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Dallas startup InspireMore wants a 'righteous disruption' of mainstream media that'll make you smile – The Dallas Morning News



Earlier this year, the team at Dallas-based media startup InspireMore learned about a troubling case of elementary school bullying from nonprofit Behind Every Door.

McKenzie Steward, who was born with albinism, had been bullied by other students because of her skin condition. So the InspireMore team put out a request to readers to submit kind letters to the fifth-grader.

“It was truly one of the most cool moments because we got over 500 letters,” InspireMore co-founder and chief marketing officer Hunter Stensrud said.

Partnering with Behind Every Door, InspireMore ended up compiling the crowdsourced letters and artwork into a book and giving it to Steward and her mother. A video recording and article about this became content shared with the site’s followers, thanking them for their participation.

“Each person is made uniquely beautiful, which means there is no one else like you,” Behind Every Door operations director Darrion Lewis read aloud from the book of letters given to Steward earlier this year as she sat in a folding chair beside him, fidgeting with her hands and smiling coyly.

The update on Steward’s saga published to InspireMore’s website joined headlines like “Woman Flies Abused Dog 2,500 Miles To Shower Her With Love And Healing” and “Disney Princesses Help 6-Yr-Old With Autism Find His Confidence.”

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InspireMore, now in its fifth year, was launched out of the Dallas Entrepreneur Center in March 2014. It was driven by a singular mission: inspire overwhelmed media consumers to realize how much good there is in the world.

Some stories are aggregated by InspireMore’s staff from mainstream media outlets where they may be buried by news with greater public implications. Others are dug up by the site’s crew of half a dozen writers who scour social media for tales of heroism and empathy.

Stensrud and InspireMore founder Robert Neely didn’t study journalism and they’ve never worked in news. They don’t consider themselves or their team to be journalists.

“Our team really cares about others, really loves media and wants to find things that are interesting,” Neely said.

InspireMore founder and CEO Robert Neely Jr. (left) and chief marketing officer Hunter Stensrud pose for a portrait in their West End office space on Dec. 16, 2019. (Juan Figueroa/The Dallas Morning News)(Juan Figueroa / Staff photographer)

Neely is a former strategy and operations consultant for Deloitte who went on to study the human condition at the faith-based Kanakuk Institute. Stensrud was a marketing strategist for Reap Marketing.

To them, InspireMore is a platform for connecting people as well as a supplement to readers’ existing media diets.

“We don’t want to replace the news,” Neely said.

He refers to it as “righteous disruption.”

“You know, a lot of things that are reported on can be depressing,” he said.

InspireMore’s early mission, which was based on bringing as much attention as possible to positive and inspiring stories, has evolved in the years since. It’s started to become more focused and purposeful, Neely said.

“When you have attention, and eyeballs, and you have people’s passion — how do you leverage that?” Stensrud noted.

Since launching, the company has reached up to 3 million readers monthly and donated $125,000 to charity. InspireMore even rose to become the 15th-most visited mobile website in the U.S. in June 2017, according to Quantcast data.

The startup moved into new offices in Dallas’ West End in 2018 and is in a fundraising round now to bring in more than $2.7 million. Neely said he hopes the company will see profitability by mid-2020.

The company makes money primarily by selling advertising on its site and with sponsored posts across its social media profiles and newsletters.

But it wasn’t always this way.

In its first year of operation, Neely said InspireMore barely made money and hardly anybody took home a salary as the company worked to find its footing in the media landscape.

InspireMore founder and CEO Robert Neely Jr. checked Instagram impressions with strategic partnership developer Lauren Poey on Dec. 16, 2019, at their West End office. (Juan Figueroa/The Dallas Morning News)
InspireMore founder and CEO Robert Neely Jr. checked Instagram impressions with strategic partnership developer Lauren Poey on Dec. 16, 2019, at their West End office. (Juan Figueroa/The Dallas Morning News)(Juan Figueroa / Staff photographer)

Social media algorithms have changed over the past several years, with Facebook’s deprioritization of publishers being among the most notable, forcing media outlets to find new avenues to reach audiences.

“We were getting a lot of social traffic,” Neely said. “But people weren’t as attached to the brand as we wanted and it’s because of how we were reaching them, how they were visiting our site, how we were engaging them.”

The company wants to build a “tribe” around the InspireMore brand, a group of people who are driven not just by a cynicism toward negative news media and social media platforms but by a desire to see more good in their lives.

