Brittany Tiplady and Kristi Alexandra (co-editors) met while studying journalism at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, becoming partners in an entrepreneurial journalism project. Over the last seven years, that project lives on as Loose Lips Magazine – an online publication representing diverse voices and exploring topics such as local arts, culture, and women’s health. BC Creates interviewed Brittany and Kristi to learn more about their journey into magazine publishing, their thoughts on the industry, and how they use their publication to champion storytellers.
Loose Lips is a publication that you founded yourselves, I’m interested to know what lead you to create your own magazine?
Brittany: So we met at journalism school in 2009, and for a project in one of our final year courses – Entrepreneurial Journalism – we had to create a publication; we came up with this feminist magazine. After graduating from university we then went our separate ways, had lots of different jobs, and eventually, both came to a crossroads in our careers. We got together again and thought ‘hey, what if we actually did start Loose Lips?’
Kristi: And that was seven years ago!
That’s great! So seven years on, looking back is there anything you know now that you wish you’d known starting out?
B: So much! But I also think that the things we’ve learned just naturally came with the journey. It would’ve been great to have been more in tune with how quickly language changes, along with how quickly our understanding of feminism would develop. That goes for conversations around gender and racism as well. Although we’ve obviously been pretty on top of it throughout our whole journey – being feminist and anti-racist has always been a huge part of our publication. But there’s always been so much to learn, especially as two white women having a publication. Aside from that, I think just understanding how challenging it can be to make money and have revenue as a publication. A little more knowledge on that side of things would have come in useful.
Loose Lips is a publication that amplifies underrepresented voices, and so you handle important and sensitive personal stories – how do you approach writing and publishing these stories?
K: That’s a good question, and we’ve learned a lot over the years. It’s important to be conscious of who you’re interviewing and the stories you’re telling. One thing we did for our print issue was hire a consultant because we were covering stories about indigenous matriarchs – a walk of life that we aren’t necessarily familiar with. So I think it’s important to set out the budget for that, and to hire people onto your team to check that you are anti-racist, and that you’re handling things with cultural protocol and sensitivity. So think about who you’re allowing to be represented in your publication, and ask yourself if it is balanced.
B: To add to that, as the years go on it’s important to brush up on your training by taking courses that are available to you. We took a great course on reporting in communities that are going through turmoil – it taught us how to report with more empathy and sensitivity and gave great insight into who you should include in your interviews. We’ve also reached out to some journalists of colour, asked for advice on how we can improve our reporting while offering to pay for their time. We’re always making sure that we consult people in the community we’re reporting on, so that we can always do better.
K: So that’s some advice for handling a sensitive story: make sure you’re really talking to people in that community, not outside of it. Think about why those people are important.
What do you think about the way the industry at large treats underrepresented voices, and what do you think needs to change?
K: As an indie publication we’ve been working in a sort of microcosm, and so we’re not beholden to any ad or conglomerate pressure. For us it’s about looking for the stories that we care about, and giving them a voice. Luckily, we’ve had the freedom to do that.
B: We’re in a little bit of our own echo chamber, especially as the media that we consume tries their best to do the same. But to speak more generally on the way the industry treats underrepresented voices, I think headlines can always be reviewed.
K: Yes, headlines can always be reviewed. And as Britt was saying, something mainstream media can do is not only speak to the experts. If you’re reporting on a community, the community is the best figurehead for what they’re going through.
Is there an achievement you’re particularly proud of in your careers?
B: Our print issue, for sure. The people that we interviewed were really happy with it – one of them received their issue framed as a birthday present!
K: Our print issue is definitely what we’re most proud of. It was six years in the making, and definitely something that we thought we’d be able to achieve much earlier. However I’m glad now that we printed when we did, because we were able to do it with such care. We really went above and beyond to make it as good as it could be.
And what projects are you excited to work on in the future?
K: At the moment we’re in the middle of redesigning our website, and so soon we’ll have the capacity to have ads. To us, that means being able to uplift our community more and being able to host ads from the people that we’re talking about.
B: As an independently funded publication these things are really costly, so I’m proud that we are able to completely re-design this website and debut a new look. We’re really looking forward to relaunching the publication again after a little hiatus!
That’s so exciting! And finally, what advice can you give to someone who wants to start their own publication?
K: Fact check.
K: Sharpen your fact-checking skills or hire a fact-checker, depending on what your organisation structure looks like. It’s such an important skill to have – one that I learned as a freelancer before bringing to this publication.
B: A degree in journalism isn’t absolutely necessary to start a publication, but to report conscientiously you need some basic knowledge of journalistic practises – this will make you more confident in your work too. It’s important to keep your journalistic standards and guidelines fresh; you always want to be thinking about fairness, balance and transparency. But also, have fun! Don’t take yourself too seriously. It’s really fun to have a publication – definitely a lot of work, but also a complete labour of love. So, if you’re planning to do it, make sure you enjoy yourself.
By Alice Watkin, intern for the Magazine Association of BC