It’s 9 June, 2016, and in an email with the subject line “Inspiration”, I explain to the fledgling team at The Nzinga Effect, the platform I’m building to tell stories of African and afrodescendant women, that I’ve just come across a Dutch media organisation called De Correspondent.
I write that “I have found them a really inspiring model of publishing but also funding,” before adding: “De Correspondent has a fascinating community web model, very much about driving membership and a movement, rather than just delivering a product that people consume.”
Three years later, to the day, I will be joining The Correspondent, their English language platform, as Managing Editor.
In that time, there has been growing acknowledgement that for all the information we’re bombarded with, there is a dearth of meaning. Membership models in journalism have become de rigueur, and just about everyone — from Pepsi to period campaigners — is speaking the language of movement building. What hasn’t shifted so much is who has the power to tell the stories that shape the world, and how we see ourselves in it.
Despite the democratising promise of the internet, the falling costs of the tools of journalism production and of travel, the story of who we are, why we fight or fall in love, how we define and work to overcome the biggest challenges of our day, those stories mostly still flow from newsrooms in the United States and Europe to the rest of the world. And in those newsrooms, predominantly white men have for generations decided the news and views worth hearing. The majority world reported on by the minority.
One black African female managing editor, based in Amsterdam, does not a revolution make, but how could I resist the challenge?!
The Correspondent’s approach to devolve power from the editors to the correspondents has the power to be truly transformative. If we can build a team that reflects the world, by understanding journalistic ‘beats’ as transnational themes rather than issues that exist within geographic boundaries, by tapping into the knowledge and reach of our members, and by investing and experimenting with storytelling tools, we have an opportunity to forge a new kind of journalism that is truly global, rather than chews the world down to convenient tropes and stereotypes for one narrow audience. The ambition is not that any group or region disappear from view but rather that more come into view.
There is no blueprint for what we are trying to do, and many structures we live inside of that we cannot single-handedly fix. Already keeping me up at night are questions about how can we truly cover the world when we speak only English? Who is your audience if you’re speaking to ‘everybody’? And, how do we prevent ‘elite-capture’, enabling communities of experience to be heard as clearly as communities of academic, policy, or media expertise?
These are meaty issues and invariably we will make mistakes. We already have.
Ultimately, I am so excited to build a diverse team that will be collaborative, creative, and consistent in applying The Correspondent’s ten founding principles to our journalism; I’m excited to work with colleagues at De Correspondent, learning from their successes and failures; I’m excited to work with other media organisations because if journalism is broken, we can’t fix it on our own; and I’m excited to work with our members, almost 50,000 of you, in over 130 countries.
In giving to The Correspondent’s record-breaking crowdfunding campaign, you have put your hand up to be part of an ongoing conversation with us. I expect you to bring your knowledge, skills, and experience to bear, and to keep us accountable.
But I also invite you to join me in adopting a more expansive, generous view of success: maybe we don’t tilt the world right-side-up, but if we can tell engaging stories that allow us to see each other, and our planet, a little more fully than we’ve ever done before, then I’ll take that as a win.
Let’s build a movement for radically different news, together!
Become a member at thecorrespondent.com today. The Correspondent will launch on September 30, 2019.