In this vein, Neely and Stensrud hope to develop an app and build more strategic partnerships like they did recently with the Mister Rogers film A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. The partnership with film distributor Sony Pictures and Dallas-based Vomo encouraged people around the country to partake in community service in November, as well as promoted the film through email sponsorships, sponsored articles and social promotion.

The company is also exploring hyperlocal email newsletters — including one specifically for Dallas residents.

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Mi'kmaw journalist assesses media coverage of fisheries dispute –



Some media coverage of tension between Mi’kmaw and non-Indigenous fishermen, like what’s happening right now in Saulnierville, N.S., fails to tell the true story, says Trina Roache.

She’s a long-time journalist with APTN News who has covered the implications of the 1999 Marshall decision for years. The historic ruling recognized a First Nations’ right to earn a moderate living from fishing but the government has never defined what that means. 

Last year, Roache released a documentary on the 20th anniversary of the Marshall decision asking what had changed. 

Now, she’s covering the same tensions in Saulnierville where the Sipekne’katik First Nation launched their moderate livelihood fishery on Thursday. It’s being opposed by non-Indigenous fishermen who’ve cut traps and paraded their boats around the harbour in protest. 

Roache spoke with host CBC Mainstreet host Jeff Douglas about what the journalist can do to better report on Indigenous issues and why an understanding of the treaties is so important.  

Their conversation has been edited for clarity and length.

In general, are we driving you nuts?

A little bit, to be honest. A little bit. 

It’s a story I’ve spent a lot of time on, and then sometimes when I read the headlines and when I see the mainstream coverage, it’s frustrating because there’s an imbalance sometimes or a language that happens in the coverage that to me creates a narrative that the Mi’kmaw are doing something wrong, which isn’t the case. 

Can you give us an indication of some of that coverage or the imbalance? 

The Mi’kmaq, they have a right. The Supreme Court of Canada decided in the Marshall decision that they agree, yes, the Mi’kmaq have a treaty right to make a living from fishing and hunting and gathering. They came out with the term “moderate livelihood,” didn’t define it, so it’s a little confusing. But they upheld that treaty right. 

And so the problem is, is that when we call it an illegal fishery, that’s only because the Department of Fisheries and Oceans has not implemented their own law, like they haven’t addressed the Marshall decision to date. So there are no rules to govern a moderate livelihood fishery. And so in the eyes of DFO, it might be an illegal fishery, but in fact, the Mi’kmaq have a legal right, a constitutional right to go fish and make a living. 

APTN journalist Trina Roache spoke with host Jeff Douglas about what the mainstream media can do to better report on Indigenous issues at a time when many eyes are on Saulnierville, N.S. That’s where Sipekne’katik First Nation launched a self-regulated fishery this week. It’s been met with resistance and anger from commercial fishermen. 14:49

Chief Terry Paul also said that they have been waiting for essentially 21 years for DFO and for some sort of governance. 

The Mi’kmaq are doing that work themselves. And that’s what you’re seeing today down in Saulnierville, near Digby. The Sipekne’katik First Nation in particular is down there issuing these moderate livelihood licences. They’ve got a management plan, they’re celebrating the anniversary of the Marshall decision, you know, kicking off this moderate livelihood with ceremony, the Grand Council’s there. This is not an illegal fishery. They have every legal right to do what they’re doing.

The Mi’kmaq are not protesting. So, again, we have to be very careful of the words we use when we’re describing what’s happening. But the protest part is that the non-Mi’kmaw fishermen down there are out on the water in their boats and trying to sort of stymie the Mi’kmaq, and not allow them to drop their traps or maybe cut their traps and not allow them to sort of carry out this moderate livelihood fishery. So that’s the protest part. 

Trina Roache reports for the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, or APTN. (Trina Roache)

In addition to language use, like substituting the word protest instead of celebration or ceremony, illegal fishery, is there just a lack of understanding surrounding treaty issues? 

We have a really important job in providing that balanced view. You sort of have the tenets of journalism, right? We all want to do fair, balanced, accurate, objective reporting. And as an Indigenous journalist, well, that’s what I do, too. And so sometimes what can happen, though, I think, is that we sort of assume that somehow mainstream journalism, predominantly white journalism, that is just sort of unbiased … Because I’ve been asked, well, how do you keep your journalism from turning into advocacy? And I’m like, that’s a terrible question, because you’re making an assumption somehow that because I’m Mi’kmaw reporting on Mi’kmaw issues that I can’t be fair and accurate and balanced. 

