Most people don’t give and take punches for a living.
Most people don’t become social media influencers for a living either.
Viddal Riley does both.
The professional boxer and internet sensation from Hackney, England has dominated life in and out of the ring. From his start as a boxer at the ripe old age of six to winning the European Junior Silver Medal in Anapa, Russia and representing Team Great Britain in the 2014 Nanjing Youth Olympics, he paved his amateur career with success as he went 41-8 (with 19 KOs). Currently sitting at 4-0 since his professional debut in the cruiserweight division, the undefeated 23-year-old, who’s signed with Mayweather Promotions, has taken his win streak inside of the ring and extended outside in his online endeavors. Riley currently has over 1.1 million subscribers on Youtube, 315K followers on Twitter, and 620K followers on Instagram. His content ranges from incisive and earnest commentary on professional and YouTube boxing to uniquely-crafted music videos. Riley has plenty to say about the current status of his boxing career, and what he plans to accomplish in the future on social media.
Frederick Daso: People tend to think that you’re a YouTuber first and boxer second, but that’s not right. You are a professional boxer first, and a social media sensation last. Tell me what initially got you into boxing.
Viddal Riley: He used to box and didn’t have the support to work through to the level he would have wanted and was working towards. Boxing for me was a journey started by my father. He used the box, and he didn’t have to support that work to see it through to the level that he would have desired and was working towards. And, we’ve heard that quite a lot. Historically, people have the talent, but they don’t have the back end, and they don’t have what you need to maximize your talent. He didn’t make the same mistake with me. He said to me to try it. He realized, ‘Okay, we’ve got a little talent, let’s hone it, harness it, and see how far you can go. That happened at the age of six, I would say, I started a bit earlier, but I mean, going into the gym for the first time was six years old. That’s when I first got in the ring or someone else my age and stuff like that.
The journey started at six years old. And yeah, it’s been very eventful. There’ve been many highlights, some of which I forget even, unless I go back and check the memories and photos. But it all started as a family thing, and now I’m just trying to take it to the next level. That’s really how boxing entered my lap. It’s just been a journey of 10 years as an amateur boxer. During that time, I won eight national titles, a European junior silver medal in Anapa, Russia and in 2014 became a Youth Olympian for Team Great Britain in Nanjing, China. I pushed myself as I was in charge and reached the elite levels. A lot of my skills and mindset stems from being in the gym from such a young age.
It brings us to the present day, where I’m now an undefeated professional with four wins, three of them being knockouts. I haven’t boxed in over a year, which is painful to say, but these things do happen. I look at it as a time to recoup and refresh cause once the ball starts running again, we can’t stop it. So I’m taking my time and appreciating it. As much as this is painful, I know that bigger things are to come in the future.
Daso: I love your mindset and, speaking of your accomplishments, when you’re an amateur, what was the turning point or was there a definitive moment when you were an amateur boxer where you knew that, ‘Hey, I could turn pro.’
Riley: I always wanted to be a professional, not an amateur boxer. I didn’t watch much amateur boxing since I wasn’t aware of that circuit. I just knew from watching on TV that I wanted to do that. I’ll be honest with you. It didn’t hit me at a certain stage until I decided to turn professional. I always wanted to be a professional. My successful amateur career made me realize that I would succeed as a pro with what I’m achieving because I always believed that I could be one. No moment really brought that home for me until it came into mind.
This is what I’ve been working towards and wanting to do since I was a kid. Now I’m finally at that stage where I can copy the guys and follow in the footsteps of the guys I watched on TV as a kid. So, no, there wasn’t one moment, but it was just, I looked at every moment as a stepping stone to become professional.
Daso: When I’ve seen you on YouTube, either alone or with other content creators, I always got the sense that you’re at least a couple of years older instead of being 23. You’ve got me where I think you’re 33 instead of 23. Tell me, what is it about boxing that has accelerated your maturity, or just, in general, the way that you carry yourself, right?
Riley: It’s just boxing is an honest sport, right? And we live in a world where very few are brave enough to be honest with themselves and with others. I think that stalls people’s progression because they’re in denial or they’re afraid of tackling issues that you cannot survive without addressing in the sport of boxing. People are looking to find your issues and win and get used to them. I thought that with my parents. Academically, my mom was more assigned to the role of making sure I have an education. My dad too, but more so it was boxing where he took that role and led the way. It’s just being honest, being truthful, telling you how to improve, and never allow me to see the world through the smokescreen of lies or false profits, which has never been the case.
