The Tyee is a left-of-centre independent online Canadian news magazine that primarily covers British Columbia. It was founded in November 2003 by its editor-in-chief, David Beers, an award-winning writer and former features editor at The Vancouver Sun. Since its launch it has recruited a number of other writers, including Andrew Nikiforuk, Andrew MacLeod, Katie Hyslop, Crawford Kilian, Colleen Kimmett, Geoff Dembicki, Charles Campbell, Christopher Cheung, Tom Barrett, Sarah Berman, Chris Wood, Ian Gill, Chris Pollon, Steve Burgess, Murray Dobbin, Michael Geist, Terry Glavin, Mark Leiren-Young, Rafe Mair, Will McMartin, Shannon Rupp, Vanessa Richmond and Dorothy Woodend.
The name "Tyee" is based on the current local definition of Tyee salmon—a Chinook or Spring salmon of 30 lbs or more. The word is derived from the Nuu-chah-nulth language, meaning a chief, a king, or champion. It also embodies the magazine's dedication to publishing lively, informative news and views, to "roam free, and go where we wish" as the tyee salmon do.
Tyee articles focus on politics, culture and life. It has expanded its activities to a blog: The Hook. Within two years of its launch, over 1,000 articles had been published by more than 1,500 registered commenters[clarification needed], reaching 89,458 unique visitors. In 2009, according to BCBusiness magazine, The Tyee had a growing British Columbia readership, up 77 percent since 2007 to approximately 175,000 unique visitors a month. By 2017, The Tyee was regularly receiving between 800,000 to 1,000,000 page views a month.
In 2007, The Tyee was recognized nationally with an Honourable Mention in the category of Excellence in Journalism for Small, Medium, or Local Media. The category includes all Canadian online journalism with fewer than 500,000 unique visitors a month. In 2009, the magazine BCBusiness also placed The Tyee as ninth of their list of the province's ten most innovative companies. The Tyee was awarded the Edward R. Murrow Award by the Radio and Television News Directors Association in 2009 and 2011. It was the only Canadian news organization to be honoured for the national (North America-wide) category in 2011. The Tyee has won the Canadian Journalism Foundation Excellence in Journalism Award twice, in 2009 and 2011. In 2015, The New Yorker magazine called The Tyee "a fascinating case study" of how local journalism is funded.
In 2001, David Beers was fired from the features editor position at The Vancouver Sun as part of Canwest Global's famous purge of top-level journalists. Beers says, "When I was fired it was kind of a wake-up call, I was writing some forthright things after 9/11—they weren't radical, I didn't think, but they challenged the jingoistic tone of many commentators and politicians in Canada as well as the US." Beers has openly expressed his opinion that CanWest had abused its position and failed to provide fair and balanced coverage. Afterwards, Beers contemplated exploring online journalism, and was encouraged by an anonymous philanthropist who had a similar goal, and finances to support the plan. The U.S. website Salon.com became the model.
In 2015 David Beers moved to editor-at-large, and founding business director Michelle Hoar moved to an advisory role in 2016. Editor-in-chief Robyn Smith and her maternity leave replacement Barry Link now guide the site, with business director Jeanette Ageson.
According to the Radio and Television News Directors Association, which awards the Edward R. Murrow award, The Tyee is admirable for its independence and its creative commitment to covering its city and region while extending its reach to Canada and beyond. In this style, The Tyee is a Canadian rarity; few other online magazines have the same focus. The Tyee also picks key areas for in-depth investigative or solutions-focused reporting.
Being an online magazine, there are fewer chances to introduce the production crew, such as having an editor's letter in every issue. The Tyee has set a goal to "open up" in order for their readers to gain a better understanding of who they are, and what they are about. The intent is to give the community more opportunities to contribute to The Tyee's daily content. The Tyee has had held several public events in order be less virtual, and more present in the physical world. David Beers explains that, "after eight years, it's time we came out from behind our screens and started shaking hands with the thousands of people who visit The Tyee and make us a vibrant community."
In 2008, The Tyee launched a new blog called The Hook. According to investigative editor and overseer, Monte Paulsen, The Hook was a "superblog," because The Hook publishes quick, frequent, timely reports and analysis by experienced Tyee journalists and a wide network of contributors, unlike most blogs that offer works of one or two journalists. Posts were approximately 200-300 words in length, allowing coverage of a greater number and variety of topics that have not been touched upon before. As a business initiative, the blog offered more space for advertising, since online "retail space" is a challenge for online publishers, unlike print magazines that can simply add advertising-only pages. The blog enabled marketers additional opportunities. The Hook was retired in 2013.
Unlike many online magazines, The Tyee has minimal interactive and multi-media content, and is largely based on written story. According to Beers, it is not that The Tyee does not wish to have such features, but are rather limited in people and in-house resources.
In terms of visual content, The Tyee runs a lot of photography, and have had immensely positive results with "crowd sourced photography." The Tyee flickr pool draws thousands of images, and a new one is featured every day on the site. These images are often run in the stories, and on photo essays by the readers. For example, on Labour Day, The Tyee ran 20 images of people at work taken by The Tyee readers. This approach resulted in a main feature, called "The People's Podium", on The Tyee everyday during the Olympics. It included approximately a dozen photos taken by readers that were funny, poignant, ironic - images that are supposedly very different from the spectacle-enhancing photos other media were producing. In the fall, The Tyee plans to take this idea forward into video. It will be launching a multi-media window that features videos, and photo slide shows provided or recommended by their readers.
In 2010, according to Beers, The Tyee's annual revenue of about $500,000 to $600,000 includes $450,000 from ongoing sale of equity, $75,000 from advertising, $50,000 from grants, $25,000 from reader donations, and several thousand from renting out newsroom desks. By 2017, that revenue mix had evolved to 28% ongoing sale of equity, 46% reader funding, and 26% advertising, sponsorships, event ticket sales, and grants for special projects.
