The Canary (website)
Type of site
|New media outlet|
|Alexa rank||2,804 (UK 02/2018)|
The Canary is a left-wing new media outlet in the United Kingdom, which editor-in-chief Kerry-Anne Mendoza says is "here to disrupt the status quo of the UK and international journalism, by creating content that compels audiences to view the world differently". While it focuses on UK political affairs, it also has a "Global" section, a satire section ("Off the Perch"), and "Science", "Environment", and "Health" sections.
The Canary was created in October 2015 with five founding members in an attempt to "diversify the media", according to editor-in-chief Kerry-Anne Mendoza. The website is funded by advertising and monthly contributions from around 1,500 supporters.
A major factor motivating The Canary's founders, Mendoza said, was scepticism of the mainstream media, a scepticism shared by Corbyn. In his first address as Labour leader, he attacked pundits for not understanding the discontent among many ordinary British voters, and talked about the "power of social media".
In April 2016, Mendoza said in Free & Fearless (a magazine produced by Hacked Off) that:
we are attracting an audience of 3.5 million unique users per month. On top of this: every two hours, 24 hours a day, seven days a week – someone becomes a paid subscriber of The Canary ... Our growing traffic is attracting advertisers who are now offering us a floor RPM (payment per 1,000 hits) of £3 and a ceiling of £9."
This structure has been criticised for promoting clickbait as writers are only paid for their work if it becomes viral. Mendoza disputes this, claiming that the payment structure means that people who generate the revenues get a fair share.
Describing her website to Journalism.co.uk, Canary editor-in-chief Kerry-Anne Mendoza said that:
For us, this is ultimately about democracy. Informed consent in the public is the bedrock of democracy, and if that informed consent isn't there because people aren't aware of the kind of information that they need to be, they won't be equipped to make the decent democratic decisions that they need to, say, for example, on climate change, the justice system, or whether austerity is a positive economic policy.
The Canary is generally supportive of Jeremy Corbyn, the current leader of the Labour Party, but has also supported Natalie Bennett (former leader of the Green Party) and the Greens' "radical alternative" to the "Tory-lite" policies of "the neoliberal Labour Party" asserting "The Green Party's rise to viability preceded the election of Jeremy Corbyn" and the emergence of Momentum.
Mendoza claims that The Canary's news coverage was not biased, and that it was "a complete coincidence" that the website was created shortly after Corbyn's leadership victory. "We don't have any affiliations with political parties, we don't have any affiliations with political organisations, and we're not actually ostensibly left-wing", she added, calling the site's editorial stance "a counterpoint to conservative media" and "broadly liberal".
Max Keiser, in his programme for the RT channel, has said that the site "really digs into some of the salient points that need to be made about austerity", saying in an interview with Kerry-Anne Mendoza that he has "been following this site for a while now". Former Respect MP George Galloway also praised the website on his show Sputnik, also for RT.
Critics have seen The Canary as symptomatic of the narrow worldview they believe motivate supporters of Jeremy Corbyn. Jasper Jackson in the New Statesman labelled sites like The Canary as "hyper-partisan", owing to its mainly pro-Corbyn content. Michael Deacon in The Daily Telegraph described it as the "maddest left-wing website in the world" and Private Eye commented it was a "pisspoor Corbynite clickbait factory".
The Canary has also been criticised by some political pundits on the left, such as Owen Jones, who told PR Week that the website "really promotes conspiracy theories and a lot of things that just aren't right. I worry about the Canary-isation of the left, where it ends up in a bizarre sub-culture that anyone who doesn't agree is seen as part of a conspiracy. But then you do get those blogs on left and right."
Jones and David Aaronovitch also criticised Kerry-Anne Mendoza for comparing Zionism to Nazism on BBC Radio 4 as part of her critiques of alleged Israeli war crimes. These sentiments would be echoed in a Sunday Times investigation into Labour antisemitism. "It's the perfect journal for Corbynism in that it has no connection to reality", Nick Cohen wrote for The Observer. Carl Miller of Demos told Alex Spence of the Politico website that while the "digital world" has been "democratizing", he has mixed feelings.
The Canary is an echo chamber. It’s reflecting a single worldview [cut in the source]. Corbyn’s opponents are the enemy; the Tories are contemptible, and so on. These echo chambers cut down on dissenting information, they eliminate us happening on other points of view. This is likely to make people even angrier, more outraged, more certain that that [sic] people we disagree with are evil... This isn’t good for our capacity to hold reasoned, civil debate in public life.
Additionally, The Canary's criticism of Charlie Brooker's 2016 Wipe, a satirical programme, was widely criticised. Accusing the show of "jaw dropping" character assassination, Canary author Jack Davies described the show as "a hatchet job on Jeremy Corbyn in its section on the Labour leadership election". In particular, Davies argued that a clip of Corbyn being unable to recognise Ant and Dec was used unfairly against Corbyn. Davies wrote that Brooker's comment ("If you think that's tough, try getting him to recognise Ant n' Semitism") in his view "cements a fabricated smear campaign from media pundits, the pro-Israel lobby, Conservative MPs, and Blairites who all have a common enemy: Corbyn".