Everything has been from this stark, cutthroat view: this is right, this is wrong. This is the truth. This isn’t. I think it just allows me to see through many things that go on because I just live in the truth. I think a lot of people don’t decide to do that until later years in their life. With me being this young, the maturity just comes from acknowledging the truth and acknowledging that to be improved and to increase your knowledge with, anything mentally, with his business relationship, anything is just to deal with the truth. I feel that’s the key behind my maturity.
Daso: Well said. Your maturity has been evolved through boxing because you have to be in an honest environment where someone finds out your flaws, you either correct it, or you’re going to get beaten because they were able to exploit that flaw. Taking that into your actual professional matches, now you’re 4-0 reigning undefeated. I hope you keep it that way. Most of your matches have ended up in KOs or TKOs. But I saw your fight with Austine Nnamdi in Dubai. That’s the one that went the distance. I want to know, what does that fight reveal about your boxing IQ and your strategy to win? Because it seemed like in the ring, you respected his ability and, because of that, it wasn’t just a straight-out slugfest. It was more intellectual.
Riley: Yeah. I only found out two days before I was fighting him. I prepared seven weeks for an opponent that pulled out two days before. The whole game plan was based on that style of fight. Austin was a completely different style to what we practice in the US for. I was kind of working out on the spot on what he’s going to do. That’s why I gave him that respect because I wasn’t aware of what threats he would bring to the ring. I only saw footage of him on the Monday before the fight. I didn’t know entirely what to expect. My approach was ‘don’t do anything stupid.’ Don’t allow this guy at short notice to catch you off guard and give you anything unexpected.
I would say that’s why that performance was a more reserved one because I feel like that’s how I had to be.
Daso: Absolutely. You got the job done, unanimous decision, and that’s okay. That’s so insightful because you only had two days. You were learning on the fly while you’re in the ring.
Riley: Yeah. You can say the same thing for him also. You can say he only found out two days before, but he was always scheduled as a backup. Though he knew confirmation two days before, he was already training to be in shape because he was aware that if anything goes wrong with the current opponent, he would have to step in. And respect to him for that. A lot of respect to him because he could have said, ‘No, you guys told me too late.’ For me to be part of an event with a star-studded audience such as KSI (Olijide “JJ” Olatunji) and Miniminter (Simon Minter) from the Sidemen (the group also includes Zerkaa (Josh Bradley), TBJZL (Tobi Brown), Behzinga (Ethan Payne), Vikkstar123 (Vikram Barn) and W2S (Harry Lewis)), Badou Jack, Naseem Hamed, MoVlogs and owner of the Five Palm Hotel, Jumeirah Dubai, was amazing.
It was great. It was a great audience to showcase my skills, and I would have gone into better performance, but the wind is what matters and how you win is important. I feel like I caught one without stretching myself too far and looking into the challenge. I’m happy with it for the time when that performance happened. When I watch it back now, I take those things into account, which was good for the time. But I’d expect more from myself now.
Daso: Through studying your overall career, both boxing and social media, I kind of boiled it down to kind of two key pivotal moments for your professional career. The first one being you signing for Mayweather Promotions. I saw the video covering it and KSI’s reaction, and then really also you becoming KSI’s trainer. I have two questions for you here. One, what did Jeff Mayweather see in you, as a potential top contender in the cruiserweight division that encouraged him and his team to bring you on under the Mayweather Promotions fold, and then second, what’s the real story behind when you first met KSI? It wasn’t just like you coming on to be his trainer.
Riley: To answer your first question, Jeff himself said I could listen to his instructions because he cornered me for a sparring session, and he did give various commands that I should follow that could help me in that spot. He said he used to work with many boxers who would be doing their own thing and not listening. He noticed that I took what he said and attempted to incorporate his feedback as he said it. He said to have the ability to try his and to listen to him at that level led him to believe that I could be a professional. It was also the level of the opponent that I was sparring with while trying to do what Jeff said.
Daso: If you don’t mind me interrupting, didn’t your sparring opponent at the time, Andrew Tabiti, go on to be a future champion in his division, or was he already one?
Riley: He fought for a world title. He’s the best cruiserweight in America. He fought for a world title when I was sparring with him, and I was trying these moves. Jeff was like, you’re an amateur at this point. And you’re fighting the best guy this country has to offer in your weight division, and you’re doing what you need to do. So, you can be a professional. I guess maybe that is a time when I knew I could be professional before was after that spring session, with testing myself against a high-level professional and proving that I wasn’t out of place. Once you can fit into the highest standard, you have no reason to doubt and second guess yourself. I feel like that’s why Jeff believed that could be a top cruiserweight.
