National Observer (Canada)

The National Observer
Type Daily news website
Format Online Newspaper
Owner(s) Observer Media Group
Founder(s) Linda Solomon Wood
Editor Linda Solomon Wood, Mike De Souza
Associate editor Sandy Garossino
Founded 2015 (2015)
Headquarters Vancouver, BC, Canada

National Observer is a Canadian online website focused on news through the lens of energy, environment, and federal politics. The publication emphasizes quality investigations, federal politics, breaking news, opinion, and analysis. Just eight months after its inception, National Observer surpassed the landmark of one million monthly page views.


National Observer was founded by Linda Solomon Wood, a long-time, award-winning journalist who decided to move to Canada after decades of reporting from the United States and France. Once settled in Vancouver, she built Observer Media Group and became its CEO. In 2015, she received the Vancouver Board of Trade Wendy MacDonald Award for Entrepreneurial Innovation.[1] The publication builds on the Vancouver Observer’s journalistic excellence. In 2012, the team behind this local publication won a Canadian Journalism Foundation Excellence in Journalism Award.[2] In 2013 it was nominated for the same prize, and it finally won it again in 2014.

It was actually during the 2014 CJF awards ceremony that Solomon Wood announced the launching of National Observer.[3] Both, the Vancouver Observer and National Observer would live under the umbrella of Observer Media Group (OMG) from then on.

In April of 2015, OMG’s partner Jenny Uechi-Tan[4] became the company’s Managing Director and National Observer’s managing editor; she performed the latter role until April 2016, when Mike De Souza took over the position. Uechi is known for her extensive coverage of underreported issues for the Vancouver Observer. Her main topics of interest have been around pipeline projects in North America, the impacts of oil sands on humans and the environment, and the situation regarding Lost Canadians.[5]

Around the same time, Sandy Garossino, founder of House of Parlance Media and known as the face of anti-casino citizen group Vancouver Not Vegas[6] joined Observer Media Group. Garossino is currently National Observer’s Associate Editor and one if its top columnists. Her sharp op-eds usually spark heated debates amongst Canada’s political junkies. In August 2016, her piece "What's written in the scars of Hillary Clinton" was massively read across Canada and the U.S., but also in Sweden, Australia, Norway, and other countries.

In April 2016, Mike De Souza assumed the role of Ottawa-based Managing Editor. Prior to that, De Souza had written many stories for National Observer, focusing on energy projects' environmental assessments and National Energy Board's pipeline reviews. In July 2016, De Souza broke a story that became known as 'the Charest affair.' Through Freedom of Information requests, he discovered that Quebec's Jean Charest gave political advice to members of a federal panel reviewing a major TransCanada Corp. pipeline project in a private meeting while he was under contract with the Alberta-based company. This story sparked reactions across the country and was quoted by dozens of other media outlets, including the Montreal Gazette, Toronto Star, CBC, Le Devoir, and Le Soleil.


National Observer was launched following a successful Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign[7] whose initial target was surpassed by a large margin. Its slogan Hot temperatures. Brutal conflicts. From ground zero of climate change, a new publication drew hundreds of donations, big and small, from around the world.

During an interview with Canadaland's Jesse Brown, Solomon Wood explained that the idea behind National Observer was "to counter the influence of the energy industry’s multi-million dollar spending on ads and editorial partnerships with mainstream media".[8]

The site had its a formal inauguration on April 22, 2015. Its maiden story was Redacted diary reveals oil's hidden route to Harper.[9] The investigative piece is about Senator Mike Duffy’s personal calendar, which showed a nexus of undisclosed communications between Duffy, Canada’s former Prime Minister Stephen Harper and oil company executives.

Founding team

One of National Observer’s first hires was Toronto-based Bruce Livesey —an award-winning investigative journalist and author, formerly with CBC and Global. His indepth investigations of prominent figures in Canada’s political and economic realms have been read by thousands. Is Harper the worst prime minister in history?[10] was his major hit in 2015.

