It’s about Jesse Brown’s money

An overview:

The Government of Canada’s proposed $600 million media tax credit has dominated news blogs and chatrooms.[1] At the heart of the criticism is whether the temptation of dollars will influence coverage of the government.[2]

I’ve taught journalism and media studies at Concordia University and the history of media propaganda at Carleton University. I underscore for my students the fundamental principle that seeks to protect the integrity of our profession:  the division of the financial considerations of owner/publisher and journalistic freedoms of editor/reporter. This church and state separation is a matter of good governance of media institutions.

Journalist rightly rail against the slippery slope of sponsored content. I wouldn’t buy an Ottawa Citizen the day after the Raptors’ win because I didn’t like the front page being sold to the Province of Alberta for a political ad. Journalists vehemently defend their freedom to report the truth, without publishers leaning on them to spin a story to drive clicks to hit quarterly financial targets. Even Andrew Coyne, no fishing buddy of mine, resigned his job on the National Post editorial board during the 2015 election because he thought his employers had gone too far in support of the Tories.

What would happen to the Canadian media landscape without such a separation? This is a question at the heart of the future business models of our profession, and the ethics of what it means to be a journalist.

How would journalism be influenced if the role was collapsed of owner/publisher/editor/journalist? There’s an interesting case study answering this question, which is playing out in real time with devastating consequences.

I keep coming back to it because there’s nothing like it in Canada. Some publications are doing deep investigations of the oil industry. Some are doing kick-ass work on Indigenous issues. Canadaland’s own podcast on Thunder Bay, though overtaken by events (the mayor and the police chief have been replaced), was  fine work, and a template for real investigations. But no publications, except Canadaland, are trying to wreck an established charity. And it’s noteworthy that no other media have picked up on Brown and Kerr’s “story”.

And I find the WE series morally repugnant.

 

Jesse Brown vs. WE Charity: It’s All About the Money

I’ve written in the past about Jesse Brown’s bizarre campaign against WE Charity. He has never previously written about a charity, yet he has publishing six  podcasts/articles about WE since October 2018[3] with shocking accusations that have been consistently disproved in reports by retired Ontario Court of Appeal Justice Gouge, a highly esteemed lawyer and judge who chaired the Gouge Inquiry and wrote many important appeals court decisions.

As I mentioned in my last piece on the Canadaland–WE Charity saga, Jesse Brown’s team revealed they are working on a seventh story/podcast about WE Charity. I’ve been trying to understand why Jesse Brown seems so intent to constantly attack a children’s charity.

I believe that the answer to that question lies in the way Canadaland is constructed and its financial model. Jesse Brown is the owner/publisher/editor/podcast host of Canadaland. In this post, I will show you an analysis mapping Canadaland’s financial performance based against Jesse Brown’s editorial decisions, which appear to be directly linked to fundraising and profit.

My last post on this subject two weeks ago was an analysis of Brown’s established practices , and it’s a predictor of his next take-down attempt of WE Charity.

I explained, in detail, how this would unfold. I have spent dozens of hours looking at Brown’s pattern of behavior based on his take-downs of years past, to assess how he will likely do it.

With click-bait headlines, an almost exclusive reliance on anonymous sources, and ignoring facts that go against his chosen narrative, Brown follows a pattern time and time again. I expect nothing different this time, including Brown’s tactic of getting a largely inexperienced, junior reporter (in this instance, Jaren Kerr) to attach his name to the piece and bear the brunt of the fallout.

I have also been given Canadaland’s questions and WE’s answers for all the Canadaland stories, and have seen a simple pattern: Kerr and Brown never ask WE direct questions about the allegations they plan to make. They nibble around the edges, ask yes-or-no questions, then build a theory using fragments of fact and a lot of innuendo, buttressed, at times, by allegations of anonymous sources.

And there’s no need to keep those sources anonymous. Brown has libel insurance and the personal wealth to protect them from legal repercussions. They are anonymous because Brown and Kerr do not want their allegations to be scrutinized, or their existence to be checked.

I explained how this follows a pattern of Jesse Brown publishing provably false information about the charity — just as he’s previously done about the CBC, the Globe and Mail, journalist Amanda Lang, the Essex County School Board, and others to drive clicks and traffic to his website. In fact, I’m still offering $10,000 to Jesse Brown (or anyone else) if he sends me a real Kellogg’s cereal box with a ME to WE endorsement. Canadaland circulated a digitally-created one that superimposed ME to WE’s logo on the image of a Kellogg’s cereal box on one of his posts[4] about WE Charity, saying it was proof that WE promotes child labour. He should either collect the money, or finally admit that he circulated false materials and correct his article damaging WE Charity.