In terms of KSI, JJ is the person who is. I’d say he’s the person who gave me that platform to showcase my talent and the only books in talent, but everything else as well. But it wasn’t just him. I trained a lot of other YouTubers before that. I trained many people who are friends with him, and they recommended that he train with me because of how the results went. And obviously, my credentials as well. So, it’s rare to see a guy at 19 years old be a head coach of somebody, but he believed that I had enough knowledge to pass on to him and allow him to have successes in his boxing. That’s what we saw, and that’s what’s happened.
Daso: That’s right. The results speak for themselves.
Riley: It was, it was a thing where it was mentioned a few times he’s going to come down to the gym, I’m going to talk to him, see if he wants to come down. And one day, he did. From that day, he said, yeah, cool. Yeah, this is where I need to be. And, we did a look back from that point. I mean, he’s still moving forward now. It was a big turning point in both of our lives. As much as he already had a bigger stage than myself still, I would say it was a life-changing experience for him. I mean, he learned something that changed his life. And, I learned things from him in terms of socializing, YouTube, how to maneuver our brand. I learned that from him. It was a really give-and-take relationship as it came to coaching.
Daso: Absolutely. Absolutely. I’m so glad to see it blossom on both sides of the equation.
Riley: Me too. That’s normally the best situation in life. Both people can benefit from it and understand that, yeah, this is what we will bring to the table and elevate.
Daso: I want to try and dispel the notion because a lot of people may think that, ‘Hey, you’re only relevant because you train KSI,’ but after getting on his platform, you’ve shown yourself to be a top content creator on your own terms. I want to establish that then ask you, how has your relationship with KSI evolved from being his coach initally? You’re not as coach anymore but you’re still in his camp though, right?
Riley: I’m not. I’m now his friend. I don’t have involvement in his boxing as of now. If he called me and asked for help and asked me, ‘Can you help me out with this or whatever,’ I would, of course, help him, but I’m not in his training team. Our relationship has naturally progressed into being a friendship. So that’s enough for me. That means more to me than being a coach.
Daso: That’s beautiful. Now that’s the question, how have you and KSI evolved from trainer and boxer to a friend and social media collaborator?
Riley: Well, we experienced a lot together. I think we experienced a lot together, and it’s hard to make history with people and not have love for them and respect them. Because it’s hard to make history, and it’s hard to make meaningful history that people are aware of worldwide. I think we pioneered a big movement on YouTube, such as boxing and getting into the sport. Now, we see it grow to a level that I didn’t expect. I didn’t expect to see it grow that far, but for anyone to deny that KSI is a pioneer of the YouTube boxing thing is lying. He wouldn’t have done that alone. That’s the facts of the matter. He didn’t do that alone. I was the guy there, someone else, maybe they could have done it, but they didn’t. I was there.
With that, I would class myself as a pioneer within that field, in that industry, and the successes made people want to be involved. I would say that KSI learning the skills that I equipped with him led to his eventual success. And, yeah, it’s hard to not have respect forever for one another, or even bond with each other beyond just coaching, especially when you spend that much time together and you realize how much you guys have achieved in each other’s company.
Daso: Seeing you guys evolve from the first Logan fight to the second one showed your relationship was beyond just a coach and trainee; you two were a unit. It’s undeniably evident when you guys do have the time to collab that chemistry has always been there, and it has grown.
Riley: Yeah, for sure. For sure. I think it will always be a relationship that is kept because there’s no reason for either of us to turn on one another at all. It’s just not going to happen. We’re always going to be on good terms and supporting each other when in music, boxing or whatever field we decide to take up.
Daso: You mentioned the YouTube boxing scene as a whole, right. I’ve been keeping an eye on it. I’ve been watching the fights, especially the latest one, TikTok versus YouTube. I want your professional opinion because you are a professional boxer first and foremost. What do you think, does this mean for the sport of boxing as a whole, that you have personalities, internet personalities providing a larger microphone for boxing as a whole? Then I have a particular question for you.
It’s called the ‘Mayweather Question.’ From what I saw on the internet on the Mayweather-Paul fight contract, it turns out Mayweather got $10 million to show up just to put on his trunks and show up. For you as a professional boxer, who’s in the very early stages of your career versus him who’s past the twilight of his career, he made more money just putting on his trunks before fighting than he did, in 30 to 35 fights in terms of purses. How do you position yourself in both your social media and boxing career to where someone who’s going to pay you $10 million just to put on your trucks regardless of the fight outcome?
