Ryerson’s school of journalism and the Digital Media Zone (DMZ) are teaming up with Facebook to create a digital news incubator, the first of its kind in Canada.
The announcement is part of the Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly’s planned restructuring of Canada’s cultural policy, which she calls Creative Canada.
“Our approach will not be to bail out industry models that are no longer viable. Rather, we will focus on supporting innovation experimentation and transition to digital,” said Joly in a speech given at the Economic Club of Canada on Thursday.
Details are still vague as to what this incubator will look like and what sort of services it will offer to the public.
In a written statement, Joly’s office said: “(participants will be) receiving startup funding from Facebook, mentorship and research support from the Ryerson School of Journalism, and a residency at the DMZ.”
School of journalism chair, Janice Neil, says that she will be meeting with her partners at Facebook and the DMZ within the next few months and will bring some of her concerns to them for consideration.
“What is probably uppermost in my mind is to make sure that projects that are going forward are informed by a sense of what the journalism profession is about, and informed by the values that journalism is about,” Neil said.
RSJ graduate program director, Asmaa Malik, is part of the steering committee for this project. She has a history of creating digital journalism accelerators in other countries, like South Africa, and has some idea about how the one at Ryerson will do things.
“Most incubator-accelerators put out a call and startups and projects apply to be part of them. You usually have an advisory panel that makes the selection decisions,” Malik said.
Neil says that Joly is likely taking her cues from the Public Policy Forum’s report called The Shattered Mirror. Its recommendations include removing obstacles to philanthropic financing of news organizations, reviewing copyright law to allow new originators to control their property and creating an independent agency to support digital news innovation.
“We are champions of our creative industries. We must find a new way, a Canadian way, to support our content creators and ensure that they can compete and to create a space for them in markets and platforms at home and around the world,” Joly said.