This article is about why Brown is doing this. It provides an analysis of his lack of transparency around Canadaland financials, and how his funding works based on the Patreon subscription model. My conclusion is Brown’s motivation for his upcoming attempt to create further harm to WE Charity and its co-founders can be summed up in one word: Money.

As usual, all of the information shared here is properly cited, and the analysis of the Pateron financial support is based on data from the Patreon web site itself.[5] The graphics were sourced from publicly-available data from the Patreon and Canadaland sites.

A look at Jesse Brown’s Patreon Dollars

Canadaland is partly funded by reader and listener donations through Patreon, a crowdfunding web site which encourages artists to “regain creative freedom” based on a model whereby “fans” can help give monthly pledges to support the work of the “creator”.

Based on the amount of money pledged on a monthly basis, fans can receive certain rewards such as the ability to stream content free of advertising or gifts of merchandise. In the case of Canadaland, this includes everything from branded keychains to socks.

Pateron as also a social platform has been highly debated and, at times, controversial.[6] It has been criticized for allowing people to openly support and participate in hate crimes, online abuse and various forms of harassment.[7] Patreon has also been also criticized as becoming a place which degrades women providing funding for “adult stars” can connect with their “fans” around “lewd content”.[8]

Canadaland is one of the most “successful” Patreon users, currently generating $24,000 USD per month to support its work.[9] In fact, Canadaland has been cited by Patreon itself as an example of a “Top Earner”.[10]

The most famous and successful Canadian on Patreon is Jordan Peterson, who, until January 2019, was making $80,000 USD a month on Pateron. [11] But Peterson recently deleted his account in protest to a number of editorial decisions made by Patreon, namely its decision to de-platforum the controversial YouTube personality, Carl Benjamin.[12]

It is interesting to note that Peterson is one of Jesse Brown’s favourite targets given that they were both competing for their share of Canadian Patreon dollars and subscribers until Peterson left in protest.[13]

A review of Canadaland Patreon web site back-end data and financial performance:

[14]
Anyone can access a Patreon account’s back-end user statistics, overall trends and financial performance, through Patreon’s website.

The Patreon site provides an impressive level of financial transparency on how the individual accounts of the platform are performing, including the financial performance of Canadaland.[15] [16]

It allows people to map Canadaland’s financial performance based against Jesse Brown’s editorial decisions, which clearly shows a pattern directly linked to his fundraising.

After spending several hours reviewing the data on the site, several interesting facts stood out quite clearly.

Last year at this time, Canadaland was in a serious, stagnant lull, and its subscription numbers/revenues were diminishing month by month. In June 2018, Canadaland had 4,112 subscribers and monthly revenues of $19, 898. Those numbers continued to creep downward, and by October 11, 2018, the numbers bottomed out at 3,746 subscribers and monthly income of $17,763.

Suddenly, everything turned around and Canadaland’s subscriber and revenue numbers shot up. So, what happened to prompt that trend reversal?

On October 15, 2018, Canadaland published the first of several stories and podcasts attacking WE.[17]

Granted, Canadaland also launched its Thunder Bay podcast series on October 22, 2018. But the correlation between the WE attack pieces and the influx of subscribers and revenue can’t be denied, and Canadaland’s subsequent financial ‘pops’ are all timed to WE-related content. In fact, the Patreon numbers were declining even though Brown was advertising the Thunder Bay podcast for months, and was asking listeners to financially support the project.

The WE attacks were also the main focus of Jesse Brown’s fundraising appeals. Included in his frequent pitches was a plea to hire the “author” of the WE attack pieces, Jaren Kerr, as a full-time staff member.

On the October 15, 2018, Canadaland podcast, Brown says “…if we reach our next goal of this crowd-funder, Jaren Kerr will be offered a permanent full-time job with us.”[18]

According to the Notices of Libel  issued by WE Charity against Brown and Canadaland, Brown then made at least six more fundraising appeals in October and November, 2018.[19]  

Those podcasts are still up. People can check for themselves.

For a time, every visitor to Canadaland’s website was greeted with a “pop-up window” asking for funds to, in part, to help fund the “investigation” by subscribing through Patreon.[20] Brown even made a Tweet from the Canadaland twitter account highlighting the WE investigation his “Pinned Tweet” well into 2019.

Today, if you visit Canadaland’s front page, you’ll see a plea for funds to support the hiring of a full-time reporter to cover sexual misconduct stories in Canada.