This criticism was widely mocked on social media by both supporters and opponents of Jeremy Corbyn. Brooker jokingly said to the author beforehand that "We originally planned a 25min pro-Corbyn musical number but our shadowy Blairite handlers insisted we scrap it". The New Statesman's Media Mole responded to the controversy by suggesting humorous pro-Corbyn joke alternatives.
The Canary has published a number of stories which have been notable enough to be picked up by mainstream media outlets.
Electoral fraud investigations
Regarding allegations of electoral fraud in the 2015 general election, The Canary "dug into assorted expense claims and activities in several such seats crucial to Cameron's success", according to Michael White in the Guardian. A whistleblower contacted the website into allegations of telephone push polling, claiming that people acting for the Conservative Party also paid telephone companies to conduct misleading surveys on voters which were biased in favour of the Conservatives, thus breaking election law in regard to the private polling they are allowed to do during campaigns.
Portland Communications story
A piece by Steve Topple alleging that a parliamentary coup d'état against Corbyn was being co-ordinated by Portland Communications and the Fabian Society went viral on pro-Corbyn social media, and was repeated by Len McCluskey, the general secretary of the Unite union, on Andrew Marr's Sunday morning BBC programme. The piece was widely dismissed as a conspiracy theory.
Claims of fake news
In an article for The Independent in December 2016, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party Tom Watson announced that the Labour Party was commissioning an inquiry into fake news websites following the election of Donald Trump as President-elect of the United States. Following Watson's comments, BuzzFeed News mentioned an anonymous source working with the campaign, who alleged that The Canary would be targeted for the campaign. This prompted a response from editor and founder Kerry-Anne Mendoza, who incorrectly accused Watson of figure-heading "an anti-Corbyn coup" and said that "the man Tom Watson has placed in charge of the inquiry is anti-Corbyn MP Michael Dugher, who has written for the Daily Mail and The Sun. This, and other signs, point to this inquiry being no more than a witch hunt against Watson's political enemies on the left", accusing Watson of double standards when it comes to The Canary.
However, in November 2016, BBC News stated that during the 2016 US presidential campaign, The Canary misled "with claims that 'a major media outlet just revealed who won the US election... a week in advance'." The Canary article further claimed that "many have suggested the election is rigged. In October, the BBC and The Guardian both ran stories questioning the veracity of the election results". The BBC stated that its article in question assessed "the validity of claims that the US election is rigged, finding that there's 'no justification for concern about widespread voter fraud'", but did not predict the outcome of the US election.
The organisation also rewrote a story originally on MintPress News regarding an alleged anti-ISIS march. BuzzFeed News countered, "This week has seen millions of Shiite Muslims participate in Arba'een, one of the world's largest pilgrimages, in Iraq. But they are not specifically marching against ISIS, nor has there been a 'media blackout'". Mainstream publications such as The Independent, The Washington Post, the International Business Times and Reuters all commented on the story, mentioning that the pilgrimage was part of the traditional Arbaeen pilgrimage and not a specifically anti-ISIS demonstration. Additionally, BuzzFeed noted that the MintPress article was sourced from American Herald Tribune, a website edited by Canadian professor Anthony Hall, a 9/11 and Sandy Hook shooting conspiracy theorist who had been suspended from his job at a university on charges of anti-Semitism.
The Canary has been critical of Laura Kuenssberg's coverage of Jeremy Corbyn on BBC News. In the wake of the on-air resignation of Labour MP Stephen Doughty, and promoted a petition hosted by 38 Degrees (which was later taken down) which called for her resignation. The Canary responded by repeating Craig Murray's allegations that the petition was taken down due to "Establishment pressure", as opposed to the assertion from 38 Degrees that the petition was taken down due to "sexist and hateful abuse made towards Laura Kuenssberg".
Ian Middleton in The Huffington Post also wrote that: "if one looks at the list of comments published ... it's difficult to find anything remotely aggressive or sexist" and the accusations of abuse "may have been part of an orchestrated campaign on behalf of those looking to discredit the petition itself".
In September 2017, The Canary published a false story that Kuenssberg would speak at the following week's Conservative Party conference. The site made the claim on the grounds that she had been "invited" in an email. While The Canary later modified its article to acknowledge the BBC's rejection of its story, the claim had quickly gone viral. Helen Lewis, deputy editor of the New Statesman, said that the site targets Kuenssberg as "a traffic-driver for hate-clicks". Impress, the press regulator, later adjudicated in December 2017 that the website "did not correct this significant inaccuracy with due prominence" and broke its code by "misrepresenting facts" and "failing to take all reasonable steps to ensure accuracy prior to publication".
Between the withdrawal of the 38 Degrees petition in May 2016 and 20 July 2017, according to Jasper Jackson of the New Statesman, The Canary ran "at least 17 articles specifically criticising Kuenssberg.
During July 2016, The Canary achieved over 7.5 million page views, ranking 97th in readership among British media organisations, slightly higher than The Spectator and The Economist. The site's publishers, Canary Media, rose 47 spots from 126th in June to 79th in July among the top UK publishers. The majority of its site traffic comes from Facebook.
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We don't have a stance either way.
- Kerry-anne Mendoza, Editor-in-Chief of The Canary. Keiser Report. RT UK. 1 February 2016.
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