When we launched The Correspondent on 30 September 2019 after our record-breaking crowdfunding campaign, it’s safe to say we could not have predicted what the year ahead would look like. No one did.
With the support of members from over 140 countries, our team of correspondents and editors from across four continents set out to look beyond national borders, dig deeper than the headlines, centre previously unheard voices, and uncover the systems that underpin our world.
Then 2020 happened.
Like everyone else the world over, we hadn’t planned on a global pandemic laying bare the shaky structures that hold up our societies and exacerbating many of our greatest challenges from the climate emergency, to racism and inequality, and divisive politics.
Luckily, as a platform for unbreaking news, we didn’t have to get “ready” for 2020 to turn out this way. The important issues made visible by the pandemic had been there all along, beneath the surface, waiting for us to look past the daily news grind to see, expose and understand them.
So, what did this year of unbreaking news look like?
Take Britain’s departure from the European Union. A worrying trend was being obscured by stories about political posturing in Brussels and Whitehall: that life expectancy had been in steady decline across England and Wales for five years as a direct consequence of deliberate cuts in public spending. Turns out it was policies decided within its own borders and not by the EU that were actually killing Brits.
We mapped out how a new age of right-wing politics has been steadily encroaching upon the political centre, making strong men not the exceptions to but symptoms of the rule. We reported on how the story of US democracy isn’t about the daily drama that characterises its politics, but rather about the complete lack of response to that drama.
And as everyone scrambled to make sense of the coronavirus numbers, we counted ourselves lucky to have a statistics expert on our team who was able to put the stats into context, demystify the graphs and expose the fallacies. Our correspondents in India and Nigeria, in turn, showed how social distancing only works for those parts of the world who can afford to retreat into individualism, not in countries where 200 million people live in slums, or where space is a cultural taboo.
But most importantly perhaps, we showed how, even though this year seems exactly the opposite, the story of human civilisation is actually one of progress. In the US, climate policy has progressed so far that Joe Biden – often viewed as the “climate disappointment” candidate – actually has more progressive climate policies going into this year’s election than Bernie Sanders did four years ago. And voters’ support for Black Lives Matter increased over the two weeks after the protest started by almost the same vector as it did in the preceding two years. Why?
Because 50 years of resistance and activism has won more people of colour the platform to protest, the influence and power to have their protest heard, and more solidarity with that protest.
The world tomorrow will be better than the world yesterday – that’s an amazing fact worthy of a headline.
For a more in-depth analysis of how we funded this reporting, you can read our financial report. This might sound a bit boring, but it actually isn’t. Explaining how we’ve spent your membership money makes for interesting reading. And it ties directly to one of our founding principles: being transparent about how we work.
Doing journalism with you, not for you
We didn’t make any of this journalism alone. We had thousands of members reading our stories, contributing their expertise and experience, and asking the questions that got our correspondents moving in the interesting new directions.
Members of The Correspondent have had conversations with those at the very centre of our journalism: lactation experts, epidemiologists and international football stars. We all came out with the kind of knowledge you can’t get from just reading one article.
With youth climate activists from Sudan to New Zealand, or migration experts from across the world, we’ve used what we call “transnational chats” to talk about possible solutions to global problems. As the world readjusted to lives lived indoors, we seized on the opportunity to use video conferencing to host live panel discussions, and have taken on a range of subjects from what shapes our modern imagination of “Africa” to how can we tell different stories about climate change, a discussion led by Indigenous leaders.
What to look forward to in year two
Yes, it’s been an eventful year. But has one transnational news organisation managed to unbreak the news as was our aim? Not by a mile. We can do so much more, and so much better. Fundamentally changing what the news is about, how it’s paid for, and how it’s made doesn’t happen overnight. It takes tiny steps over long periods of time.
So what can you expect from year two?
What we’re aiming for in the year to come is to go deeper and wider. Here’s how:
- We’ve launched an audio app! You’ll find it even easier to get your daily dose of noise-cancelling journalism now you can listen to it! Get important insights on your commute to work, or while you exercise thanks to our amazing team of voice artists who’ll be bringing our stories to life.
- We’re starting new, exciting series! Here are just a few: Emily Dreyfuss seeking a modern answer to answer the age-old: what makes a "good life"? Renata Avila will be exploring the frontiers of digital colonialism, and archeologist Maikel Kuijpers examining the four fundamental materials that underpin societies’ success and their possible downfall. And we’ll be sinking out teeth into one of the most disturbing yet celebrated symptoms of our economic dysfunction: billionaires.
- We’ll be bringing new correspondents on board. We can’t give any names away just yet, but we’re excited to soon introduce you to our new colleagues and new beats. Watch this space!
Ad-free journalism needs sustained support
If that all sounds amazing hopefully you’re now wondering how you can support us in year two. It’s simple.
If you’re a member, please renew your membership with us. We could not have got this far without you, and you’re essential to our future. We rely on you to keep us ad-free, independent, and sustainable. For founding members, who joined us during our crowdfunding campaign, your one-year membership will run out on 30 September and we really hope you’ll stay on with us.
If you’re not a member, join us. We can’t “fix” the news. But this we can promise you: no clickbait, no hype, no advertisers footing the bill. Just journalism that cuts through the noise and helps us understand the world on a more foundational level. And the best part is you get to choose how much you pay for your membership because we believe quality journalism should be affordable to everyone.
Speaking of everyone, let’s bring them here! If there’s anything we’ve learned this year, it’s that the world is really big, and we can only make a tiny dent in it by ourselves. We need you, our members, to spread the word. If you’ve enjoyed a piece, share it. If you hear someone lamenting about the state of the news, tell them about us. If you find a correspondent who really speaks to you, tell the world about them.
Together, let’s make this the best year yet!