If you click the “Support us” button, it redirects the Patreon site, and a few clicks later you can find the specific fundraising goal. It describes the goal as “A full-time reporter to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct in Canada.” That is a great idea, and something I would contribute to myself, if I thought the targets of the investigation would be treated fairly.

But if you read Canadaland’s 2018 Transparency Report it implies the campaign is over.[21]

So why is this still on the front page of the Canadaland site? And what happened to the incremental share of the $27,146 monthly funds they managed to raise for this? The report implies the funds will be used “to assign stories and investigations on this beat”, but six months later I don’t recall seeing any pieces on the subject. (Yet, they have time and resources to do a seventh piece about WE Charity.) That’s a shame because I’m sure there are no shortage of stories to tell on that important and timely issue.

The fact that Jesse Brown is working on another story/podcast about WE Charity should come as no surprise. Attacking an internationally-famous charity with such a massive online presence and international recognition leads to more traffic to the Canadaland website, and more Pateron supporters, corporate advertising and profits for Brown.

Canadaland has roughly 34,600 Twitter followers while WE Charity has over ten times that number on Twitter, with another 3 million followers on Facebook, and 290,000 on Instagram. By attacking WE, Canadaland easily increased its own social media following in a short period of time.

Anyone aware of WE Charity would surely click through to see what was behind the shocking headlines about WE Charity and Craig Kielburger. The scandalous headline from the first piece read: “Craig Kielburger Founded WE To Fight Child Labour. Now The WE Brand Promotes Products Made By Children.”[22]

Following the financial success of the first story on WE Charity in October, Canadaland followed up with another attack piece on the charity and the Kielburgers on November 19, 2018, sensationally titled: “How the Kielburgers Handle the Press: a look back at 22 years of aggressive responses to criticism.”[23] 

In the two months following publication of the initial piece in October 2018, Canadaland increased its Patreon subscribers by 44 percent and its revenues by 53 percent.

Subscriber numbers continued to climb until the end of the year and then began to trend downward again. On December 31, 2018, Canadaland hit its apex with 5,408 Patreon subscribers and $27,254 in monthly revenues.

The attacks also created a lot of online buzz for Canadaland, with Google search trends again spiking up following the release of the WE Charity pieces.

 

Increase in Canadaland's search trends during attaches on WE graph
Canadaland’s search trends during attaches on WE (2018-2019)

 

(Graphic from Google Trends query).[24]

The final WE attack piece came on January 18, 2019. After falling off in early January, the mid-January WE story gave Canadaland one last boost in its numbers, rising up briefly to 5,384 subscribers and $27,003 by January 24, followed by a slow and steady decline ever since.

Canadaland's steady decline in Patreon support and fundraising in the last 6 months (without WE Charity attack) graph
Canadaland’s steady decline in Patreon support and fundraising in the last 6 months.

 

As of June 1, 2019, the numbers had dipped to 4,924 subscribers and $24,643 in monthly revenue. Those represent declines of 10% in subscribers and 9% in revenues. It’s telling that there has been a steady decline over the last six months, which is also the same length of time since the last attack on WE Charity. The trend line above certainly doesn’t bode well for Canadaland, which has spent many years trying to build up its financial base. I’ve read that Canadland has even started to do outdoor advertising to try to reverse their downward trend, something that they have not done before to my knowledge.

 

Canadaland's current decrease in supporters and funding in the last 30 days graph
Canadaland’s current decrease in supporters and funding in the last 30 days

 

There is nothing to indicate that the trend will reverse on its own, with the last 30 days showing a significant continued decline.

Moreover, the amount listed on Canadaland’s web site outlining monthly donations is no longer correct and it has not been since January. Perhaps Jesse Brown and the Canadaland team feel they don’t need to make any changes to their site and ensure the number is accurate, knowing that if they do their next WE attack, their Patreon numbers will simply trend upwards making up the financial loses.With all these financial considerations in mind, does it seem like a “coincidence” that there will be another “investigation” into WE Charity and a seventh article on the heels of subscription numbers and revenues trending downward for six straight months?

Inaccurate Patreon funding amount on Canadaland website as of June 13th, 2019
Inaccurate Patreon funding amount on Canadaland website as of June 13th, 2019

 

 

For Jesse Brown, transparency is a one-way street:

I explained in my last article that during my research phase, I reached out to both the charity and to Canadaland. WE Charity answered, and sent me the full list of over 140 questions posed by Canadaland and each of the charity’s detailed answers in response.

