On The Record will be adding a new component to its home page in the coming days. Ryerson’s campus news organization is partnering with The Green Line and will be showcasing its deep dives into stories from underserved Toronto communities and its unique take on solutions journalism. Stories will begin appearing on the On The Record site next week.
The Green Line is the brainchild of Anita Li. A journalist since the age of 14, Li has worked for both legacy media and startups and sees the publication as a culmination of her career. “It’s kind of a merging of those two sensibilities,” Li said. “It’s the rigour of traditional journalism with the experimentation of these cool new digital outlets.”
Li was inspired to create The Green Line by her hometown of Scarborough. “Growing up, people had no hesitation in telling me not nice things about where I’m from, and I was like, ‘that’s kind of strange, why does everybody think that way?’ Over time, that entered my journalism world, and I became super passionate about serving under-represented communities,” Li said.
While this passion manifests itself in this publication, it reverberates through other aspects of Li’s work, as she is also the co-founder of Canadian Journalists of Colour. “Representation matters, so a lot of that played into this,” Li said.
In that vein, writers for The Green Line come from all walks of life. Some will be fellows working directly with the publication, while others will be from the classes that Li teaches at Ryerson. Peter Bakogeorge, an instructor for the On The Record course, says the addition of The Green Line will help diversify On The Record’s coverage.
“We’ve always tried to find ways that we could get students from other years involved in On The Record,” Bakogeorge said. “So this is a good opportunity to continue that and get some other good content for On The Record.”
One of the unique features of The Green Line’s publication process is its month-long “Action Journey.” For its longform pieces, The Green Line dedicates the first week to an explainer that outlines the issue in question. The second week is reserved for a feature that unpacks more of the story. In the third week, they host an event that brings together reporters, sources and community members to discuss the issue. In the fourth and final week, it publishes an article with solutions sourced from the previous week’s event, so residents and stakeholders can take action.
“I was trying to think of a really good theory of change model,” Li said. “So many people passively consume the news these days and there’s a lot of anxiety that you can get from looking at negative headlines. All people can do is carry stress that just sits there.” Li says that after she takes action on something, she feels better about it and this structure is meant to mirror that experience.
This process centres transparency. Instead of being done with a piece after it’s published, reporters are front and centre at the events that The Green Line holds during the third week to answer questions from the community.
“It’s really important because it’s a lot easier to trust a person that you see face to face than a faceless institution. I really wanted to make sure that our community members and audience members know our reporters,” Li said.
Li is also leveraging social media to ensure she is reaching readers. She cites creating a meme based on an entertaining part of a piece or posting an interactive element as ways to grab eyeballs.
In partnership with On The Record, The Green Line is also striving to provide an oasis within the news deserts of Toronto. “We fill gaps in under-represented communities from an identity-based standpoint and a geographic standpoint,” Li said. “There’s tons of seniors who live in the city, there’s tons of people from the LGBTQ2S+ community, people who are working class, that are not well served by existing media. My goal is to fill in all those gaps at some point down the line.”
This fits perfectly with On The Record’s ethos, which mandates coverage of both Ryerson and Toronto Centre. “The reason we did that is because of this news desert argument,” said Bakogeorge. “It’s just one of these really weird things that we’re in the middle of this big city that has a huge influential media presence, and the community stuff falls through the cracks.”
As for where you’ll be able to find these stories and take part in their interactive features, The Green Line’s work will be prominently displayed on the On The Record website. “There will be a link near the top of our home page,” Bakogeorge said. Some of their content will also appear in the breaking news banner.
As far as what to expect from The Green Line in the future, keep an eye out for stories that touch on touch on everything from the Spanish Flu in Toronto and comparisons with COVID, to MuchMusic’s cultural influence, to the Raptors usurping the Maple Leafs as Toronto’s representative sports team. “I’m so stoked about these pieces,” Li said.