Meet the team

Name: Matthew DiMera

Role: Managing Editor

Hometown: Vancouver, BC

What’s the best part about working at Xtra:

One of the best things is really getting to work so closely with the community. What’s great about journalism, but especially doing LGBT journalism, is that you really get to meet people who are working so hard on different causes, or creating community space, or throwing events, or what-have-you. It’s not often that you get to root for the people you write about — not that everything we write about is positive, because we still hold different parts of the community to account, but at the end of the day it really feels like we’re making a positive difference.

What does a typical busy day look like for you:

I spend far more time in meetings than I would like to. But there are other parts of the job that I really enjoy. I get to work with people in the community, whether it’s local organizations or national advocacy groups, and really getting the pulse of what’s happening out there and what’s important to people. I meet a lot with writers and journalists. We work a lot with freelancers, so I spend a lot of my time recruiting people, meeting with people, and again, trying to remain connected. We do a lot of work around story pitches and really refining what the best way to tell a story is. Rather than just making this a news story, is there a way we can make this into a video? Or is there a way we can tell the story with photos, or maybe even a podcast? I also just do a lot of management — making sure our freelancers get paid. What else . . . I’m sure I missed a ton of stuff.

What are some of the most interesting projects you’ve worked on at Xtra:

It depends on your definition of interesting. There’s been lots of ridiculous, bizarre stories, but I think the ones I remember the most are the ones that are the most rewarding or where you meet activists or people who are working on causes. A few years ago I did a project, and it was really just looking at activism through youth, and it was people who were changing things at their school, or pushing for legislation at the provincial level or at the national level, or people who were creating change. That’s the most positive stuff I’ve worked on.

Name: Eternity Martis

Role: Senior editor

Hometown: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

What’s the best part about working at Xtra:

I’ve always wanted to work somewhere that maintained a community and advocacy journalism feel. When I was a journalism student, I was told that neither was possible in the industry; I jumped at the chance to work at Xtra.

I also wanted to work somewhere that was sex-positive and celebrated this. On my first day, just three or four hours in, I met with my first freelancer who threw me off by saying they wanted to write about golden showers, then proceeded to describe their experience in great detail. I was completely caught off guard by the refreshing honesty and joy in telling their story, especially because we’ve been taught to feel shame when talking about sex. I immediately knew this was the place for me. It turned out to be one of the best stories I’ve worked on!

I’m so happy to work with a young, passionate team that is committed to being watchdogs and telling stories that matter — not just breaking news but thoughtful analysis pieces, features, videos and personal essays — in LGBT communities across Canada and abroad. There’s so much opportunity to unapologetically push the envelope and cover stories that mainstream media can’t or won’t. Plus, it’s a great team: everyone brings their own expertise and knowledge to the table and different opinions and perspectives are not only valued, but encouraged.

What does a typical busy day look like for you:

When I first come in, I check/answer emails and look over pitches, then look at the analytics to see how yesterday’s stories did. If it’s the beginning of the week, I’ll write the Xtra Gay or Xtra Queer newsletter, which alternate each week. Then I edit some stories from our freelancers and commission illustrations or photos for those pieces.

Depending what’s on the editorial calendar, I’ll publish the day’s stories and videos then post them to our social media channels. Sometimes there will be an editorial meeting to discuss future projects and ways we can tell stories, I’ll probably meet with a freelancer for lunch or coffee to discuss some contribution opportunities, and then in the evening I’ll attend a community event to both support and network with folks.

What are some of the most interesting stories you’ve worked on at Xtra:

Some of the most interesting stories I’ve worked on, and am most proud of, have been personal essays by our freelancers. So many of them have beautifully combined how their own LGBT identity intersects with a variety of other factors: race, ethnicity, family, religion, trauma, sex and sexuality. It’s so inspiring and courageous. It’s always an honour to work with them to share their stories.

What’s one of your favourite YouTube videos?

The dad who is chortling while filming kids slipping on ice while he waits to pick up his own kid from school.

Name: Arvin Joaquin

Role: Associate Editor

Hometown: Vancouver, BC

What’s the best part about working at Xtra:

The thing that I like most about working here is having the opportunity to get good stories from people, and share the different facets of the LGBT experience, diversifying existing narratives about queer people and their lives. Plus, there is a lot of food.