But Canadaland would not answer my questions. I asked about Canadaland’s corporate funding, the amount of money it’s made from the WE Charity stories, and other questions about how Canadaland operates. Unfortunately, transparency seems to be a one-way street for Jesse Brown and Canadaland.

Asking 140+ questions on dozens of topics is nothing but a fishing expedition. It has nothing to do with “responsible journalism” in libel law. It’s the journalistic equivalent of throwing everything against the wall and hoping that something sticks. I simply don’t see a story here. Yet, I can guarantee that Canadaland will post a seventh negative article or podcast about WE Charity. Why? Because their financial model depends on it. Jesse Brown is the owner/publisher/editor/podcast host, and he’s not letting facts get in the way of his story.

WE Charity can provide auditors, HR experts, government agencies, impact verification groups, and all the rest. Canadaland has its “anonymous sources”. As Upton Sinclair said, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

Brown benefits financially from the WE attacks much more than he does from his day-to-day media criticism. He also callously inflicts the maximum damage to the charity in the process. Canadaland seeks out the charity’s largest funders to ask questions about the charity’s operations. This has a chilling affect on fundraising. It is the equivalent of one of Brown’s critics going after his advertisers. This isn’t media criticism, it’s a campaign to destroy a charity.

I’ve heard Jesse Brown on his podcast claim that he’s not trying to damage the charity or hurt the impoverished beneficiaries who benefit from the charity’s provision of clean water, healthcare, and education. He is masking his vendetta against WE Charity and its co-founders as being in the “public good” and only seeking to help ask “important questions”. But this perverse claim by Jesse Brown simply isn’t credible.

Based on the materials that I’ve reviewed, including Canadaland’s own podcasts, it’s clear that Canadaland has asked WE Charity’s biggest financial backers multiple questions challenging the reputation of the charity – including easily disproved but very serious accusations.

Those kind of questions alone can, understandably, scare off donors. After all, with over 85,000 registered charities in Canada, there are plenty of options for corporate donors, many of whom partner with charities in an effort to strengthen the image of their brand.[25] Donors will be wary if their charity of choice is being targeted by a website that won’t give up on its consistently negative coverage with clickbait headlines and shocking accusations. It’s easier to just move the donations elsewhere. It would be like one of Brown’s opponents going after his advertisers.

The sourcing and credibility of allegations that could taint a charity – any charity, not just one that helps women and kids in the developing world — need to be rock solid and double or triple corroborated by trustworthy, on the record sources. Canadaland has been consistently proved to have made very serious false claims, citing simply “anonymous sources”, including Jesse Brown stating on his podcast the extremely damaging (and complete untrue) statement that the “ME to WE Foundation” was not actually a foundation. He must be aware that this false claim implying deception is devastating to the reputation and trust of a charity. Even more appalling, even though Jesse Brown has acknowledged via twitter that his statement was not accurate, this shocking false allegation is still uncorrected in the audio of the Canadaland podcast.[26]

This is one of multiple serious and clearly false claims by Canadaland involving WE and its partners, including Canadaland falsely claiming that the Good Housekeeping seal of approval was not legitimately earned by the charity, Canadaland falsely claiming that the charity and the Globe and Mail are engaging in “media manipulation” of children, Canadaland falsely claiming that the charity hid corporate partnerships – and Canadaland “proved” this using as “evidence” a digitally-created image that cut and paste the ME to WE logo on a corporate product.[27]

Making serious allegations to a charity’s funders and publicly based on “unnamed sources” is a completely irresponsible endeavor – one that can cut the legs right out from a charity, overnight.

“The only two things you can truly depend upon are gravity and greed” – Jack Palance

It was when Canadaland wouldn’t respond to any of my questions, that I started doing some digging of my own and sought to explore the intricate relationship between Jesse Brown’s editorial decision-making and his personal financial gain. Keep in mind that my questions to Brown were straightforward. Here is a sampling of what I asked:

  • What is Canadaland’s overall operating budget?
  • Since it isn’t disclosed in Canadaland’s so-called Transparency Report, how much money does the company receive from corporate advertising?
  • What is Jesse Brown’s total compensation from Canadaland, including profit as 80% ownerof the business?
  • In order to avoid any conflict of interest as the publisher, owner, and editor of Canadaland as a media website, will Jesse Brown disclose any other sources of revenue apart from Canadaland?

Brown declined to answer any of the questions, which isn’t surprising as he’s feigned transparency before only to play the privacy card when questions turn to how much he really makes from Canadaland.

