The Sask Dispatch is a Saskatchewan-focused publication produced by Briarpatch Magazine. With stories printed every two months and published online, the Sask Dispatch covers under-reported issues in the province, centring issues that are important to poor folks and the working class, Indigenous communities, and other marginalized groups.
There are very few independent publications in Saskatchewan; even fewer that position themselves to the left of the corporate mainstream. In the Sask Dispatch, we build on Briarpatch’s half-century of activism and publishing in Saskatchewan, in order to produce fearless investigative reporting and critical commentary about our home province.
Our sister publication, Briarpatch Magazine, began as an anti-poverty newsletter, stapled in the corner and distributed on the streets of Saskatoon in the early 1970s. Within a few years Briarpatch moved to Regina and became “Saskatchewan’s independent newsmagazine,” a tagline we wore for many years. It got a big provincial grant, had the grant entirely eliminated a few years later by Allan Blakeney’s NDP, and still managed to build a following around the province and country.
By the turn of the millennium, Briarpatch had become a publication of national and international scope and importance – a remarkable feat, given that it’s mostly reader supported. But this meant that Saskatchewan was less in the picture, and less represented on the magazine’s pages. So, in 2009, Briarpatch staff launched the Sasquatch, a provincial newspaper published every six weeks. The paper covered important issues other outlets hardly touched, like queer activism, small farms and factory farms, treaty education, urban poverty, and climate activism. Many people subscribed to, and a number of organizations advertised in the “News with bite” paper, which sold for $3.75 an issue.
However, quality news coverage costs a lot of money, as does printing a newspaper, and at that time people were flocking from print to digital. Keeping the Sasquatch going required funnelling money away from the production of Briarpatch, and the newspaper began endangering the future of the magazine. After about a year, the Sasquatch called it quits and packed up.
The idea, though, of an independent Saskatchewan-focused publication writing truth to power remained a good one. And around the Briarpatch office every once in a while, while watching the media landscape become even more barren, staff daydreamed about relaunching something like the Sasquatch.
So in October 2018 publisher David Gray-Donald and editor Saima Desai launched the Sask Dispatch – a new Saskatchewan-focused publication – off the side of their desks at Briarpatch. They printed off inserts with their first few stories about the Fight for $15, a Just Transition conference, and the Saskatoon Co-op strike, and tucked them inside copies of Briarpatch headed to Saskatchewan subscribers.
Since then, we’ve continued to publish news, investigations, and essays about our home province of Saskatchewan, bringing attention to important issues and filling a need for independent media to the left of the corporate mainstream. In 2020, a fundraising drive allowed us to build a new website, start an email newsletter, and publish even more reporting.
Long term, we want to build journalism capacity here. In particular, we want to empower people to write coverage centring Indigenous people, the working class, poor folks, and queer and trans people; these are the people who have been let down by media here. We say “no more.”
History adapted from "Introducing the Sask Dispatch" by David Gray-Donald.