I went to the grocery store yesterday with my cloth tote bags. This is my brain: ‘What grains are in this organic bread? Are these mushrooms local? Garlic from China, wth. No, thanks. Where’s this ice cream from? Too far, pass. I’ll get yogurt, it’s made here. Ok, let’s get eggs from chickens who are living a happy life and can play with their buddies outside. Crap, the live lobster tank. Pass by super fast looking the other way mouthing ’SORRY!’  Turn left, bottled water section. Soooo much plastic killing all the whales!’

I’m not extreme by any means but whenever I can, I try to make ethical choices. Not only from an environmental standpoint but also by buying local or from small businesses, which helps keep jobs in our community.

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Five years ago, I wouldn’t have checked where my food comes from or even what’s in it. I would have left the store with 25 plastic bags. It began with awareness. It’s difficult to make the right choice when we don’t know what that is.

When it comes to media, there are also ethical choices to be made.

Collectively, we have to realize the value of independent journalism. By independent journalism, I mean content that is not produced by public relations professionals or internal communications departments because even if it’s fabulous, ultimately, it aims to promote the client (horse shows, governing bodies, riders, etc.).

The purpose of journalism is to serve the public’s interest. Without it, we wouldn’t have known about the sexual abuse scandals in the riding community. We wouldn’t have independent horse show coverage, interviews, and stories that wouldn’t otherwise be told. Personally, I want to be informed and read articles that are as unbiased as possible.

The only problem is that modern media has the dumbest business model on the planet. Journalism is given away for free. And while some equestrian media companies have paywalls and subscriptions, the industry is mainly funded by advertising revenue.

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Revenue is not dictated by the quality of the work itself. Advertisers look for traffic and reach. What keeps the quality of a publication high is the professionalism of the people working there. Much like the farmer who decides to grow organic produce, they have no incentive to do quality journalism other than their belief that it’s the right thing to do.

The road to sustainability begins with awareness. I’m not here to tell you that journalism is endangered but we have to make sure it is a viable career in our industry. Otherwise, there will be less of it and we all lose. Here’s what you can do:

  1. Take an active role in ensuring journalism gets to you.

As a reader, the best thing you can do is to take an active role. Ensure the ‘good stuff’ gets to you. Subscribe to newsletters of the publications you enjoy and get exposed to their content directly rather than letting social media serve you articles according to some algorithm. This way publications can have a stable readership which helps them secure advertising.

2. Support the advertisers that invest in equestrian media.

Then, support the companies who support independent journalism. Social media advertising has grown immensely these past few years, and while companies can spend their marketing budget how they prefer, every dollar spent on Facebook, Instagram and Google advertising doesn’t end up in our community.

The same dollar invested in equestrian media helps keep food on the table for the many journalists, editors, photographers, podcast producers, sales and support professionals that form our industry. Ultimately, that dollar probably ends up at the tack store since most of those people also ride.

It’s the power of the grocery cart. One small gesture, when multiplied, can have a massive impact on the entire system. You might not be saving whales but you’ll be sustaining people’s livelihoods and your own access to unbiased knowledge.