Recall his Twitter exchange with Craig Silverman (who was then Media Editor at Buzzfeed News), who asked similar questions following the release of Canadaland’s 2017 Transparency Report.

Silverman asked: Can you say what the total commercial revenue was last year? And what portion of it went to pay additional compensation for people who also receive compensation from crowdfunding?

Brown responded: nope, we don’t open our books on our commercial revenue.

This is basically Silverman asking how much money Jesse Brown truly earns. That response prompted several former Canadaland employees to call out Brown for the lack of transparency.

Jane Lytvynenko wrote: there are people who, according to the website, work for you but who are not in the report. how can you claim equal pay without income transparency?

Vicky Mochama wrote: “Transparency!” and went on to say “this is how you defend the lack of transparency and obvious pay gaps? what. a. choice.”

This “commercial revenue” statement is important to note. What Canadaland Transparency Reports does reveal is that the company’s revenue comes from two main sources:[28] monthly subscriptions through Patreon (a crowdfunding membership platform) and “commercial revenue” (i.e. advertising revenue). The 2018 Transparency report states that the amount of revenue from each source was split relatively evenly, or as the report says:

The ratio fluctuates as patrons and advertisers come and go, but Patreon vs. commercial revenue in 2018 averaged about 50:50.” [29]

Canadaland will only report on how it spends its Patreon dollars. Thus, approximately half  (or maybe more) of Canadaland’s revenue is a black box. Based on Canadaland’s Transparency report, that amounts to several hundreds of thousands of dollars annually unaccounted for. How does that much money influence someone’s “journalistic” decisions? It’s up for you to decide.

In another Twitter thread, Brown stated his Canadaland salary is $48,000. This appears on its surface to be a very reasonable amount – perhaps similar to the compensation earned by the people giving him $5 or $10 a month via Patreon. In reality, the number is deceiving. This base salary doesn’t include Jesse Brown’s share of the profits – including the commercial revenue – as the 80% owner of Canadaland. Brown has boasted that Canadaland is a profitable business, but when pressed via Twitter for more information about how much he personally earns, he tweeted back “… with respect, it’s not your business.[30]

Nor does that include the growth of Brown’s equity in the business, which he can sell anytime he wants.

Yet, in Canadaland’s last barrage of questions to WE Charity, Brown has demanded to know the full level of compensation for Craig and Marc Kielburger, the founders of WE Charity. He further posed over a dozen questions about the private financial information of the Kielburger brothers’ parents, who are 80-year old retired school teachers.

For example, Jesse Brown wanted to know the sources of revenue for purchases made by the Kielburger parents. He further wanted to know the total real estate holdings of the Kielburgers. Why is that information “his business” if Brown’s own finances are not also fair game? Especially since it is widely known that both Craig and Marc Kielburger have never taken a dime of income from WE Charity.[31] A subject’s relatives, particularly their 80-year old parents, should always be off-limits.

The implications of the questions are clear, and, frankly, they are vile.[32]

Nevertheless, in my detailed analysis outlined in my last post, I believe that WE showed a remarkable level of  disclosure and transparency. They shared the level of compensation the brothers received from ME to WE (the social enterprise that funds WE Charity) with Canadaland.

Based on the documents available on the WE website, previous to Canadaland’s questions their salaries were analysed by KCI, third-party experts who previously published that it was industry appropriate.[33] But Canadaland felt that they should know the exact number of someone’s salary. So, the Kielburgers disclosed that it is $125,000 a year. It seems quite below market value for two brothers who have degrees from Harvard, Oxford, and who have  a law degree (Mark) and an MBA (Craig). The brothers even had a former judge (Justice Stephen Goudge) from the Ontario Court of Appeal review their T4 forms and related information to confirm its accuracy.[34]

In a pretty remarkable display of transparency (and underscoring how bizarre Canadaland’s vendetta has become), the Kielburgers also had their 80-year-old parent’s finances reviewed by Justice Goudge.[35] In that case, it turns out that the parents have been buying and fixing up homes with their own hands since 1975.[36] When they sold the family home, they bought two small offices for the use of the charity, and provided a decade of free rent to the charity, totalling a value of several million dollars, without even claiming a tax receipt.

Since Brown feels that he can ask the personal finances of the 80-year Kielburger parents, what is he willing to disclose? Canadaland is funded by hard-working people who are giving their $5 and $10 a month to Jesse Brown. As usual, Jesse Brown fails to hold himself to the same standard to which he holds others. Do they not deserve to know the finances of Canadaland?