How Canada made the Koch brothers rich[11] was Livesey’s first story for National Observer. The piece was illustrated with a caricature by American artist Victor Juhasz, who has continued to create original artwork for the publication's top stories.

Originally, the Koch's story was meant to be a TV documentary for Global but, after a heavy promotional campaign, the network decided to pull it without much explanation.[12] Livesey decided to leave Global and join NO.

His and other National Observer reporters’ coverage of the oil and gas industry’s push to build or enlarge pipelines across Canada has sparked interest amongst politicians, journalists,[13] commentators,[14] academics, NGOs, and social media influencers. An Al Jazeera documentary showed a glimpse of what this coverage is all about.

Reporter Mychaylo Prystupa was on top of NO’s energy reporting. He covered climate change stories with a focus on the relationships and interactions between the oil and gas industry, decision makers, First Nations and the public at large. In December 2015, he was among the Canadian journalists who witnessed how 190 nations inked a deal to limit global warming at the Paris COP21 summit.[15]

Prystupa joined OMG in 2014. On the Vancouver Observer, he published hundreds of stories about citizens’ opposition to projects such as Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline,[16] Shell’s Arctic drilling, and TransCanada’s LNG line in Gitxsan territory.[17] He worked for OMG up to January 2016.

Charles Mandel is National Observer’s Halifax based senior reporter. Besides writing in-depth, well researched profiles of Canada’s big political players, his reporting has focused on major stakeholders’ approach towards climate change. Prime Ministers,[18] corporate CEOs, Cabinet ministers, scientists and bureaucrats have been under Mandel’s magnifying glass and their stories have become NO readers’ all-time favourites.[19]

Mandel has been a reporter, writer and editor for more than 25 years. He won multiple journalism awards while reporting for the Edmonton Journal, the Calgary Herald,, and Canwest News Service. His features and articles have also appeared in Canadian Business, Maclean’s, The Globe and Mail and the National Post.

In January 2016, Mike De Souza joined the team, as the Ottawa-based Senior Reporter and Political Editor. De Souza worked previously for Postmedia News Services. In 2012, his investigation into how oil industry-funded research funds at University of Calgary were used to cast doubt on climate change science, received a citation from the National Newspaper Awards. The Montreal native has covered politics for more than a decade at the National Assembly in Quebec City, Parliament Hill in Ottawa and Calgary. Recently, his focus has shifted towards reporting on energy and environment policies in government and industry. He became National Observer's managing editor in April 2016.

Fram Dinshaw was National Observer's Toronto-based National News Editor and Parliamentary Reporter. In the midst of the 2015 federal election campaign, his stories on the tense relationship between Canadian veterans and the Conservative government[20] earned him countrywide recognition. He also covered the challenges that Justin Trudeau’s government faces when it comes to environmental policy, missing and murdered indigenous women, and the Syrian refugee crisis. Previously, Dinshaw worked as a reporter for The Hinton Voice where he was nominated for a 2013 ACWS Lynda Steele Media Award for his reports on issues related to violence against women. He left OMG in February 2016.

Elizabeth McSheffrey is NO’s Vancouver-based reporter. After returning to Canada from a reporting fellowship in Kenya, she joined the Vancouver Observer team in 2015, where covered issues such as affordable housing and British Columbia’s candidates for the federal election.[21] By October of that year, she started reporting for National Observer, where she has been publishing multimedia pieces related to Senator Mike Duffy’s trial, animal welfare, and the election. McSheffrey’s work has also been published by the BBC, CBC, CBS, CTV, The Globe and Mail, and VICE News.

Valentina Ruiz Leotaud is Observer Media Group’s social media director. While pursuing her master's degree at the University of British Columbia, she interned at the Vancouver Observer where she ran the publication’s social media channels and reported on community and immigration issues. As of May 2015, she started managing both VO and NO’s social media profiles, while still reporting on political, community, immigration, and food issues.

