This story was funded by the J-Source Patreon campaign.
By Alexander Quon
There will soon be a new home for Canadian longform journalism—but Maritimers will notice a familiar name attached to it.
Conceived by veteran journalists Matthew Halliday and Chelsea Murray, The Deep will be a joint venture between the pair and Halifax’s alternative weekly, The Coast.
Kyle Shaw, the founder and editor of The Coast, said that while a long form publication wasn’t necessarily a plan he had in his head, he was sold on it very quickly after Halliday and Murray pitched it to him.
“We like trying stuff, and there are a zillion ideas out there for us to try,” said Shaw. “Once Matt and Chelsea approached us with the idea it was an absolute no brainer to partner with them.
Murray and Halliday both cut their teeth in the Toronto magazine industry. But after having worked in communications for a few years, they eventually felt the lure of journalism – and the east coast – too hard to ignore.
While the magazine will be based out of Halifax, both Halliday and Murray promise that The Deep will not just be focused on the city. Instead it’ll try to cast a wide net as possible in order to draw on the writers and journalists in the Atlantic region.
“We came out here and realized that there is this great tradition of character driven, non-fiction narrative in Canada,” said Halliday. “But we realized that it doesn’t really exist in one place, only in bits and pieces, here and there, we wanted to change that.”
The Deep was their solution. An online magazine that will join startup media outlets like Longform and the Atavist Magazine that Halliday said are revitalizing long form journalism in an online format.
Shaw, Murray and Halliday all agreed that creating an online magazine makes the most sense in a period where layoffs and closures are hitting the Canadian media industry.
“We said, ‘well lets go online,’” said Halliday. “It’s much easier, there is no printing costs, no overhead, so we might as well see what happens.”
This won’t be the first time that The Coast is investing in a new publication CoastLife, A glossy magazine that was produced in-house, failed to capture the attention of the Halifax community and was discontinued in 2000.
However, The Deep promises to be different. The Deep will function as an editorially independent imprint of The Coast.
Shaw said it was a conscious choice to allow The Deep to be as independent as possible. “Me and The Coast alone were never going to make The Deep happen,” Shaw added. “Big companies find it harder to change, and when you’re an established group it’s harder to innovate.”
The creative control of the magazine will be left to Halliday and Murray. Shaw said that he’ll bring his expertise as an entrepreneur, as well as other assets from The Coast like production and design teams, in order to help The Deep.
In order to get started, Murray and Halliday are starting a crowdfunding campaign on Oct. 4 to raise $15,000. As part of the launch of their crowdfunding campaign they’ll be hosting a storytelling event in Halifax and then another one in early November in Saint John, New Brunswick.
“The idea is that through a combination of subscriptions, traditional advertising and perhaps some more creative revenue sources, that we’ll be self-sustaining,” said Halliday. “We don’t want to go back to the crowdfunding well and say ‘that was great but now we want more.’”
Murray said that they’ve targeted the launch for the spring of 2017, but that may change due to their reliance on crowdfunding. Both are excited to begin building a readership and a business around The Deep which they say will publish one story a month.
For the moment, this is a passion project for Halliday and Murray. While the last few months have been tough, the pair stressed that once the crowdfunding campaign ends that’s when the real work will begin.
“We have a few stories that we’re working on right now but once we’re done the crowdfunding campaign we’ll do some callouts and get in touch with writers to see what kind of ideas are out there,” Murray said.
With the launch of the publication so close both Murray and Halliday say that it’s shocking how far everything has come in the last few months.
“We’re just kind of taking it one step at a time and that approach has been working” Halliday said. “Six months ago this was just a concept with a bad name, and now we’re hosting events and people are aware of (The Deep).”
Correction, Oct. 4, 2016: A previous version of this article mistakenly indicated that The Deep storytelling event was taking place in St. John's, Newfoundland. It is taking place in Saint John, New Brunswick. We apologize for the error.
Alexander Quon is a freelance journalist based out of Halifax as he attends the University of King's College masters of journalism program. Interested in political reporting and data journalism you can normally find him tweeting @AlexanderQuon.