And what are Brown’s investments from the millions of dollars he made from his emoji business? Are there conflicts between those investments and his journalism? How about his paid speaking gigs? Any conflicts there?

The media bail-out debate and Mr. Brown’s conflict of interest

What I’ve laid out shows the fundamental problem with the way Canadaland is constructed and the way it operates. It’s a basic tenet of journalism that you keep the financial interests of a media outlet separate from the work of reporters and editors so that the editorial slant of a story is not influenced by its economic potential. Otherwise you have the definition of a conflict of interest.

Jesse Brown serves as editor, publisher, podcast host and author. He owns 80% of the company and takes 80% of its profits. It is simply human nature to pursue a story that has proven to be a cash cow until it stops generating clicks.

Jesse Brown has often hidden behind the veil of “independent journalism” when criticized about his practices. Some journalists have chalked-up his shortcomings to simply sloppy journalism. But there’s a pattern to Jesse Brown publishing provably false information about WE Charity, the CBC, the Globe and Mail, journalist Amanda Lang, the Essex County School Board, and other topics. His decision to run these stories without proper sources, laced with sensationalist headlines, often refusing to correct, reveals someone who is prioritizing clicks over accuracy, and dollars over true “journalism”.

Frankly, Brown needs a scoop. The glory days of Jian Ghomeshi were a long time ago, and it must be getting harder to dine out on that one story. Small outfits like Blacklock’s Reporter on Parliament Hill and even Frank Magazine are beating Brown on run-of-the-mill and big media stories. It seems Canadaland has no real sources in media, which says a lot in itself.

All this adds up to a very bad look for Brown and Canadaland. Especially as he positions himself as the voice of independent media as it relates to the Government of Canada’s proposed $600 million media tax credit that it announced in the 2019 federal Budget.[37]

While Brown has said he is against the idea of the so-called “news bailout fund”, if it is to exist, he believes entities like Canadaland should have the ability to get a piece of the pie. In a March 21, 2019 radio interview, Brown had this to say about the fund/tax credit concept:[38]

If you allowed news readers to choose whatever they think is real news or good news, and you gave them… a 50% tax break on point of sale on their subscription, or on their support for that journalism…you could completely leave it up to the public to decide what news they want, and then create an extra incentive for people do that and make sure that the money gets to the news that the people choose.”

Interestingly, Brown has been vehemently opposed to the composition of the Panel the government has charged with determining how the funds will be allocated and which organizations will qualify for federal support.[39]

When asked on Twitter who he thought should decide who gets the money, he reiterated his view from the radio interview that it should be Darwinian survival of the fittest media institutions that can drive the highest number of clicks and subscriptions:

Canadian news readers. Subsidize our news subscriptions/news donations if there must be subsidies, and leave government and legacy media way the hell out of the business of deciding what ‘real’ journalism is for a whole society, and which news orgs get to survive.”

He went on to write: “failing that (they have already failed that) then every effort must be taken to establish a panel of experts who do not have any financial interest in the outcomes, to craft objective criteria. Transparency on outcomes and an appeals process mandatory.”

Whatever your own perspective on the media bail-out, Brown’s position on all of this is not unexpected based on his own clear financial incentives. After all, he has made a career of attacking what he likes to call “legacy media” or “press barons”.[40]

But here’s a thought for you: I can think of no other “journalist” or “editor” in Canada who has a bigger or more direct financial stake in a media outlet than Jesse Brown does via his 80% ownership of Canadaland. The Canadaland structure is rather stunning, and worthy of an ethics class in journalism. Although Jesse Brown frequently attacks the legacy media, you don’t see the Thomsons deciding the daily headline of the Globe and Mail.

And Globe employees can buy Thomson-Reuters stock and get some ownership and the financial disclosure available to shareholders. Canadaland employees? Nope. It’s Jesse Brown’s show.

Brown knows Canadaland’s revenues keep trending downward, and his track record that includes fabricating content while at the CBC will prevent him from getting federal funding – as will his lousy pay for staffers, which is below the threshold required by the statutory terms of the bailout — so what else can he do but go back to what he knows best: attacking WE Charity with click-bait news stories. As the numbers clearly show, it’s a formula that has worked for him in the past. He may eventually go after another entity with a sufficiently large on-line presence to drive clicks and traffic to his own website, but so far, he’s been coming up empty on stories about Canadian media.

It’s clear no one in the media is giving much to work with. My own site is more than able to keep up with text stories, and I devote a fraction of my time to it.