Riley: I think it’s all about how many people care that you put on your trunks. That’s the way it boils down to because people do that every day when everyone cares. Floyd has built a brand around money means built a brand around being the highest-grossing boxer forever. Another thing is consistency, which a lot of people seem to fail at noticing. A lot of people seem to fail to realize he’s very consistent. Yes, he’s the spins and the tools, this and that, but he’s never failed in the ring. That doesn’t happen because he buys Bentleys. It happens because of the work he puts into the gym. That’s what everyone has to remember at the bare minimum. You have to be good at your craft. There’s no point marketing yourself if you can’t fight because you will be exposed, and once you’re exposed, if you prove not to be anything, then people will switch off.
I’d say to put yourself in a position where you can make that money without having to guarantee yourself a win is to have enough people interested in watching you fight anyway. That’s the thing where you can make that money. Logan can make that money. All these guys can make that money because we want to see what happens, right regardless of results. That, and because we’re intrigued to see what happens, it equals money equals revenue, the attention equals revenue. We’re always focused on your craft first, but then close second, make sure you’re showcasing your skills and exposing yourself as much as you can to a wider audience. Because once that wider audience takes to you can then begin to dictate terms on how those people see you, who will be on your shorts when you decide to put them on, how much you can charge for people to see you put your shorts. These things are the privilege of those who have enough attention for people to care.
I’d say that the biggest thing is the attention: the traction and the reach. If you can reach millions, you can make millions. That’s the way that you got to look at it here.
Daso: If you can reach millions, you can make millions. Well said. That quote just segues into another perfect question. Going back to the YouTube versus TikTok match, the event was projected to be 500,000 pay-per-view (PPV) buys from what I saw online. It was revealed that there was only over a quarter of that 136,000. Here we are, they, these guys had a cumulative falling of over two hundred million, if you want to crunch the numbers. They failed to get even a tenth of that. What do you think that means for the viability of future influencer boxing?
Riley: Well, I don’t know how solid those numbers are. I don’t believe it was 136,000 buys total. I believe the total was more than that. But if it was that anyway, then many factors take place, such as illegal streaming. The platform is not being established as well as others is another factor. People don’t know really how or why, like where to find this show. We’re not going to search for some new platform to watch some fights that we can get on a stream link. Just on Twitter, it comes down to stuff like that will affect the pay-per-view, but it’s. I think it won’t be because their followers don’t want to see them fight because once you get followers and that community, they follow you regardless of what you do—also being part of a community based on the internet.
People are also smart enough to work their way around, getting what they want without being charged. That always has to be taken into consideration. I feel like many people try to dismiss the fact that streaming illegally on the side is a big thing. The person who normally watches boxing on TV isn’t thinking about a stream in the forefront of their mind. Right. However, the person who’s always on YouTube, Twitter, Instagram. Yeah. They’re going to see that link and go, well, here it is. So that’s treating them legit. That’s a big factor. I think a lot of people dismiss that.
Daso: I’m inclined to agree with you here. I think that’s a really good point you make about the platform through which the event occurs. If I had to sum up what you’re saying, the platform wasn’t established enough. It wasn’t secure enough to prevent those things. Now, I have a bonus question for you.
JJ just launched his promotion company. This is just speculation on my end, but could the next YouTube event be held under that and plot with a more mature and official platform such as DAZN?
Riley: KSI’s promotional deal is with people who work on Sky Sports. And that is a secure network. As you said, I was commentating on the Mayweather-Paul fight in the UK on Sky Sports. What you just said is valid because he’s signed with a promotional company, which has rights to Sky Sports for showing his events.
Daso: I couldn’t even watch the repeat because it’s blocked in America. That’s how secure it is.
Riley: Right. See, so in the UK, anyway, he will be secure since that’s already a country locked down to say, if you guys want to watch more shows, we’re going to, it’s going to be on sky school. It doesn’t mean it won’t be; people still won’t find that makes it a lot harder with a big network and a big company. I feel like these are the steps people are taking to avoid piracy.
Daso: Absolutely. Absolutely. Because at the end of the day, if you get in the ring, you want to secure that bag.
Riley: Course it’s important. You must have given us a service and for a fee. You want people to pay the fee, and it will contribute to your pockets, as we know, but it’s only right. It’s only right. You’re going through pain. You’re going through war. You’re getting attacked for people’s entertainment. If you don’t feel like you don’t feel that guy is deserving of being paid right, then that’s a whole new discussion, but I think that can be out of order. That’s out of order because this person’s putting themselves through hell for your entertainment to argue for some. If the fight is worth it, that is fair.
Daso: Absolutely. I mean, hearing the fighters from that event not getting paid as far as we know up to this point, it’s very disappointing. Right. I think that might have negative consequences for future fights because I am so amazed to think I’m not going to get paid; my management will make sure that my payment is secure at the end of the day.