Ruiz Leotaud has 10 years of work experience in Venezuela and Canada, covering national, international and arts and culture information. Her work has been published by The New York Times,[22] Al Jazeera America, Global, GuideBook, Dominical magazine, América Economía, and others.

Since 2011, Janel Johnson oversees advertising sales for Observer Media Group and manages everything related to the Vancouver Observer.


National Observer builds on the Vancouver Observer’s experience in terms of funding. “We are very serious about fundraising and we’re looking for investment and partners, crowdfunding and advertising,” Linda Solomon Wood said on an interview with[23]

During its Kickstarter campaign, NO was able to surpass its initial goal of $50,000 and crowdfunded $80,939 thanks to the support of 574 backers. Among those who helped were celebrities such as Grimes; authors such as Ruth Ozeki and John Valliant; and publishers like Steve Katz from Mother Jones Magazine. Later, in May 2016, National Observer moved to a subscription model that gives three free articles to all users, full access to those who sign up for monthly or yearly plans, and a pay-as-you-go option.

See also

The Vancouver Observer


  1. "Enteprenual Innovation". September 9, 2015. Retrieved December 29, 2015 via The Vancouver Board of Trade.
  2. "Awards - 2012 | CJF". Retrieved December 30, 2015 via Canada Journalism Foundation.
  3. "National digital new agency launched, focused on energy". June 4, 2014. Retrieved December 30, 2015 via Newswire.
  4. "Jenny Uechi | National Observer". National Observer. Retrieved December 31, 2015.
  5. "Lost Canadians". Retrieved 2016-01-03.
  6. "Vancouver Not Vegas". Vancouver Not Vegas. Retrieved 2016-01-03.
  7. "Reports from the Energy Battlegrounds". Kickstarter. Retrieved 2016-01-03.
  8. "Our Oily Media". CANADALAND. Retrieved 2016-01-03.
  9. Prystupa, Mychaylo; Garossino, Sandy. "Redacted diary reveals oil's hidden route to Harper". National Observer. Retrieved 2016-01-03.
  10. 2015, Bruce Livesey in News | May 18th. "Is Harper the worst prime minister in history?". National Observer. Retrieved 2016-01-03.
  11. 2015, Bruce Livesey in News | May 5th. "How Canada made the Koch brothers rich". National Observer. Retrieved 2016-01-03.
  12. "Global News Disappeared a Koch Brothers Exposé". CANADALAND. Retrieved 2016-01-03.
  13. "Christie Blatchford: Mike Duffy's reason for 2010 B.C. trip in dispute at trial". National Post. Retrieved 2016-01-04.
  14. "The Post is Toast: The disintegration of the Postmedia chain". Retrieved 2016-01-03.
  15. "COP21". National Observer. Retrieved 2016-01-03.
  16. "2014's biggest newsmakers in pipeline politics (in BC)". The Vancouver Observer. Retrieved 2016-01-03.
  17. "Why Gitxsan built a camp to blockade an LNG pipeline in BC's north". The Vancouver Observer. Retrieved 2016-01-03.
  18. M, Charles; Opinion, el in; 2015, Politics | November 26th. "Harper's poisoned gift puts Trudeau government in a bind". National Observer. Retrieved 2016-01-03.
  19. "From Harper to Harjit, here are National Observer's ten most-read stories from 2015". National Observer. Retrieved 2016-01-03.
  20. News, Fram Dinshaw in; 2015, Politics | August 13th. "Veterans declare war on Harper". National Observer. Retrieved 2016-01-03.
  21. "HARJIT SAJJAN: Military hero now a Vancouver Liberal candidate". The Vancouver Observer. Retrieved 2016-01-03.
  22. Ruiz Leotaud, Valentina; Mckinney, Dan; Hol, Darryl; Kamaliddin, Hala (2015-10-12). "Saving Syria's Refugee Children". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-01-03.
  23. "Vancouver Observer growing with National Observer | J-Source". Retrieved 2016-01-03.
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