I’m aware that many in the media are afraid of Jesse Brown, and most don’t want to ask him the tough questions. Even established journalists do not want to experience his blistering and simplistic attacks, and its widely known that many of the boosters on twitter are simply doing so to avoid being attacked themselves. In that way, he reminds me of a faux-left version of President Trump: hit hard and fast on social media, name-call your enemies, and deflect criticism by pointing to others. Pull out some old story on your critics and say “gotcha!” Trump won’t reveal his tax returns, and Jesse Brown won’t reveal Canadaland’s finances. In both cases, we’re just supposed to trust that they have our best interests at heart.

It’s clear that Jesse Brown is not in the game for the journalism – he’s in it for himself, and for the money.

Notes

[1] The Narwhal. “What the Federal Budget Offers Canada’s Struggling Journalism Industry.” The Narwhal. March 20, 2019. Accessed June 12, 2019. https://thenarwhal.ca/what-the-federal-budget-offers-canadas-struggling-journalism-industry/.

[2] As it Happens, CBC Radio. “Tax incentives for news industry could lead to ‘friendly coverage’ of Liberals: Raitt.” CBC. November 23, 2018. Accessed June 13, 2019. https://www.cbc.ca/radio/asithappens/as-it-happens-friday-edition-1.4918054/tax-incentives-for-news-industry-could-lead-to-friendly-coverage-of-liberals-raitt-1.4918066

[3] “Kielburger.” CANADALAND. Accessed June 12, 2019. https://www.canadalandshow.com/?s=kielburger.

[4] “Kelloggs Graphic – Final.” CANADALAND. Accessed June 13, 2019. https://www.canadalandshow.com/craig-kielburger-founded-we-to-fight-child-labour-now-the-we-brand-promotes-products-made-by-children/kelloggs-graphic-final/.

[5] “CANADALAND: Patreon Earnings Statistics Graphs Rank.” Graphtreon. Accessed June 12, 2019. https://graphtreon.com/creator/CANADALAND.

[6] Goggin, Benjamin. “Crowdfunding Platform Patreon Defends Itself from Protests by ‘intellectual Dark Web,’ Publishes Slur-filled Posts from Banned YouTuber.” Business Insider. December 18, 2018. Accessed June 12, 2019. https://www.businessinsider.com/patreon-crowdfunding-platform-defends-itself-amid-boycott-2018-12.

[7] Fleishman, Glenn. “The Problem with Patreon: Nazis, Pedophilia Pushers, Harassers, and More.” Glenn Fleishman Writes Words about Things. November 26, 2014. Accessed June 12, 2019. https://glog.glennf.com/blog/2014/11/26/the-problem-with-patreon-nazis-harassers-and-more.

[8] “Top Patreon Adult Photography: Top Earners Biggest Highest Paid Successful.” Graphtreon. Accessed June 12, 2019. https://graphtreon.com/top-patreon-creators/adult-photography.

[9] “CANADALAND Is Creating Podcasts & News.” Patreon. Accessed June 12, 2019. https://www.patreon.com/CANADALAND.

[10] “These 34 Creators Earned Over $150,000 Each on Patreon in 2016 – Meet Them!” Patreon Blog. Accessed June 12, 2019. https://blog.patreon.com/top-earners-2016.

[11] Hern, Alex. “The Rise of Patreon – the Website That Makes Jordan Peterson $80k a Month.” The Guardian. May 14, 2018. Accessed June 12, 2019. https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/may/14/patreon-rise-jordan-peterson-online-membership.

[12] “Jordan Peterson Speaks out on Patreon Controversy.” The Post Millennial. December 15, 2018. Accessed June 12, 2019. https://www.thepostmillennial.com/jordan-peterson-speaks-out-on-patreon-controversy/.

[13] Brown, Jesse. “Only a Country Like Canada Could Produce a Guy Like Jordan Peterson.” The New York Times. April 06, 2018. Accessed June 12, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/06/opinion/jordan-peterson-canadian-deference.html.

[14]  All further references to Patreon revenues are in USD as that is the currency used in Patreon’s disclosures. All further subscriber and financial data comes directly from Patreon’s Canadaland page: https://graphtreon.com/creator/CANADALAND.

[15] “Patreon Makes a Change for Better Transparency.” Podcaster News. Accessed June 12, 2019. http://podcasternews.com/2015/12/19/patreon-makes-a-change-for-better-transparency/.

[16] “CANADALAND: Patreon Earnings Statistics Graphs Rank.” Graphtreon. Accessed June 12, 2019. https://graphtreon.com/creator/CANADALAND.

