unfolding pandemic is, rightfully, the most important story right now. But our team exists to find the critical stories that are going untold and that’s even more urgent in this unusual media environment.

And we know from experience that bad actors and opportunists take advantage of moments just like this to advance their interests. While families and hospitals are burdened with the cascading reality of a public health crisis, we know that the number of orphaned wells left behind by gas companies in B.C. and Alberta is still growing. We know that proposals for new industrial facilities may be pushed along, even as communities no longer have the capacity to stay updated, attend public hearings and organize. 

Crises and disasters have long been used to benefit private interests and at The Narwhal we believe our responsibility to our readership means remembering this, even as we brace for the worst impact of the pandemic.

There are no doubt more stories to come as the number of affected communities across the country continues to grow. As that happens, you can be sure that The Narwhal’s team will be thinking about our readers and their needs moving forward. 

Even as we move into a strange new reality of isolation and distance, we’re already seeing all around us the extraordinary measures individuals are taking to care for their communities. Sometimes the step back can give us the perspective we need to see what’s really of value to those around us — as family members and as journalists. 

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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 eight 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 2,500 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.

We’ve drafted a plan to make 2021 our biggest year yet, but we need your support to make it all happen.

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.

Carol Linnitt is a journalist, editor, illustrator and co-founder of The Narwhal. Carol has been reporting on energy and environmental…

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