And instead, when CBC or other media are calling this fishery an illegal fishery or keep referring to it within the report as this illegal fishery, to me that’s bias, right? That betrays an inherent bias in the reporting and not including enough Mi’kmaw voices. If you’re going to do a story about the Mi’kmaw, you have to make sure you’re talking to the Mi’kmaw. And you have to make sure that if you’re going to do a story about this, I hope you’ve read the treaties … So even if you’re not going to do Indigenous stories, as a journalist in Canada or wherever, you should know the history of the land that you’re standing on.

To be dismissive or refer to it as an illegal fishery is really covering over all this backstory and history and this treaty relationship that’s very important and really matters today. The treaties might have been signed before but they still count today, and if we’re going to report on these stories then we really need to understand what it means. 

The Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaw Chiefs declared a state of emergency on Friday in response to “violence occurring over Mi’kmaq fisheries across the province.” (Steve Lawrence/CBC)

Going back to your point about where people get their information from, particularly on Indigenous issues, it’s from us and so we are then mis-educating, inadvertently?

It’s true because we do play an important role in just public information … I was thinking of this earlier because the battle cry of the non-Mi’kmaw fishermen or fish harvesters back in 2000 after the Marshall decision came down was they’re going to ruin the lobster stocks. I mean, I remember hearing that again and again on the wharves from fishermen up near Burnt Church: the Mi’kmaq are going to ruin the lobster stocks. 

And you still hear that today … and so as a journalist, sometimes, like, you have to question and educate yourself and question DFO so that the listener has a full picture and education because it’s misinformation. They haven’t ruined the lobster stocks in 21 years. What the Mi’kmaw do is a drop in the bucket compared to the commercial fishery … There’s only conflict when there’s money at stake, right? This is a multi-billion dollar industry, and so there’s a lot at stake. When inherent rights butt up against Canadian interests, that’s when it’s a problem. 

Everyone can be nice and talk about reconciliation and all that nice stuff, but it’s when we butt up against the larger interests that you start to see the media sort of breakdown in how it’s reporting on these issues.


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Three charged with witness intimidation over social media –



North Bay Police have charged two women and a man after an investigation found that a witness involved in a criminal case was being intimidated over social media.

Police began an investigation in August and say “an individual who had provided information during an investigation before the courts had been the subject of a post shared on a social media site attracting several comments from people that created a safety concern.”

The investigation resulted in the arrest of three people in early September.

North Bay Police have arrested and charged Cindy Morin,  54, of North Bay, Lisa Cormier, 42, of East Ferris, and Raymond Prudhomme, 42, of Powassan with “Intimidation of a Justice Participant.”

All three were released from custody. Morin and Cormier will appear in the North Bay Courthouse on October 20.

Prudhomme will appear in the North Bay Courthouse on November 3.

Chief Scott Tod said “Public confidence in our courts being ethical and trustworthy means police have the added responsibility of identifying and charging people who try to intimidate or threaten a person involved in our judicial process. North Bay Police Service, like all our provincial and national policing partners, will vigorously investigate these types of offences that protect the integrity of our judicial system.”

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Nunatsiaq News seeks applicants for journalism, communications, media studies bursaries – Nunatsiaq News



Nunatsiaq News is now seeking applicants for two newly launched bursaries to support Inuit post-secondary students whose studies are focused on the following areas: broadcast television and radio, communications, journalism or media studies.

Bursaries worth $5,000 available to Inuit post-secondary students from Nunavut or Nunavik

By Nunatsiaq News

If you’re interested in a career in journalism, communications or media studies, and you’re an Inuit post-secondary student from Nunavut or Nunavik, Nunatsiaq News would like to help you.

The northern newspaper has established two bursaries to be awarded annually to Inuit post-secondary students from Nunavut and Nunavik whose studies are focused on the following areas: broadcast television and radio, communications, journalism or media studies.

Each bursary is worth $5,000.

“Nunatsiaq News is an important voice in Nunavut and Nunavik, but Inuit are sadly underrepresented in our journalism team,” said the paper’s publisher, Michael Roberts. “It’s a rigorous profession, and reporters need the proper tools to do the work. That’s why we are launching these bursaries in the hope that it will encourage more Inuit to join our industry in the future.”

As well as providing bursaries, Nunatsiaq News will offer internships, freelance work or summer employment to students.

“While we have worked with Nunavut Sivuniksavut and Nunavik Sivunitsavut on short-term journalism training,” said Roberts, “post-secondary studies are key to increasing Inuit representation in newspaper publishing.”

The bursaries are delivered through Indspire’s Building Brighter Futures: Bursaries, Scholarships, and Awards program, to which the Nunatsiaq News has donated funding.

The deadline for applications is Sunday, Nov. 1.

You can apply online on the Indspire website.

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