[17] “The CANADALAND Investigation Of The Kielburgers’ WE Movement.” CANADALAND. Accessed June 12, 2019. https://www.canadalandshow.com/podcast/the-canadaland-investigation-of-the-kielburgers-we-movement/.

[18] Ibid.

[19] “WE Corrects Canadaland: Notice of Libel.” WE. Accessed June 12, 2019. https://www.we.org/formal-notice/.

[20] Ibid.

[21] “Canadaland 2018 Transparency Report.” CANADALAND. April 04, 2019. Accessed June 12, 2019. https://www.canadalandshow.com/2018-transparency-report/.

[22] “Craig Kielburger Founded WE To Fight Child Labour. Now The WE Brand Promotes Products Made By Children.” CANADALAND. October 15, 2018. Accessed June 12, 2019. https://www.canadalandshow.com/craig-kielburger-founded-we-to-fight-child-labour-now-the-we-brand-promotes-products-made-by-children/.

[23] “How The Kielburgers Handle The Press.” CANADALAND. January 18, 2019. Accessed June 12, 2019. https://www.canadalandshow.com/how-the-kielburgers-handle-the-press/.

[24] ” “Search of Canadaland, Last 12 Months, Worldwide.” Chart. Google Trends. https://trends.google.com/trends/explore?q=canadaland.

[25] “Sector Impact.” Sector Source. Accessed June 12, 2019. http://sectorsource.ca/research-and-impact/sector-impact.

[26] “The CANADALAND Investigation Of The Kielburgers’ WE Movement.” CANADALAND. Accessed June 12, 2019. https://www.canadalandshow.com/podcast/the-canadaland-investigation-of-the-kielburgers-we-movement/.

[27] https://fairpress.ca/dissecting-the-shame-wizard-part-ii/

[28] “Transparency Archives.” CANADALAND. Accessed June 12, 2019. https://www.canadalandshow.com/tag/transparency/.

[29] “Canadaland 2018 Transparency Report.” CANADALAND. April 04, 2019. Accessed June 12, 2019. https://www.canadalandshow.com/2018-transparency-report/.

[30] “Digital News Disruption.” TVO.org. Accessed June 12, 2019. https://www.tvo.org/video/digital-news-disruption.

[31] “Transparency Report – Reviews by Justice Goudge.” WE. Accessed June 12, 2019. https://www.we.org/we-movement/transparency-reporting/transparency-report-reviews-by-justice-goudge/.

[32] “Annual Reports.” WE Charity. Accessed June 12, 2019. https://www.wecharity.org/about-we-charity/financials-and-governance/annual-reports/?_ga=2.5677371.944070302.1560365598-16844893.1560365598.

[33] “Oversight and Accountability.” ME to WE. Accessed June 12, 2019. https://www.metowe.com/about-us/oversight-and-accountability/.

[34] “Transparency Report – Reviews by Justice Goudge.” WE. Accessed June 12, 2019. https://www.we.org/we-movement/transparency-reporting/transparency-report-reviews-by-justice-goudge/.

[35] Ibid.

[36] Spiering, Brenda. “Two Teachers Who Helped Their Kids Start a Movement.” Canadian Living. March 22, 2019. Accessed June 12, 2019. https://www.canadianliving.com/life-and-relationships/community-and-current-events/article/two-teachers-who-helped-their-kids-start-a-movement.

[37] The Narwhal. “What the Federal Budget Offers Canada’s Struggling Journalism Industry.” The Narwhal. March 20, 2019. Accessed June 12, 2019. https://thenarwhal.ca/what-the-federal-budget-offers-canadas-struggling-journalism-industry/.

[38] “Media Critic Jesse Brown on Ottawa’s Ill-conceived Media Bailout – Afternoons with Rob Breakenridge.” Enterprise Podcasting Made Simple – Omny.fm. Accessed June 12, 2019. https://omny.fm/shows/afternoons-with-rob-breakenridge/media-critic-jesse-brown-on-ottawas-ill-conceived.

[39] “Federal Government Names Organizations That Will Help Spend $600M Journalism Fund | CBC News.” CBCnews. May 24, 2019. Accessed June 12, 2019. https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/journalism-support-fund-panel-1.5144282.

[40] “How A Meeting Of “Press Barons” Shaped The Government’s News Bailout.” CANADALAND. April 12, 2019. Accessed June 12, 2019. https://www.canadalandshow.com/meeting-of-press-barons-shaped-the-governments-news-bailout/.