Unsolicited Advice From the “Experts”


Unsolicited Advice From the “Experts” by Keith Porteous, Associate Editor.

Mr. Graham Hayman has submitted a letter to The Islands Grapevine (TIG) with unsolicited business advice (see below), and we admit to being mildly amused. In it, he has failed to disclose his participation in the development of a new Denman publication, proposed to have less than half the circulation of TIG, and published half as often.. We suggest he focus his “expertise” on the financial viability of that project, notwithstanding any private benefactors with deep pockets, and in that newsletter’s launch and sustainability. 

The new newsletter was announced as an ad-free publication, but has now changed its model to soliciting advertising as a result of a self-admitted “steep learning curve.” Receiving unsolicited and self-serving business advice from a contributor to a newsletter that has yet to publish a single issue is deeply ironic. The claim by Mr. Hayman that he is saddened by the challenges presented to TIG is disingenuous at best. TIG survived the loss of revenue caused by the pandemic, while supporting struggling businesses, and more.

Mr. Hayman’s experience as a “writer and editor” seems to be primarily in technical journals, when looking at his public LinkedIn profile. One wonders if he has considered the new publication’s impact on the Flagstone, the monthly publication that TIG prints, for years and years at a below market price, and a community publication that has struggled to stay afloat. Will the new publication draw advertisers away from the Flagstone?

But let’s unpack Mr. Hayman’s unsolicited recommendations, that TIG should “pivot the business model” it employs. It would help by starting with a factual baseline. While he erroneously claims that TIG carries “little locally sourced content”, it should be pointed out that, with the exception of Caitlin Johnstone, the internationally acclaimed leftist anti-war columnist, all of TIG’s content is from local writers, and the vast majority of information contained in TIG is local in nature. The journalism contained in TIG spans a wide spectrum of viewpoints, as demonstrated by the contributing authors he lists.

What he seems to be saying is that TIG’s “issues” are related to carrying any perspective about the world around us, especially if it runs counter to dominant corporate media narratives. It reveals a conceit in the assumption that the majority of island residents don’t want the diversity of perspective TIG offers, where it has become clear to us that the attacks and the vile smear campaigns against TIG have come from a small siloed group that is very active on social media. They are not leftists, but performative and radical centrists whose primary issues are related to control.

Embedded in Mr. Hayman’s generous advice is the notion that private businesses have withdrawn support from TIG, but with a couple of exceptions, that isn’t true either, and we’ve even added a couple. The issue has always been about a publicly funded employee, withholding publicly funded ad dollars, attempting to extort an editorial policy change from TIG, while private businesses can always do as they wish. Indeed, the publisher of the forthcoming newsletter took it upon himself to endorse the manipulations of public funds when announcing his intentions to launch his publication, and now looks to draw upon those same tax funded ad dollars.

A publicly funded employee covertly trying to manipulate a private business using taxpayer money is at the very least highly unethical, and at worst, a violation of the tenets of civil law. We’re about to see how this plays out through official processes. The small group of social media bullies can create misperceptions with false accusations, but when they have their hands on public funds, they can be held to account, including damages to a proprietor’s personal reputation, and to his business.

TIG’s editorial policy remains intact, and we intend to enforce its boundaries, opposing bigotry in all its forms. The idea that we should identify some narrow ideological market segment to focus on, then throw them the red meat they desire has never, and will never be our journalistic practice, nor is it a sustainable business model for us. If you want to see more of the kind of content you prefer and not less of it, you are welcome to submit it for publication and we’ll happily include it as always.

TIG aims its content at everyone in our communities, on Denman and Hornby Islands, and throughout the Baynes Sound region, with the idea of inclusivity, diversity, and openness to contributions from our loyal readers, writers, and advertisers that have sustained TIG for more than three decades. We promise to never compromise or capitulate to online trolls and bullies. 

Dear Grapevine Publisher,

I am genuinely sorry to hear that jobs have been lost at The Islands Grapevine. Apart from the personal loss, Denman’s economy loses too; at least part of what’s earned here is spent here.

I’m writing to suggest opportunities. Think of  your paper as a retailer in our marketplace of ideas.  How can you respond to the changes? On one hand, The Grapevine now faces competition for the limited local pool of advertising expenditure. On the other (judging from recent letters)  there is a self-identified  sector of readership on both Hornby and Denman that likes your content.

Consider how you could “pivot the business model,”  as people said during Covid. I suggest that, instead of trying to please a diverse readership on Denman, you could specialize; carry more of the content liked by your supporters, and find similar readers in nearby markets.  Simultaneously, of course, you would look for advertisers in those markets.

So, try expanding that content to similar readers – and to advertisers – in Hornby, Union Bay, Mud Bay,  Fanny Bay – even Bowser and Royston?  The Denman Island Bulletin Board on Facebook now has  2.8k members – consider subscriptions? 

Advertisers who want to reach readers in all those markets will probably have larger budgets.

I haven’t seen another neighbourhood paper in this region with a product (content) mix that’s even close to The Grapevine’s. What some people might see as a weakness – little locally-sourced content – may in fact be a strength. The columns by Helen Grond, Sally Campbell, Caitlin Johnstone, and Maxine Rogers will appeal to a much wider readership than just Denman’s. You could probably find more columnists with similar appeal in those markets.

You already have good infrastructure. An attractive design, with a good mix of smalls, cartoons, calendar, etc. A very good online presence too;  a website with several reading options including  downloadable .pdf’s,  and a Facebook page.  Time to move on, and expand your horizon?


Graham Hayman

Author: TIG