Riley: Yes. That’s what your team is for. No one can do anything alone, and you need people in your team that can make sure those risks and those possibilities are kept to a minimum. It won’t fully extinguish them because the internet is a place that is undefeated, but it will help. It will help.
Daso: Getting back to the social media side of things, right. You know, you’re a full-time boxer. I mean, you haven’t found the ring for over a year at this point due to injuries and also COVID. But you know, let’s say that before then, you were fighting, and you’re working on social media as well. How did you balance the two? How can you leverage your reach so that you command more eyes, more attention and therefore translate into more money when you keep on fighting?
Riley: Maybe I don’t give myself enough credit to bring in still the numbers that I do. And, like my last video was number two, trending in the world on YouTube. That’s crazy even to think, very creative in the world. There are some amazing creators that my video can be ranked second, only second to the European football or soccer as you guys call it is a big deal worldwide, soccer slash football, as I call it, is the biggest sport in the world. It’s a full second to the Euros when Spain and England and at least half of the teams are playing. I can’t complain about that. I’m not bigger than the euros. I’m the second. I was the second biggest thing for a while. I think I work within my means. I don’t do anything that I can’t keep up.
I think that’s my number one thing. There’s a lot of things I would like to do. I could offer a lot more, but it wouldn’t be consistent at this point. I think I’ve found the lane where I can make content and not fall off because of our content; I can manage this. I thought many people who have this big spike and then the decline are because they’ve chosen an angle that has got them their views, money, and attention, but they cannot keep it and maintain it.
That type of content drastically decreases the quality. That’s when people switch off. I’ve managed to keep a steady mood going. And, I think that’s allowed me to be out of the ring for over a year and still bring in the attention and numbers that I do. And I know what to talk about. I know where my opinion is valued, and I know where it isn’t, and I just don’t choose to create content in areas that I know people will not be interested in. It doesn’t make any sense. I know what people want from me, and I balance what people want from me with what I’m comfortable with doing and what I want them to see I can do. Right. And for that full process, I think it’s working out better than I thought it would.
I’m happy with the position I’m in. I know we’re move rapidly once I start acting in some other things, but for now, I’m content. I’ll keep moving steady until people see that big spike and change. Once that happens, there’s not going to be much room for others, because I know my mind is already ahead of maneuvering in the social world. I know what I’m going to do based on hanging around with the likes of KSI and many others. I know he’s the main one, but I do like to make sure people realize it’s not just him. Right. I’ve had influencers from multiple YouTube is with over a million subscribers and then watching how they move and take their advice. That allows me to know how to move forward with my own channel and with my own content.
Daso: You also create music videos and have a growing podcast series. How do you combine all of these endeavors into a coherent, unique narrative about your ultimate vision for you boxing and social media career?
Riley: I feel like with everything I do, I try my best to keep the branding as close to my true self as possible. These endeavours also would not be successful if I didn’t work within my means. I feel some of my ventures could be bigger than they are but for how long? Consistency is key and prioritising boxing is always No.1.That holds the key to everything.
Daso: Absolutely. What are those things that are going to be activated, then?
Riley: Listen, listen, right now, the way I feel is that I’ve been placed in this position to allow others to have more time. I think I’ve been placed in this position to allow others to have more time, allow me to learn more, and not just be content as a man, as a human being, to learn myself, and two, to be more knowledgeable, more confident. And, once those things are being checked off in the doc, you things have been checked off in the dark, and everyone in the world likes to see people came out. I know it’s like you come out of nowhere, and no one comes out of nowhere. You weren’t paying attention at that time.
Don’t get me wrong. I am getting the attention, but I know it’s going to skyrocket. The same people that say, ‘Oh, you only can make content about this. He hasn’t fought in this long.’ Once I’m back in the ring, there’ll be the same one singing the praises. I can’t worry about them too much. I just know what I want to do, if you care. If you don’t, whatever. I don’t live and die by public opinion. And I don’t care that much. I only care about the people that care about me genuinely care about me.
Daso: You’re playing the long game. It’s a long game. You might not be in the center of the spotlight right now, but you’re saying you understand that your season is coming.
Riley: I believe because I know I’m making moves. I’m putting things in place for that season to come. I’m not only waiting. It will come. Maybe one video is going to bang one day. If that video bangs, great. I’ll take it from there. But first, you got to put things in place. You have to plan for your explosion. You have to plan for that. Come up. That’s what I’m doing right now, wherever it’s harnessing my books and skills, wherever I’ve competed or not, whether it’s thinking of video ideas across more. I know that I have to be significantly smaller than my main. Still, I know with those channels as well, it will grow over time. You see who’s quality is everywhere. Anyone can have a hot moment when I was training JJ/KSI.
