Interview Series: Matthew Halliday of The Deep

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At last year’s Digital Publishing Awards, The Deep took home the award for General Excellence in Digital Publishing, in the Small Publications category. Founded in Halifax in 2017, The Deep Magazine grew out of co-founders’ Matthew Halliday and Chelsea Murray’s desire to create a home for impactful long form journalism in Atlantic Canada. The publication has quickly carved out a niche of carefully researched and reported pieces that bring to light “stories that don’t otherwise get told,” as executive editor Halliday puts it. 

We called Halliday in Halifax to learn more about the story behind The Deep, the challenges and rewards of running a publication that focuses on one region, and what it was like to take home a DPA. 

Could you tell us a bit about how The Deep was founded?

I am the co-founder, along with my partner Chelsea. Chelsea and I met in Toronto as magazine stream students in the Ryerson Master of Journalism program. We were mutual fans of deep dive, narrative long-form. Then we became personal partners there. I’m from Alberta, and she’s from New Brunswick, and she wanted to move out east. So about five years ago we did that. We worked in communications jobs and did freelance work—I’m now a full-time freelance journalist, as well as executive editor of The Deep.

We came out here and realized, Toronto and southern Ontario are pretty well served, comparatively, by magazines, but there isn’t a robust magazine culture across Canada in different regions, necessarily. So we wanted to bring that deep dive narrative writing to the East Coast; to provide a place where writers who had the chops and the experience and the desire to do it, could do it and get paid decently to [write] here, about this region.

You know The Atavist Magazine—that was kind of the model to begin with, one big story a month. We started it up in partnership with The Coast magazine, which is the alt weekly here in Halifax—like the NOW Magazine of Halifax—they provided some in-kind support, some resources, mentorship, that kind of thing. It’s a partnership with them, but editorially independent. And rather than just covering the city here, we cover all four provinces. We launched with a Kickstarter in October 2016, and then spent the winter of 2016-2017 working away at our first crop of stories, and then launched last August.

The Deep Magazine cofounders Matthew Halliday, Executive Editor, and Chelsea Murray, Editor
The Deep Magazine co-founders, Matthew Halliday and Chelsea Murray

What do you feel are the specific challenges of operating this kind of publication with a regional focus, or specifically with a regional focus on Atlantic Canada? What makes it different from a publication that caters to the whole country?

It is a drawback and a strength, in a way, that we have a narrower audience. It’s a much smaller audience than a national publication would have— there are 2.5 million people in the Atlantic region.

This is a region that’s sort of off the editorial map of Canada. The Globe went several years without even having anyone here in the Atlantic bureau. It’s a place that doesn’t get covered a lot, and when it does get covered it’s often from a stereotypical kind of perspective. A lot of parachute journalism; a lot of reporting that plays off stereotypes of the place that are maybe outdated, or don’t reflect the way people live here.

We get to tell the stories that don’t get told otherwise. And readers here have really responded. So I think focusing on a region that’s off the map a bit actually is a strength, because people here are really hungry for that kind of thing.

Illustration of two shadowy figures walking away from a countryside home at night.
Illustration by Aziza Asat for The Deep, from Oscar Baker III’s story “A History of Violence”

Why do you think that might be the case, that this region gets sort of overlooked by other media?

Canadian media is highly concentrated in Toronto, and so there’s sort of a lack of awareness, often. I worked in Toronto media for years, and I know tons of people there, and I love them. I love the city, and I love the media and journalism community there. But nevertheless there is certainly sometimes a myopia that can develop when everybody’s in one place.

Even when people come from across the country, people develop that myopia sometimes. There’s sort of a lack of awareness, and a lack of interest in what’s going on elsewhere. Or the interest in what’s going on in that one part of the country gets conflated with national interests.

And then there’s the pure business case—it’s a smaller region. The GTA is three times the population of the entire Atlantic region, so there’s that as well.

Image of person in black winter clothing walking in snowy mountain landscape.
Photo of Labrador by Jennie Williams for The Deep, from Matthew Halliday’s recent story “Homeland.”

You mentioned that you’re also working freelance; what’s it like balancing that with full-time editorial work?

Very difficult [laughs]. I worked at St Mary’s University, which is one of the universities in the city here, doing a communications role with them, and I left that earlier this year to go full-time freelance, and it’s been a great choice. I’ve had a lot of luck and success and it’s been really good.

Part of the reason I did that was so I could spend more time on The Deep. I didn’t want to be balancing a nine to five office job with The Deep and freelance.

The Deep is basically run out of Chelsea’s and my attic in our house. It’s kind of: work all day and The Deep at night, sort of thing. There is no separation, really. It’s a lot of work. We do love the work though! To work with some of the best writers in the region, to develop these editorial relationships and this back and forth and process of revision that doesn’t really happen a lot… Working on a story for six or eight months—which is not something that I think a lot of writers here get a chance to do, unless they’re writing for an out of region publication—that’s really rewarding and fun.

What are the challenges of working on stories for such a long time? It must present some different challenges from pieces that have a fast turnaround.

