It is often refreshing to come across uniquely and freely structured media organizations that exist in the shadows of major media institutions. This is particularly true when we consider the proliferation of content production on the internet diligently working to cast light on the areas the majors won’t dare to go.

Certainly, the affordances provided by the networked architecture of the internet has opened up the media terrain to challenge the institutionalized structures of journalism and news production. The organization behind The Dominion and The Media Co-op has established a unique media model that is progressive, decentralized, participatory, communal and alternative.

The Dominion is a Canadian online and bi-monthly print news source. Its tagline is “news from the grassroots.” The Media Co-op was born out The Dominion and is a nationwide network of independent producers and consumers that provide and interact with online news content.

To give The Dominion and The Media Co-op a fair assessment as an alternative media organization, it’s important to look at both its internal structuring as well as its content . The Media Co-op offers extensive information about its history, organizational hierarchy, financing and institutional ideology to help breakdown its complex structure.

The original conception behind The Dominion was inspired by organizations like Indymedia. It began as a print project and eventually expanded online. To remain sustainable and to provide the possibility for expansion, organizers had to rethink the model and this resulted in the creation of an online media cooperative. But what exactly is a cooperative?

The Media Co-op recognizes that a centralized organizational structure is problematic for a massive country like Canada. Therefore, the co-op is dedicated to creating an online network that spans the country and offers local communities the chance to create content with a local or national focus.

Currently, there are four local co-ops based in Halifax, Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. Each co-op functions independently of the others but is connected through a central co-op that aggregates the information from each site. Through this structure local co-ops are able to maintain autonomy over what they want to cover and are able to have a strong focus on local news and events.

The central co-op offers the opportunity for further expansion and offers their structure almost as an open source network so long as they can guarantee strong journalistic practices and continued support.

The cooperative exists as a non-profit in so far as that their limited resources are used to maintain the organization. It is funded by donations and subscription fees of the readers and their status as a cooperative also allows the organization access to certain grants that further facilitate operations. The organization’s limited resources make it essential that contributions are primarily voluntary. However, because of the co-op’s recent success, it has been possible to maintain a paid staff to operate the central co-op that establishes and coordinates the local operations as well as publishes The Dominion.

Another interesting facet of the co-op’s structure is the establishment of a multi-stakeholder system that involves members in decision making processes. This level of communal participation builds a sense of ownership in members which translates into further commitment to content creation.

The content that is available on the website deals with politics, social movements, activism and local and national news and events. Importantly, the co-op covers issues that are ignored by mainstream media. For instance, co-op has dedicated coverage of the Idle No More movement that has spread across the country. Additionally, the co-op is often critical of mainstream media for its biased and narrow approach to news coverage.

Whether we’re talking about challenging the discourses of mainstream media or turning the institutional structure of journalism on its head, The Dominion and The Media Co-op offers Canadians and others  around the world an interesting and compelling example of how affordances of the internet and digital technologies facilitate alternative and independent systems of journalism and the creation of online communities and publics.

Originally posted on mediamargins.net

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