Those are hot moments because he was in the hot moment. Yeah. So, of course, I’m living off it. Of course, I’m getting some of the benefits of being hot, but being hot is only temporary. You come, you won’t be hot all the time. It’s just, it’s impossible. You’re not going to be hot all the time. If you play the long game, you continuously train and perfect your craft. No matter what you do, you will be appreciated, and you will also get rewards. And, I, being 23, as we mentioned at the beginning of the interview, where am I rushing to? I’m not rushing. I mean, I lived steady within my means across everything. When it’s time for things to propel, they will propel, but I’ll be ready for it because I’m not phased but prepared for things like that.
It’s a blessing to have been exposed to so much so early because most boxers don’t know what it feels like even to be famous or have any money or anything like that before reaching the highest level. I learned on the job and managed to watch someone I trained, see the press conferences, and see the big arenas travel the world. So when I’m doing it, I’m there. It will be the second time around for me in some sense. It’s not going to be anything new. There’s always something to learn. Based on it’s not going to be anything I haven’t seen before. That’s why I know it’s going to be amazing when this is me who’s in that position, because not only have I seen it, I can learn from those situations and then make sure it lands even better once I reach it.
Mel Woods found out they no longer had a job from a group chat.
The Vancouver-based journalist was working as HuffPost Canada’s only worker in the western region of the country, covering viral and trending stories as an associate editor, up until the outlet’s unceremonious March 2021 demise. BuzzFeed bought HuffPost in November 2019 and, just two weeks after the newsroom’s decision to unionize, closed HuffPost Canada and left 23 staff without their jobs.
It’s another data point in a long list of recent closures and contractions on the Canadian media landscape.
Many of those laid off have landed positions elsewhere. Woods now plies their trade at Xtra — a Toronto-based outlet focused on 2SLGBTQ+ perspectives — and others have surfaced as staff at The New York Times, CBC and Politico, among others. Some left for public relations gigs, and others are currently working as freelancers. The announcement of the closure just one week from the meeting, Woods said, left some staff scrambling.
“For somebody who was suddenly unemployed, it was a very, very busy week because we had to sort out what happened and when, and what the unionization played into it, what severance played into it and why it had happened because it caught all of us by surprise,” Woods said.
HuffPost’s union, CWA Canada, had never faced a closure in its history. President Martin O’Hanlon said the ceasing of operations points to BuzzFeed’s lack of understanding of the Canadian media landscape.
“I don’t think it says a lot about the Canadian media industry, per se, I think it says a lot about BuzzFeed. And I think it tells you that BuzzFeed is just interested in America, and in making as much profit as possible,” O’Hanlon said. “… They don’t give a damn about Canadian journalism is the bottom line.”
In an emailed statement, a spokesperson for BuzzFeed said: “BuzzFeed announced a restructuring of HuffPost in March in order to break even this year and fast-track its path to profitability. As part of these changes, we made the difficult decision to close HuffPost’s Canada and Quebec operations. The incredibly talented teams there have made enormous contributions to the political and news ecosystems in Canada — from extensive, award-winning coverage of the federal election, to relentless reporting on how COVID-19 exacerbated a long-term care crisis, and a powerful investigation of how mental illness is responded to as a crime. We know this decision was painful for everyone affected, but we are confident that these journalists will continue to do powerful and impactful reporting in the years to come. We continue to do everything we can to ensure their transition is a smooth one.”
The announcement certainly wasn’t easy on the staff of HuffPost Canada. The all-hands meeting in which the closure was announced, which Woods said was predicted within the staff to be announcing a new U.S. editor-in-chief, had the password “spring is here.”
But the closing of HuffPost Canada is more than another sad story to add to the layoffs seen at other newsrooms in Canada, most publicly at Global and Postmedia. HuffPost’s Canada’s coverage won awards posthumously. Woods won an award from RTDNA Canada for examining gender and transphobia more than two months after the outlet officially closed.
The skill and success of the staff was partially due to the culture and the diversity of the newsroom, Woods said.
“The fact of how quickly folks have been snapped up by other places is proof of the respect that was had for our newsroom,” Woods said. “We kind of sprinkled our seeds everywhere.”
Woods likened the HuffPost style that they have taken to Xtra as “serving (readers) their vegetables, but in a good way,” through a metrics and service journalism-focused approach.
Some of those seeds appear to have taken root elsewhere. New approaches to digital journalism in Canada, including what service looks like to staff and readers, is a common thread in discussions with Canadian newsroom leaders.