Part of it is, you want to make sure you’re doing something that is timely. It’s the same challenge that anyone would have at any major magazine, where there’s six months or a year lead times. But specifically out here, a lot of writers haven’t done that, maybe. It’s new to a lot of writers. You’re going to be working on this for half a year, it’s going to require a whole bunch of revision—that’s not something that a lot of people have done, necessarily. That can be new.

But yeah, just making sure it’s a story that is going to be relevant when it’s finally published. Making sure no one else picks up on it. Then again, that is the benefit of working in a region that doesn’t kind of get the coverage it deserves: you don’t get scooped as much.

GE Small The Deep

You won the DPA for General Excellence in a small publication, and this is the award for a magazine that best fulfills its editorial mandate. I was wondering if you could say a bit about The Deep’s editorial mandate. What are its goals?

To tell those stories that don’t otherwise get told. In bullet form: to tell fascinating, entertaining, compelling, and important stories about this region that don’t otherwise get told. They don’t have to be East Coast-y in any particular way. The only stipulation is that there’s something that happened here, or that there’s some connection.

For example, we had a piece a few months ago—the writer [Oscar Baker III] is part Mi’kmaq, from the Elsipogtog First Nation in New Brunswick, and part African-American, and grew up in Florida. His piece was mostly set in Florida, and talked about growing up in that world; the tension between those two cultures that informed his upbringing. So that was mostly in the southeastern United States, but there was that Atlantic connection.

What was it like, the experience of winning the award? What did that mean for you and everyone that collaborates with you?

It was great. Our readership has been really good, we have strong readership, so we know that people are out there reading the magazine. But we’re in a bit of a bubble. Chelsea and I are just working in our attic most of the time, separated from the world. We see feedback—we see traffic on the site, and we see feedback online, and that’s all great. But it feels sort of depersonalized, kind of distant, out there. So to be recognized by our peers in the industry is fantastic.

To go back to Toronto and see a lot of the people we worked with at magazines there, and have them saying, “Hey, this is a great thing you’re doing.” To be recognized by the publishing and magazine world is really very gratifying. We’re not in it for the awards, but it definitely gives us a boost to let us know that people are out there paying attention, and we’re doing something worthwhile.


Cover illustration by Aziza Asat for The Deep Magazine, from Chelsea Murray’s story “Joe and the Whale.”

Interview conducted by Jill Blackmore Evans.

Submissions for the 2019 Digital Publishing Awards will open on January 2, 2019. Click here for everything you need to know about submitting an entry, and follow us on Twitter for the most up-to-date news. 

 

 

Announcing the Categories for the 2019 Digital Publishing Awards

The National Media Awards Foundation is pleased to announce the line-up of categories for the fourth annual Digital Publishing Awards. The awards will be across 23 categories, including one new category; Best Editorial Newsletter.

To review its Digital Publishing Awards program for 2019, the NMAF worked in consultation with a panel of industry professionals. Our thanks to this year’s Advisory Committee members, who provided invaluable guidance to crafting the 4th annual DPAs, include:

Matt Frehner – Head of Visual Journalism, The Globe and Mail
Philippe Gohier – Editor in Chief, VICE Québec
Lindsay Sample – Managing Editor, Discourse Media
David Topping – Senior Manager of Product, St. Joseph Communications, Media Group

Notable changes for 2019 include:

  • The awards for the three Best Service Feature categories (Lifestyle; Careers and Personal Finances; Family and Health), have been merged into one single category rewarding excellence in service journalism.
  • One new category has been added to the program: Best Editorial Newsletter. This award honours the outstanding work of an editorial team in creating original and engaging content via a regular email series that best serves its intended audience by maximizing the potential of digital publishing.

2019 DPA Categories:

  1. Best Digital Editorial Package
  2. Best Column
  3. Best News Coverage (Small newsroom)
  4. Best News Coverage
  5. Best Feature Article: Short
  6. Best Feature Article: Long
  7. Fiction
  8. Best Personal Essay
  9. Best Arts & Culture Storytelling
  10. Best Science & Technology Storytelling
  11. Best Service Feature
  12. Best Online Video: Short
  13. Best Online Video: Feature
  14. Best Online Video: Mini-Doc
  15. Best Podcast
  16. Best Digital Design
  17. Best Photo Storytelling
  18. Best Social Storytelling
  19. Best Editorial Newsletter
  20. Innovation in Digital Storytelling
  21. Emerging Excellence Award
  22. Leadership Excellence Award
  23. General Excellence in Digital Publishing: Small, Medium & Large Publications

For complete category definitions, rules and judging procedures, visit digitalpublishingawards.ca.

2019 CALL FOR ENTRIES
Submissions for the 2018 Digital Publishing Awards will be accepted from January 2-31, 2019. The DPAs are open to all Canadian digital publishers— including those that support established brands in consumer & B2B magazines, newspapers, broadcast and other journalism, as well as those that serve their audiences exclusively as digital brands—published in either English or French.

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We’re currently accepting nominations for individuals to serve on the jury for the 2019 DPAs, and join the great tradition of recognizing achievement by the creators of Canadian magazines and digital publications. We’re looking for nominations of individuals who bring different industry perspectives – from recognized leaders to celebrated emerging talents. We also aim for judging panels to reflect our country’s diverse Indigenous, cultural, and regional communities.

