Five years ago, The Conversation Canada quietly crept into existence. It was known as a "soft launch" - a term sometimes used as a cover in case something goes terribly wrong. Luckily, nothing did.
We published eight stories on that very first day, including some on topics that are still very much relevant five years later - the impact of climate change on cities, the "glass cliff" that female politicians face, why Canada needs a pharmacare plan. That first edition also included a provocative piece on race, a subject that has been one of the cornerstones of our coverage throughout the years.
Our co-founders Mary Lynn Young and Alfred Hermida of the University of British Columbia School of Journalism, Writing and Media, also wrote a first-day essay on why The Conversation Canada was needed. They've done another wonderful piece to mark our fifth anniversary.
To mark this big birthday, we recently invited readers to send us their thoughts. We heard from people across the country and around the world.
"We should all read about info that makes us go, 'Hmm, never thought of that, that way,' " wrote Mark Brown of Gananoque, Ont. Good journalism should not only inform, but it should also open a reader's mind to new ideas and other perspectives.
Given that our authors are academics, we know that our articles are often used in classrooms.
Wendy Burton, a lecturer with the department of politics and public administration at Toronto Metropolitan University, told us that The Conversation is "just what my first-year university students needed - plain language discussions of current research, written by reputable sources. ... Several students have told me they have now bookmarked the site and check it regularly."
Rosemary Evans said as a high school principal at University of Toronto Schools "it is very important to me to support students and staff to seek out sources which provide a balanced, carefully researched, thoughtfully reasoned, understanding of contemporary events accessible to a lay audience. ... The scholarly integrity of The Conversation makes it a 'go to source.'"
Since our very first day, The Conversation Canada has published provocative stories about race and racism - something that most traditional media in Canada have historically under covered. Many readers also told us they are regular listeners to our anti-racism podcast Don't Call Me Resilient.
Sheri Zhang of Gatineau, Que., told us she appreciates the articles we've published about anti-Asian racism, which has become a worse problem since the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Usha Srivastava especially enjoyed an article that pointed out the hypocrisy of people complaining about Muslim women who wear a niqab at the same time face masks were being promoted as the best way to stop the spread of COVID-19. "Keep up the hard work, it is well worth it," she wrote.
One of the things that surprised us the most since our launch is that The Conversation Canada has developed a very large international audience - 69 per cent of our readers come from outside of Canada.
What could we do better? Some readers would like more stories on the arts and music. Others think we use too many hyperlinks in our articles, which they find distracting. Many readers told us they appreciated that we publish in both French and English. Several cited our ability to counter the disinformation that permeates social media.
Those who took the time to write to us about this major milestone were incredibly kind. We would be nowhere without you. We hope you will continue on this journey with us and stay up-to-date with our daily newsletter. Thank you - and here's to the next five years!
Authors: Scott White - CEO | Editor-in-Chief, The Conversation Canada