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Why We Helped The Tyee Turn Non-Profit

We remain committed, says the former investor, and invite others to join in helping this publication thrive.

Eric Peterson 1 Mar

Eric Peterson is the co-founder and CEO of the B.C.-based Tula Foundation.

[Editor’s note: Eric Peterson and Christina Munck are partners in life and in their worldly endeavours. They are trustees of the Tula Foundation, and founders of the Hakai Institute and Hakai Magazine. And they have long provided key financial support to The Tyee, investors for over a decade and sole 'caretakers' as they have referred to themselves during the final three years The Tyee was a for-profit company. Now that they have helped shepherd The Tyee to becoming a non-profit, Peterson has this message for the Tyee community.]

Christina Munck and I have worked with lots of organizations over the years, always with the same spirit.

Whether it is a group of ecologists working on the B.C. coast or frontline workers in Guatemala trying to rebuild the rural health system in the aftermath of civil war, we commit to the long term.

We know that anything worthwhile takes time to mature.

We always work to build the organization itself, its capabilities, its culture, rather than focusing on a few projects, a few short-term wins. We never see support for the organization itself as undesirable “overhead.”

Above all we want to be a good friend to the organization. Patient and supportive. Letting it find its way on its own terms.

It’s been that way for us with The Tyee.

I first met The Tyee 16 years ago when we thought about starting our own online effort in public interest journalism. It took only a couple of hours talking to Dave Beers to convince me that we’d be smarter to throw our support behind The Tyee instead.

In retrospect that was an even better idea than it seemed at the time. By 2010 we had become so embroiled in establishing the Hakai Institute and then Hakai Magazine that we could never have done justice to anything like The Tyee ourselves.

851px version of CoastalGuardianCrewBoat.jpg
The BC-based Hakai Institute, part of the Tula Foundation founded by Eric Peterson and Christina Munck, conducts research and partners with universities, NGOs, First Nations, government agencies, businesses and local communities. Shown here, an example of such partnership: a mother and daughter Coastal Guardian crew of the Tlowitsis First Nation, off the northeast coast of Vancouver Island. Photo by Markus Thompson.

In our first decade we supported The Tyee financially and spiritually, but we were in a minority position. We enjoyed the company of the majority partners, respected their priorities, and in any case saw eye-to-eye on most issues.

In 2018 we were asked to step in and assume full control of The Tyee. We saw ourselves as caretakers, to work with The Tyee to give it time and space to mature, to chart a path to long-term sustainability, to be a patient friend.

We’ve been thrilled to see The Tyee flourish. The quantity and quality of its journalism. Awards and the respect of its peers. Above all, the support it has generated from its readers, who are certainly the truest “friends” of The Tyee.

We're now turning over The Tyee to a newly formed non-profit society, sending it into its next era.

We are doing that mainly to bring The Tyee’s corporate structure into alignment with the mission we all foresee for it.

Specifically, it is ultimately contradictory for an entity that purports to champion independent journalism to be privately owned, even if its owners are merely caretakers, steadfastly avoiding any editorial interference.

But that doesn’t mean that we are abandoning The Tyee. Far from it. We will continue to donate to The Tyee — our support has always been in the spirit of donation rather than “investment.”

We hope that the change to independent non-profit status will stimulate others to donate more.

Additional donation of course in itself allows The Tyee to do more. But it also serves to dilute our contribution, which increases The Tyee’s independence and possibly opens additional channels for financial support.

Specifically, if everyone can work together to dilute our support to less than 20 per cent from its current projected 32 per cent in 2022, The Tyee becomes qualified for charitable donations.

Where can that support come from?

Obviously the healthiest source for increased support would be from many more Tyee readers. The Tyee deserves to have far more readers than it has now — that’s mainly the job of its writers and editors. And Tyee publisher Jeanette Ageson does such a masterful job of connecting with readers to build the publication’s Builder base that I wouldn’t presume to interfere.

What I really would like to see is more support from people like Christina and me — people who have been blessed with more resources than others who therefore have the moral obligation to do more than others.

Join us in supporting The Tyee on the same terms we do, and be a true friend of independent journalism.

Look around you and realize how crucial independent journalism is for democracy and social justice. Look at the threats it is under from all sides — corporate concentration, fake news, even threats of violence.

Getting support from many different sources is of course the best outcome for The Tyee, because the broader the base of revenue, the more independent the publication.

If, having read this, you would like to pick up the conversation with us, may I suggest you contact The Tyee’s publisher, Jeanette Ageson, who can make the connections.

Here’s to a thriving future for independent journalism in British Columbia and beyond.  [Tyee]

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