Do you feel like the news feeds us a sensational, depressing, cynicism-breeding picture of the world? Would you rather cover the fundamental developments that shape how the world actually works? And do you see your readers, viewers, and listeners as potential sources of expertise that can help you do that?
I’m Rob Wijnberg, founding editor of The Correspondent, a journalism platform for unbreaking news. In December 2018, we set a crowdfunding world record thanks to the support of 45,888 founding members from over 130 countries.
Those members signed up to support in-depth, transnational journalism on the most important developments of our time — from climate change to artificial intelligence, from tax evasion to social inequality.
The Correspondent will officially start publishing on September 30, 2019, and we’re looking for correspondents around the world who will work with our members to uncover the systems and structures that drive these fundamental issues.
In this letter, I want to tell you what we look for in a correspondent, as well as what we have to offer you.
As a correspondent:
- You have a clearly defined beat through which you provide insight into a global, systemic phenomenon. Rather than reporting on what happened today, you focus on what happens every day. Metaphorically speaking: you cover the climate, not the weather.
- You don’t believe in the misleading ideal of journalistic “neutrality” and therefore tell your readers where you’re coming from. You understand why it’s better to be transparent about your assumptions and convictions than to pretend you don’t have any.
- You keep a public notebook that provides insight into your journalistic research while you’re doing it. You don’t see this as “giving away your ideas,” but as sharing your learning curve and improving your reporting.
- You view readers as potential sources of knowledge and experience and involve them in your research. You believe your job is not to “publish stories,” but to engage in a continuous dialogue with the people formerly known as “the audience.”
- You speak and write clear, fluent English. You’re also able to communicate your journalism through podcasts, videos, and/or on stage.
Choosing your beat
Being a correspondent for The Correspondent all starts with your insatiable curiosity, desire to work collaboratively, and well-developed moral compass.
This is why you are free to define your own beat. Your chosen beat must have societal relevance, concern a large community, and offer insight into influential structures that determine how the world works. It should also be a reflection of your most pressing fascinations and aspirations.
For example, Maurits Martijn — Privacy correspondent on our Dutch platform — is worried about what he calls “the most endangered human right of our time.” Our Mobility correspondent Thalia Verkade lies awake thinking about “the two airplanes’ worth of people who die every week in European road traffic.” And our Non-Human Life correspondent Tamar Stelling won’t rest until “the smallest minority in the world” (humanity) is aware of “all the amazing non-human life that surrounds us.”
Your beat should have the same relevance and urgency. It should encompass a foundational and transnational structure that underlies the events we see in the news every day, and give us a deeper understanding of why those events are occurring. You should be able to articulate why it’s important to learn more about your beat — and how your readers will benefit from it.
Articulating your mission
We ask every correspondent to start with a mission statement. This mission statement is investigative and inquisitive in nature, but it doesn’t present a false sense of neutrality. Rather than feigning neutrality, you’re expected to share your worldview, motivations, and assumptions.
In simpler terms: as a correspondent, you tell your readers where you’re coming from.
For example, our Dutch Prejudice correspondent Vera Mulder wants to actively combat the harmful stereotypes we all cling to about other people. Energy and Climate correspondent Jelmer Mommers wants to accelerate the transition to a society built on sustainable energy. And our Privacy correspondent Maurits Martijn wants to actively protect us from all the ways governments and corporations threaten our basic right to privacy.
This isn’t to say we expect you to be an ideological activist. As we say in our founding principles: we’re not on anyone’s team, we’re not the voice of a party, and we believe facts matter. We do, however, want you to be open about what it is you’re trying to achieve, convey, or change with your stories. You can leave both-side-ism or he-said-she-said to traditional news.
Keeping a public notebook
While you are expected to have a point of view, you are also required to be as evidence-based as is possible. That’s why we want you to keep a public notebook, for example through a weekly newsletter or podcast. At The Correspondent, you don’t just write “finished stories”; you also share the work that goes into those stories.
The goal of this public notebook is twofold. First, it’s how you make your assumptions, questions, and sources transparent for your followers, giving them insight into your journalistic methods. This transparency is important in building a relationship of trust between you and your readers. Just “stating the facts” isn’t enough.
Second, making the journalistic process transparent also makes it possible for readers to take part in that process. They can share their own questions, knowledge, and experiences with you. That partnership with readers is crucial to achieving The Correspondent’s mission.
We expect you to view your “audience” not as passive consumers of information whose attention needs to be “grabbed” by sensational headlines, but as the greatest untapped source of knowledge and experience that you have at your disposal.
Tapping into your readers’ expertise
One of your most important tasks as a correspondent is to tap into the experience and expertise of your readers. Reader interaction is not an “extra”; it’s an integral part of your work.
By sharing our knowledge and experiences with each other through constructive dialogue, we can learn to understand the most important systems and trends of our time. In turn, those insights can help us understand how the world works. And if we can understand how the world works, we can change that world. That is what being a correspondent is all about.
This interaction with readers largely takes place in The Correspondent’s contribution section, where you can ask questions of members with specific expertise and answer questions from curious lay readers. Members can also contribute in other ways: from proofreading articles, to collecting data, to filling out surveys about your beat. This ongoing conversation with members is the raw material that feeds your work.
These members are how our Dutch Energy and Climate correspondent Jelmer Mommers uncovered documents showing that the Shell oil company has recognized the threat of climate change for more than 30 years; it’s how our Everyday Heroes correspondent Dick Wittenberg organized the largest group interview with refugees ever in the Netherlands; and it’s how our Progress correspondent Rutger Bregman got thousands of people to switch to a more sustainable bank.
Having a clear idea on how to include readers in making your journalism is a crucial part of your job, and we expect you to invest substantial time into it.
Speaking and writing in English
As a journalism platform with global ambitions, we expect you to be fluent in English, both in spoken and written word. We consider it a big plus if you’re also able to present your journalism through audio, video, and live presentations.
We’re looking for correspondents all over the world. For our full-time positions, we do require you to spend at least a month in our Amsterdam HQ to become fully acquainted with our company culture and all the supporting colleagues you’ll be working with closely. Travel and board for this period will be provided.
Here’s what we offer
- First and foremost, you’ll be part of an organization that values ideas over job titles, collaboration over hierarchy, and quality over speed.
- You’ll have full autonomy in setting your journalistic agenda and lots of room to grow in your job and career.
- You’ll be part of a team of more than 60 colleagues who are hugely passionate about the future of collaborative, inclusive, and ad-free journalism — and who will help you write, factcheck, visualize, and present your stories in the best possible way.
- You’ll have the opportunity to collaborate with members from all over the world and build a knowledge network around your beat that will benefit your journalism in new and exciting ways.
- You’ll earn a competitive salary with benefits, including a pension plan, sick leave, paid vacation, social security, and disability income protection.
- You’ll be provided with the necessary tools to do your remote work well, like a company laptop.
- You’ll report directly to our editor in chief and you’ll work with our managing editor on a daily basis to discuss your ideas, determine deadlines, etc.
You can apply here. We look forward to reading your application!
During May and June 2019, we’ll be sharing more on the type of journalism you can expect from The Correspondent, and details of how your membership contribution will be spent during our first year.
Rob Wijnberg (1982) is the founding editor of The Correspondent, a journalism platform for Unbreaking News.
Let’s build a movement for radically different news, together!
The Correspondent will launch on September 30, 2019. Become a member at thecorrespondent.com today.