The Canadian Association of Journalists recently completed data collection for their first diversity survey, modeling their work after the News Leaders Association in the U.S. Meanwhile, CBC made the decision to turn off all Facebook comments on news stories for a month beginning in mid-June, which editor-in-chief Brodie Fenlon attributed to a data-gathering exercise mixed with a want to protect the mental health of journalists. It is a policy that they have since extended to the end of October.
HuffPost Canada’s digital impact, and its dismantling, points toward a future for Canadian journalism that must consider the health of its readers and staff while acknowledging the changing needs of digital media.
CBC’s decision to direct the tenets of service journalism toward its own staff hints toward an industry that is understanding (at a glacial pace) just how worn down it is and how building back means doing so with care. At this year’s Michener Awards, a ceremony dedicated to public service journalism and its impact on society, APTN journalist Kenneth Jackson acknowledged what it means to sit with the impact your work makes, on subjects, readers and staff.
“If you want to do service journalism you can’t fly above it,” he said, “you gotta get down and wear it.”
BuzzFeed appears to have worn its decision, as have the journalists who had to face the consequences.
Is it just me who believes we’ve lost our ability to have civil discourse?
Every day, we rely on social media platforms to engage with like-minded people, promote ourselves, our work, and/or business. Unfortunately, the downside of increasing your visibility, especially when you wade into an online discussion with an unpopular opinion, is you become a lightning rod for online abuse. Online abuse can be especially relentless if you are a woman, identified as a member of a race, religion, ethnicity, or part of the LGBTQ+ community.
I believe social media companies can reduce, even come close to, eliminating, online abuse. The first step: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, et al. becoming more serious and urgent about addressing the toxicity they’re permitting on their respective platform. The second step: Give users more control over their privacy, identity, and account history.
Here are five features social media companies could introduce to mitigate online abuse.
Educate users on how to protect themselves online.
I’ll admit social media companies have been improving their anti-harassment features. However, many of these features are hard to find and not user-friendly. Platforms should have a section within their help center that deals specifically with online abuse, showing how to access internal features along with links to external tools and resources.
Make it easy to tighten privacy and security settings.
Platforms need to make it easier for users to fine-tune their privacy and security settings and inform how these adjustments impact visibility and reach. Users should be able to save configurations of settings into personalized “safety modes,” which they can toggle between. When they alternate between safety modes, a “visibility snapshot” should show them in real-time who’ll see their content.
Distinguishing between the personal and professional
Currently, social media accounts are all-encompassing of your professional life and personal life. If you want to distinguish between your professional and personal life, you must create two accounts. Why not be able to make one social media account that toggles between your personal and professional identities as well as migrate or share audiences between them?
Managing account histories
It’s common for people to switch jobs and careers and their views over time. Being able to pull up a user’s social media history, which can date back more than a decade, is a goldmine for abuse. Platforms should make it easy for users to easily search old posts and make them private, archive, or delete.
Credit cards and/or phone number authentication.
All social media platforms allow the creation of anonymous accounts. Ironically, much of the toxicity permeating social media stems from people hiding cowardly behind anonymous accounts.
Anonymity enables toxic behavior by facilitating and backhandedly encouraging “uncivil discourse.” Eliminating the ability to create an anonymous account would literally end online abuse.
Anonymity allows people to act out their anger, frustrations, and their need to make others feel bad, so they feel good. (I’m unhappy, so I want everyone else to be unhappy.). Being anonymous allows someone to say things they wouldn’t even think of or have the courage to, speak publicly, let alone face-to-face.
All credit cards and telephone numbers are associated with a billing address. Social media platforms could prevent anonymous accounts by asking new joiners to input their credit card information, to be verified but not charged, or a telephone number to which a link, or code, can be sent to authenticate. (Email authentication is useless since email addresses can be created without identity verification.)
Undeniable fact: When people know they can easily be traced they’re unlikely to exhibit uncivil behaviour.
Yeah, I know — for many, handing over more data to social media giants isn’t appetizing, even if it eliminates the toxic behavior hurting our collective psyche. Having to go through a credit card or telephone authentication will be pause for many to ask themselves why the feel they must be on social media. Such reflection is not a bad exercise.
Online attacks have a negative impact on mental and physical health, stops free expression, and silences voices already underrepresented in the creative and media sectors and in public discourse.
Respective platform user guidelines (aka. Community Standards) are open to interpretation and therefore not enforced equitably. Content moderators (human eyes) and AI crawling (searching for offensive words and content) aren’t cutting it.
Social media companies can’t deny they could be doing a much better job creating a safer online environment. Unfortunately, a safer online environment will only evolve when social media companies begin taking online abuse seriously.