The Tyee has been a pioneer in reader-funded journalism experiments. Since 2009, the organization has raised close to $1 million from readers. By 2017, over 1,500 readers had signed up as a Tyee Builders, contributing funding to The Tyee on a monthly basis.
Until 2012, The Tyee had two charitable fellowship funds for independent journalists. The Tyee Fellowship Funds were charitable funds separate from The Tyee. The funds were held at and managed by the national public foundation, Tides Canada Foundation. An independent advisory board, apart from Tides Canada and The Tyee, reviewed all the applications, and chooses four selections. Tides Canada then disbursed fellowship grants from the two funds. Fellowship winners each received $5,000 to produce a series of three or more articles, running at least 1,000 words. Tides Canada owned the reports, and publishing rights that result from the fellows' research, which, as required by Canadian charity law, were intended for broad public education; therefore, the widest possible public dissemination.
The Tyee had first publication rights to these reports, and then, on Tides Canada's behalf, responds to requests for republication by others. The author owns the ideas and data gathered during the research and writing of the reports. After the terms of the fellowship grant were fulfilled, and the resulting reports published, the author was free to produce new and different content (articles, books, films, etc.) from that research, and to sell that content to whomever he or she wishes and keep all rights and proceeds.
The Tyee Investigative Fellowship funded investigative research and reporting focused on British Columbia, while The Tyee Solutions Fellowship funded research and reporting on promising attempts at solving problems facing British Columbia (BC). This may include an emerging body of knowledge, small scale experiments or broader initiatives with evident, positive results, and may include reporting outside the province if the findings are applicable here. Although reporting related directly to BC, the subject matter is not restricted; example topics include education, the environment, human rights, economics, worker safety, health, addiction, gender and sexuality, poverty, government, consumer ethics, etc. The Tyee retired the Fellowship funds in 2012.
The Tyee Solutions Society (TSS) is non-charitable, non-profit, and exists to fund groups of journalists focused on particular subjects: food security, education, youth well being, etc. Directed by Michelle Hoar the TSS is separate from The Tyee, though it is guaranteed an outlet on The Tyee. The journalism it produces is intended to be shared with other media outlets as well, creating PDFs, books, public events, and any other means to engage the public's attention. The TSS has had good luck attracting foundation support for such journalism projects, including series on affordable housing, food security, green building, and, soon to be released in partnership with the CBC, aboriginal education. The TSS model allows employment of journalists who remain focused on one field, rather than having a limited amount of freelance money, and paying small amounts to whoever that wants to write. The foundation support for TSS allows journalists to have a regular pay cheque and develop their expertise.
David Beers explains that long-form journalism works online for The Tyee when it is definitive. A number of The Tyee's articles are long form, because coverage of the entire story, given the narrative structure, requires it to be so. Each day four features are published that almost always goes beyond a thousand words, often 1,500 words. A 4,000 words piece may be broken into three or four parts, and are consequently published over the course of two or three days.
The Tyee strives to make long form journalism digestible on the readers' own terms through a series function. Each story has a yellow button that directs the reader to a page where the entire series it is part of is compiled. This allows the series to be spread around as one URL.
The rise of social media is rather supportive to long-form journalism. In assuming that the audience for a long story consists of either people who wish for definitive pieces, or people whose tastes spark their desire to be immersed in a creatively structured piece of storytelling, then the audience is most likely geographically and demographically dispersed yet potentially very passionate regarding such articles (and also the nature of their content). Social media, trusted recommendations through Facebook, Twitter and others, allow people find their desired piece of long-form journalism.
The Tyee's Twitter feed has about 47,000 followers, a positive indication that their long pieces are not discouraging those people; it may even be a sign that these followers are long-form journalism appreciators.
Beers has questioned the representativeness of Vancouver media. In a 2005 article and testimony to Parliament titled "Creating Counterweights to Big Media," he stated: "Vancouver is a heartbreaking place to be a dedicated news reporter, news editor, or news reader, because a single company owns the big papers, the big TV news station, and so many other media properties. There is simply not enough competition to keep that owner honest. By honest I mean dedicated to informing readers, rather than pandering to advertisers or to political allies." Beers sees BC as a sign of current trends in the national media industry, including: consolidation of titles, cross-ownership of mediums, and convergence and homogenization of content. Beers pitches The Tyee as an experiment in changing the media landscape, partly through reader-funded journalism.
The neutrality of this section is disputed. (April 2016) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
There have been accusations that The Tyee has a left-wing bias due to its ties to the organized labour movement.[by whom?] In response, Beers says "I'm grateful the union movement has invested in media diversity. That's all they are though: one of our investors. I have total guaranteed autonomy as Tyee editor, which certainly wasn't the case, say, when I was an editor at CanWest." When the issue of independence from union influence was raised by Jesse Brown of Canadaland in an interview with Beers, he replied, “You say special interests fund media, I’d say special interests always fund media. I can’t imagine a media that isn’t funded by special interest,” and points out that at the time of the Tyee's founding, the rest of the major media sources in British Columbia were owned by Canwest, which was known for ties to the federal Conservative party as well as promoting a pro-business agenda.
Matt Gurney, writing in the National Post, criticized a 2010 article by Tyee columnist Murray Dobbin that opposed Canada's 2010 bid to for one of the temporary seats on the UN Security Council (this article was subsequently circulated by Khalid Mouammar of the Canadian Arab Federation). Gurney described Dobbin's article as "anti-Canadian," but added that "Putting up with such nonsense is the cost of a free society, and it’s cheap at the price."