What does a typical busy day look like for you:

I get to work and I check my emails, and there’s always a lot of email, so I try to respond to them in order of priority. I update the pitches folder, and then I go to meetings — there are a lot of meetings. Then I edit articles by order of priority, and then I make and write the newsletter, and then monitor social media. I also recruit, book and brief freelancers. Plus, I also monitor the progress of the stories because some stories require more than one edit. Sometimes I also sort mail and contracts.

What are some of the most interesting projects you’ve worked on at Xtra:

I’m working on a project right now where I collect love stories from queer people. Not just romantic love, but love in general, using a queer lens. I got a lot of really good responses from the community and I’m curating that to be part of the bi-weekly column, Love Like Mine. I’ve heard diverse stories from first love, to coming out as trans while you’re in a relationship to death of a loved one. I feel like there’s a lot of powerful LGBT stories out there, and hearing queer people’s love stories gives you a different perspective on how you see love, how you see yourself as a queer person, and how you understand others.

What’s one of your favourite YouTube videos:

There’s a lot . . . oh! I know what it is. There’s this sassy girl on YouTube, and she was grilling her friend because the friend’s a one-upper — hearing that from a little girl adds another dimension to an issue that adults are familiar with — because we’ve all been there.

Name: Natalie Wee

Role: Associate Editor

Hometown: Singapore, Singapore

What’s the best part about working at Xtra:

I think the best part about working at Xtra is that I have the opportunity to work with people from all sorts of backgrounds with incredible stories, and I’m able to work with them on very personal issues that allow me to shine a light on different intersections of identity, and also possibly create conversations that aren’t already in the mainstream.

What does a typical busy day look like for you:

A typical busy day would be editing multiple stories, working on the newsletter, doing call-outs and monitoring social media. I think doing all of that at once is what makes it a busy day.

What are some of the most interesting projects you’ve worked on at Xtra:

I think the most interesting stories I’m hearing right now are a part of a project I’m working on. I’ve heard many interesting stories about people who see themselves in pop culture, and the intersections of identity that are often portrayed in pop culture allows for very interesting essays about how people see themselves in specific ways. Sometimes they see themselves in fragmented ways and sometimes they see a character who represents the entirety of themselves, and it’s been really interesting and exciting to hear the stories that come forward from that.

Weirdest thing that’s happened while you’ve worked here:

I don’t know if this is weird, but sometimes there’s a weird noise outside the building that sounds like a giant whale is about to eat us. There’s something about this place, and there’s that weird sound, and every so often it sounds like you’re under threat of being consumed by a giant whale. It’s literally starting right now. I fear for my life once awhile. It’s really annoying.

What’s one of your favourite YouTube videos:

One of the YouTube videos that I’ve been thinking about a lot is Hayley Kiyoko Girls Like Girls music video. I don’t know if it’s my favourite, but I’ve been thinking about it a lot. It was really transformative. I loved it.

Name: Riley Sparks

Role: Chase Producer

Hometown: Vancouver, BC

What’s the best part about working at Xtra:

I think the best part about it is what I love about journalism — it’s a reason and an excuse to talk to people who I might not otherwise have the opportunity to talk to and hear their stories and learn about their lives. This job gives me the opportunity to do that, to talk to people from all kinds of different backgrounds and different places with different experiences, and I think that’s so exciting.

What does a typical busy day look like for you:

In general, I do most of the things before we start making videos. So a usual busy day would involve chatting with lots of different people about different stories and different videos we’re trying to make. It would probably involve lots of research to try to identify the right voices to tell a particular story. And then at some point going out of the office to meet people for pre-interviews or to actually shoot videos. So a day might involve doing lots of research, interviewing people, picking up a camera and shooting some stuff, and sometimes editing as well. So just a couple things.

What are some of the most interesting projects you’ve worked on at Xtra:

There have been a bunch of really great projects — it’s kind of hard to single out one. It’s hard to pick a particular project — a lot of them are really close to my heart. We do such a wide variety of stuff, from interviews with people talking about their individual life stories to more newsy kind of stuff. All of the Bruce McArthur stuff has been challenging and interesting to follow. One of the most interesting projects that we worked on was a recent series on fashion and how people are challenging the very rigid, binary understanding of fashion. So the series focused on three different people who in their own ways were pushing up against the boundaries and borders of what people expect. I thought that was a really great project, and we got to talk to some super interesting people who are thinking really deeply about really complicated ideas about gender and making people around them think differently.

What’s one of your favourite YouTube videos:

I watch so much video that it’s hard to pick any one, but the New York Times’ “How Did New York’s Trains Get So Bad?” video was extraordinary. I am so impressed with the producers who pulled it off. It’s a great piece of journalism, with so many layers and little touches that make it perfect.