For news and updates about the DPAs, follow the Digital Publishing Awards on Twitter @DPAwards and #DPA19.

Call for Judges: 4th Digital Publishing Awards

 

#dpa19 (1)At the National Media Awards Foundation, we’re getting ready to honour the best in journalism, at the 4th annual Digital Publishing Awards and the 42nd National Magazine Awards. We’re currently accepting nominations for individuals to serve on the juries, and join the great tradition of recognizing achievement by the creators of Canadian magazines and digital publications.

Ideal candidates should fulfill one or more of the following criteria:

  • Internationally renowned journalist, editor, designer or other expert with an interest in supporting the NMAF fulfill its mission;
  • Editor, art director, publisher, web editor, developer or other staff member (past or present) of a Canadian digital publication or magazine, whether or not your publication participates in the National Magazine Awards or Digital Publishing Awards;
  • Freelance or staff writer, illustrator, photographer or digital creator, where a significant portion of your work is in Canadian publications (especially if you have been nominated for or won a National Magazine Award or Digital Publishing Award yourself);
  • Journalist (print, broadcast, digital) with expertise in a particular field represented by one or more NMA or DPA categories (such as photojournalism, service, arts & culture, fiction, etc);
  • Academic or industry leader with expertise in a particular field;
  • Professionals and leaders from related cultural sectors, including the visual arts (film and television), the literary arts (book writing & publishing) and the performing arts (theatre, music);
  • Bilingual: Not all of our judges need be bilingual, but all awards juries will have at least one bilingual member.

The NMAF welcomes applications from individuals who bring different industry perspectives – from recognized leaders to celebrated emerging talents. We also aim for the judging panels to reflect our country’s diverse Indigenous, cultural, and regional communities.

Judging will take place during February and March 2019. Contact us at info@digitalpublishingawards.ca for more information or to nominate someone to the jury.


The NMAF is a bilingual, not-for-profit, charitable organization whose mission is to foster, recognize and promote editorial excellence in Canadian publications. Submissions will open in January for awards honouring the best in digital publishing in 2018. The 4th annual Digital Publishing Awards soiree will be held in the spring of 2019.

 

Thank you! From the 2018 Digital Publishing Awards

From all of us at the National Media Awards Foundation, thank you to everyone who helped make the 3rd annual Digital Publishing Awards a great success.

Special thanks to Kenny Yum—last year’s Digital Publishing Leadership Award winner—for starting off the night by congratulating the nominees and thanking the 78 volunteer judges; Adrian Lee for hosting the event and keeping the audience laughing throughout the night; and Irene Thomaidis, for introducing this year’s Digital Publishing Leadership Award winner, Brodie Fenlon.

Thanks also to Mathieu Baril (managing director of DDI Canada) who presented the winner of the Best Podcast or Audio Storytelling category! 

We are enormously grateful for our 78 judges, who are the crux of the award program. You can read more about the 2018 roster of judges here.

Many thanks to those who attended the event (and to those who followed along via the live-stream and on Twitter), and to the participants, nominees, and winners of this year’s awards. We hope you enjoyed celebrating the best of Canada’s digital talent, and we look forward to welcoming you back in 2019 for the 4th annual DPAs!

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Visit live.digitalpublishingawards.ca to view all the winners of the 2018 Digital Publishing Awards. The 2019 Call for Entries will open on January 1st, 2019. Follow us on Twitter (@DPAwards) for updates.

Photo credit: Steven Goetz Storytelling

Winners’ Circle: an exclusive event from the National Media Awards Foundation

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On Tuesday, May 29, the NMAF will present Winners’ Circle, a special event that will bring together award-winning and nominated writers, editors, artists, art directors to meet, mingle, pitch and learn about the value of diversity.

All Digital Publishing Awards winners, and past and current finalists are invited to join us at One King West Hotel in Toronto, from 12pm to 2:30pm for this exciting learning and networking activity. The event is FREE and includes a lunch for attendees.

The Value of Diversity: A Panel Discussion
The two-part event will begin with a panel discussion moderated by the national columnist for StarMetro, Vicky Mochama. A regular columnist for the Toronto Star, Vicky writes about issues at the intersections of race, politics, gender and migration.

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Vicky will be joined by panel members Andree LauEternity MartisHadiya Roderique and Kyle Edwards for a discussion around the theme of diversity in the media.

Fast Pitch
After the panel presentation, it’s time to mingle and network with your peers. We’ll be facilitating introductions between writers, artists, editors and art directors. If you’re planning to attend and would like to have a chance to sit down with an award-winning writer/artist or an award-winning magazine editor or art director, let us know: events@magazine-awards.com.

We’re looking forward to welcoming you on May 29 from 12 to 2:30pm at One King West Hotel in downtown Toronto.

All nominees and winners from the Digital Publishing Awards and the National Magazine Awards are invited to attend. Contact us to RSVP or request more information. Please RSVP by May 23. Space is limited and available on a first come basis.

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