Nick Kossovan writes the column ‘Digitized Koffee With Nick’ which appears in several newspapers and is the Customer Service Professionals Network’s Director of Social Media (Executive Board Member). On Twitter and Instagram follow @NKossovan.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of this publication.
Online Presence For Physicians: Appropriate Use Of Social Media
22 July 2021
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Our interactions and presence on social media have continued to
increase, especially during the pandemic when the need and desire
to stay connected with one another has been heightened. Many
professionals, including physicians, use social media in their
practice as an effective tool to communicate and interact with
colleagues and patients, market their practice and their business,
and to share content and information with a broad audience. Along
with the opportunities for networking, business development and
socializing that social media presents, there are also risks
associated with its use by physicians and other professionals. It
is important for physicians and other professionals to understand
the risks associated with their online presence and ensure that
their behaviour and actions on social media are in line with the
professional, legal and ethical obligations of their
Guidance from the CPSO: Should physicians be active on social
The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO)
recognizes the benefits and opportunities that the participation in
social media provides to physicians, including the enhancement of
patient care, medical education and the fostering of collegiality
among fellow physicians and health professionals. However,
physicians continue to be expected to comply with all professional
obligations, including legal obligations, ethical obligations, and
CPSO policies, when creating an online presence and engaging in the
use of social media. These professional, legal, and ethical
obligations must be upheld at all times.
The CPSO has published guidelines to assist physicians with
ensuring that their presence online and their use of social media
complies with their professional obligations. A selection of these
guidelines are as follows:
Assume all content on the internet is public
Ensure compliance with legal and professional obligations to
maintain patient privacy and confidentiality
Refrain from providing clinical advice to patients through
Protect your reputation, the reputation of the profession and
Refrain from establishing personal connections with patients or
people who are closely associated with patients
The CPSO has published several other guidelines with respect to
the use of social media which can be found here.
Best practices for physicians when engaging on social
Considering the guidelines of the CPSO outlined above, it may be
helpful for physicians to consider the following best practices
when using social media and creating their online presence:
Uphold Moral Principals and Integrity
As a professional, it is very important to ensure that
integrity, morals and ethics are upheld at all times, including
online. As the CPSO indicates in its guidelines for the use of
social media, it is strongly advised that physicians refrain from
providing clinical advice to specific patients through social
Social media is a great tool to use for the dissemination of
general medical or health information for educational or
informational sharing purposes. When sharing information on social
media, it is important to ensure that physicians are very clear
that their posts are not intended as medical advice and that they
are not providing a medical opinion. It may also be helpful to
indicate the basis of the information that is being shared, whether
based on scientific studies, professional experience or personal
Ensure Patient Privacy is Protected
Trust is essential to a sound patient-physician relationship.
Physicians have a statutory obligation to protect and maintain
patient privacy and confidentiality. The Personal Health
Information Protection Act (PHIPA) places unique
responsibilities on individuals that control and collect health
information, and requires health information custodians, including
physicians, to take steps that are reasonable in the circumstances
to ensure that personal health information in the custodian’s
custody or control is protected against theft, loss and
unauthorized use or disclosure. When posting to social media, the
duty of privacy and confidentiality must be maintained at all
times, by ensuring that any posts that are made have been clearly
removed of any identifying information. Physicians must not post
identifiable patient information or images to social media. It is
possible for an unnamed patient to be identifiable through minimal
information such as the area of residence or a description of the
patient’s condition. Failure to protect patient health
information and comply with the requirements under PHIPA may result
in a host of liability issues, including significant fines and
disciplinary action by the College.
Physicians have an obligation to maintain professionalism and
act in a manner that upholds the professional standards and ethics
of the medical profession. Whether the physician is interacting in
person or online, such professionalism expectations remain the same
in all scenarios. Inappropriate behaviour on social media,
including the publishing of offensive or damaging statements, may
have the effect of bringing the professionalism of the physician
into question. This in turn could serve to weaken the public’s
opinion of the physician and of the profession itself. Physicians
who engage in the use of social media should ensure that all
communications are professional and are in line with the
expectations and obligations of the profession.
Additionally, as the CPSO suggests in its guidelines, physicians
should refrain from establishing personal connections with patients
online. If the physician receives a request on his or her personal
social media page, the physician may consider guiding the patient
to connect on their professional social media page, or to contact
the office. Forming personal connections with patients may blur
professional boundaries and compromise the physician’s ability
to remain objective.
Social media platforms have created opportunities for physicians
to increase professional and patient engagement, to advocate for
the profession and to build and maintain connections with
colleagues, peers and the public. It is important for physicians to
understand the risks associated with the improper use of social
media and to always be mindful that their legal, professional and
ethical obligations also extend to their online presence.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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