Name: Corey Misquita

Role: Videographer

Hometown: Mississauga, ON

What’s the best part about working at Xtra:

First of all, I just love video, or any multimedia angle. I like that I get to talk to and about experiences in my community, the queer community, and talk to diverse people. And I like that I get to be open here at Xtra — open about my sexuality, open about who I am. It’s a very comforting environment.

What are some of the most interesting projects you’ve worked on at Xtra:

The genderless fashion series — we talked to a few different people who were breaking down the gender norms of fashion. We also went to Hanlan’s Point, and we talked about how the recent flooding was destroying a prominent queer space and followed two individuals to Hanlan’s as they checked out the spot.

What’s one of your favourite YouTube videos:

Oh, that’s like asking what’s your favourite movie or what’s your favourite song — I can’t pick just one! I think I spend most of my time on YouTube watching movie trailers. There are a few from TIFF I watched recently.

Name: Arnaud Baudry

Role: Engagement director

Hometown: Boussay, France (I moved to Canada in 2011)

What’s the best part about working at Xtra:

We’re a young, fun team and we’re pretty passionate about what we do. I think there’s a lot of opportunity for trying things out, experimenting and looking at new ways we can tell stories and engage readers. What I also like is the spirit of the company; it’s a mission-driven organization so we not only create content but we’re here to actually have an impact on the world. It gives purpose to the work we do.

What does a typical busy day look like for you:

All of my days are quite different, but if I tried to sum it all up, a busy day would be starting the day looking at the analytics of what we did the day or week before, looking at what stories got some interest from the readers, what was engaging on social media and looking at what the competition is doing.

I’d also have some meetings with the editorial department to look at what’s coming up and ways we can engage our audiences and new ways of telling stories. Then I would be working with the development team to develop new features and making sure our website is efficient and meets the needs of our editors, and then I’d be working with the marketing department to look into ways of promoting Xtra externally (such as getting booths prepared for Pride season across Canada).

What are some of the most interesting projects you’ve worked on at Xtra:

The first is rebuilding the website to make it more in-line with our brand and more accessible from a mobile device. Also, Xtra Spark which is really more activism-oriented to look at ways we can have activities that complement what we do on our journalism side. So I really like this activism aspect, and I think it’s what really differentiates us.

What’s one of your favourite YouTube videos?

Some sort of video of cats. It’s my favourite. I love cats. I have two. I love them.

Name: Eric Wright

Role: Sponsorship Program Manager

Hometown: Maple Ridge, BC

What’s the best part about working at Xtra:

I think the best part about working at Xtra is that we’re a mission-driven organization that isn’t simply driven by profit. There’s a higher purpose or a larger purpose to all the work that we do that helps to animate and motivate us every single day. We also have a very casual and collegial office environment, which is an important and interesting part of working here.

What does a typical busy day look like for you:

A typical busy day is many conversations and meetings with people who are working in the LGBT community across Canada. It could be on the phone, it could be in-person, it could be Skype calls, it could be emailing folks from coast to coast talking about their organizations and what they do and figuring out how we can support them through media sponsorships.

What are some of the most interesting projects you’ve worked on at Xtra:

One of the most interesting projects that I worked on was the No Big Deal campaign for the usage of trans folks’ pronouns. What I loved about this campaign was that it was such a simple ask for people to do — if you haven’t heard of it, they just ask people to use trans folks’ pronouns without getting into a large debate about language and politics. It’s just about saying, “As a matter of simple respect, I’m going to use your pronouns.” And it was incredibly gratifying to do a partnership with the No Big Deal campaign and to actually work with them and create content with them and see that content go pretty far in the world, and hopefully reach some folks whose hearts and minds were actually changed by that.

Another gratifying project was one of the first projects I worked on when I joined Xtra, which was called Gayblevision Heritage Project. Similar to the No Big Deal campaign, it involved an extensive partnership with community organizers working to support the digitization of some LGBT archives out of Vancouver. We threw an event for these folks, we fundraised for them, we donation-matched their fundraising campaign, and we ended up raising about $3,000, which meant that an essential part of Vancouver’s queer history was digitized and preserved for future generations, and that entire archive is available online.

What’s one of your favourite YouTube videos:

My favourite YouTube video of all time is the Winnebago Man compilation. This was actually a video that went viral before viral was a thing, because it happened just before the internet, and then YouTube hit and it went viral there too, because people would pass around this tape because it was so funny.