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Statement from Overstory Media Group

Given recent developments, I feel it’s important to share this statement in hopes of clarifying a number of questions our readers and stakeholders have been asking over the past few days.

When we launched Overstory in 2021, we did so with the belief that strong communities and trusted local news sources are needed now more than ever before. Our goal was to help people find common ground through local storytelling and community building. Nothing has changed about our mission today.

Difficult decisions

What has changed, however, is the economic environment in which we now operate. What this has meant on an operational level is that we recently had to reduce our team size by 4 people. From 55 to 51.

The contributions of these former employees cannot be overstated. As evidenced by the outpouring of support for them, they no doubt played a part in making Overstory what it is today. We're thankful for their many contributions and wish them well in the next chapter of their careers.

Given the huge amount of online speculation we feel outlining what got us here will help everyone understand why we made the decision we did.

Here’s what happened:

  1. In 2022, our revenue grew quickly and we projected the growth would continue into 2023.

  2. Based on our projections, we scaled up our team.

  3. The economy struggled and advertisers tightened budgets. Advertising and membership revenue is coming in significantly below expectations.

  4. At a board meeting in early January, we realized that, at our current rate of losses, we only had six months of cash left in the bank. We felt our only recourse was to cut expenses.

  5. We decided to make cuts from the payroll in order to extend our financial runway, which resulted in the difficult decision to let go of four team members.

I would like to underscore the fact that these cuts do not create profits for ownership, they only reduce the rate of our financial losses.

Since we started in 2021, Overstory has invested approximately $5,000,000 building more than a dozen publications across Canada. Much of this money has gone to paying the salaries of exceptional journalists.

We are doing this because we think local journalism is important and we want to create a model that works without government funding or wealthy donors. This, at the very least, requires running at breakeven.

Supporting our teams

There has been speculation that these staff reductions were in response to union talks. This is absolutely not the case. We believe unionization is within the rights of any employee and we’ll respect our team members’ choices on this.

Overstory will continue to be one of the best employers of journalists in Canada. We pay competitive salaries, encourage high quality reporting without mandatory quotas for posts-per-day, and provide a significant benefits package that includes:

  • Minimum 3 weeks per year of paid vacation
  • 2 weeks per year of paid wellness days
  • Doubled our mental health benefits to $1,000 per year
  • Dental, vision, and medical benefits
  • Parental leave top-up policy
  • Flexibility in working hours and location to support work-life balance
  • Flexibility in statutory holidays to align with employee cultural beliefs and interests
  • Employee programs like goal setting, career discussions, and professional development

The future

Since we started, we've been trying to create something impactful. Something that connects our communities, allows locals to discover each other and the best of their backyard and shines a spotlight on the important issues. We don't always get it right, and unfortunately in this instance we got ahead of our skis and had to make a difficult decision to part ways with some great people.

Ultimately, our goal is to make Overstory a sustainable business that’s resilient through economic uncertainty. That means being fiscally responsible and not driving ourselves off a cliff and running out of money.

Regardless of circumstances, we will always focus on producing compelling local journalism, engaging with the community, and delivering stories that matter to you. Thanks for welcoming us into your inbox each day, your support means the world to us.

If you'd like to share feedback or AMA, feel free to email me anytime.

Farhan Mohamed, co-founder & CEO