If you help us raise a minimum of $2.5 million on December 14 (you can join here!), The Correspondent will become an online platform for unbreaking news.
By that we mean: we want to radically change what news is about, how it is made, and how it is funded. Instead of feeding you sensational headlines about the latest hype or scare, we will provide you with smart coverage of structural, long term developments that shape the world around us.
Instead of describing problems and stopping there, we want to look for solutions with you. And instead of luring you in with clickbait so we can sell your attention to advertisers, we won’t take ad dollars of any kind. We’ll only represent your interests---the members who fund us.
Well, yes indeed. That was us! We launched De Correspondent in The Netherlands in 2013, with a promise to be “an antidote to the daily news grind.” This promise resonated so widely that we raised $1.7 million from 18,933 backers — a world record, broken in a country of only 17 million people. In five years, our Dutch platform has grown into one of the largest ad-free, member-funded journalism platforms in Europe, currently supported by more than 60,000 paying members. We now have 52 full-time members of staff, including 21 correspondents.
Great question! There are lots of little things we’ll do differently, but here are three big ones:
Let me explain in that order. First, we won’t breathlessly follow the news cycle, but cover the underlying forces that shape our world. Reading us will help you understand how the world works and will help you grasp what we can do about our societal problems. Second, we’ll do this by collaborating with you, our members. You can talk and work together with our journalists, asking them questions, and sharing your knowledge and experience. They will listen, respond and make use of your expertise because they realize that you—our readers— collectively know more than we do. And last but not least: we’ll do this on a site that is completely ad-free. No annoying banners, no sponsored content either. We only represent your civic interests, not those of powerful businesses.
Sure. But first: we love a lot of the important work our colleagues at other media do. Like great art, there can never be enough great journalism. That said, here’s how we hope to be different. We’ll be in-depth like The New Yorker, but we won’t appear in print. We’ll do explanatory journalism like Vox.com, but won’t focus on breaking news. We’ll strive to be fair and factual like Wikipedia, but we won’t pretend to be “neutral” or “unbiased” (because nobody is). We’ll ask you to pay for our journalism like The New York Times, but you will be able to choose your membership fee yourself. We’ll consider all of our readers as potential experts like Quora, but we’ll have an independent editorial agenda. And we’ll have correspondents all over the world like CNN, but instead of covering breaking news from foreign countries, they’ll cover fundamental forces and developments that shape the world everywhere.
Whatever you choose to pay! Yep, that’s right. We let you decide your membership fee! Because our membership model is based on three core values: trust, inclusivity, and solidarity. We trust you to choose a fair price for our journalism that’s appropriate to your financial situation. We also believe journalism should not be a luxury good — it should be affordable for everybody. And we believe in the power of solidarity: if you can pay a little more, you help keep our journalism accessible for those on a tighter budget. You can read more about why we decided to let you choose what to pay for your membership here.
If you’re not paying for journalism, then in most cases advertisers are. And this means, ultimately, that your attention is the product being sold. That’s why we see a lot of clickbait around. Publishers need to get your attention so they can sell more ads. The Correspondent will be ad-free, because we only want to have our members’ interests at heart. No clickbait, no attention-grabbing articles for attention’s sake. You’ll get insightful stories that help you understand the world around you. And that you helped make, because you decided to pay for them. And when you’re a paying member, you can share as many articles as you like with your non-member friends!
Cash out and run! Just kidding, of course. We’re going to spend it on making great in-depth journalism about the fundamental issues of our time. To do that, we’ll hire talented and knowledgeable correspondents and supporting staff. We’ll also need an office space and a coffee pot, of course (nothing fancy though). And we’ll invest in the development of our platform, making sure you have a smooth, privacy-friendly, and secure user experience. And you will be able to check if we kept our promises, because every year, we will show you how we spent your money. We have been doing this in The Netherlands from the start. Here’s a chart that summarizes how we invested the membership fees of our Dutch members in 2017:
It is a lot! But creating trustworthy and insightful journalism in a collaborative way doesn’t come cheap. Especially because we want to pay our staff fairly and give them and their families financial security. To give you a sense: with $2.5 million, we can hire around five full-time correspondents, a managing editor, membership director, copy editor, image editor, editorial designer, operations lead, and a back office for human resources and finance, and keep them employed for a year. With a $5 million budget, we could hire around 10 full-time correspondents and expand the supporting staff accordingly.
It takes some daring to give money to something that doesn’t exist yet, for sure. And we will be forever grateful to you if you decide to take a chance on us. Here’s what we can promise you upfront: if we don’t hit our $2.5 million funding goal on December 14, we’ll give you your money back in full. If we do hit our goal, you’ll get a year’s worth of in-depth journalism in return. Will you love every story we’ll do? Probably not. Will we make mistakes along the way? Absolutely. Making mistakes is how we learn. We do have a lot of experience with this already. In The Netherlands, we serve more than 60,000 paying members and have published almost 10,000 articles since our world-record-breaking launch in 2013.
That will depend on your payment method. For most types of payment, we’ll only charge you once we reach our fundraising goal of $2.5 million. For a handful of payment methods — iDEAL in Europe, and some credit cards — you’ll be charged when you make your pledge and will be refunded in we don’t reach the goal. Either way, if we don’t make the goal, rest assured you will get your money back. And if we do make the goal, you’ll get a beautiful journalism platform for radically different news!
If we raise less than $2.5 million on December 14, we will cry. And cry even more. Probably while drinking a tumbler of whisky / bottle of wine / container collecting our salty tears. Because if we raise less than $2.5 million, we won’t be able to launch The Correspondent. We will refund your membership fee in full, though. So the drinks are not on you.
In return for your one-time membership payment, you’ll receive a one-year membership that starts on the day we launch the actual platform in Spring 2019. After your first year, you can choose between a monthly recurring or a yearly recurring membership. If you really like us already, you can also make your membership recurring from the start.
During the membership campaign, we ask you for a one-time contribution for a year. That’s because we need your financial help to build this thing from the ground up. In return, you will get a one-year membership that starts on the day we launch the actual publication (Spring 2019). After the first year, you can choose between a monthly recurring or a yearly recurring membership.
First off: thank you for considering donating to us! The Correspondent has a Choose What You Pay model, so you can decide yourself how much you want to pay for your membership. But if you want to make a sizeable, tax-deductible donation, we might be able to accept that through a fiscal sponsor. Please email Zainab Shah about this: firstname.lastname@example.org. To be sure: our editorial independence is of the utmost importance, so we cannot and will not accept donations tied to any favors in return — editorial or otherwise.
Thank you for even considering that — and yes, you can do that here! Once you become a founding member you’ll have the option to gift a membership to a friend, family member, co-worker — anyone you like! And you can choose what you pay for this too. After you’ve provided details of who you’re treating, we’ll let them know you’re giving them the gift of unbreaking news!
Because we need your support to launch The Correspondent, we don’t have any stories in English to show for yet. But here’s what we can promise you: we won’t regurgitate the sensational, distracting, mind-numbing, depressing headlines you see in the news all day. We want to flip that script. Instead of looking only at what happened today, we’ll look at what happens every day. Our goal is to help you better understand the everyday realities we live in, finding answers to questions like: What determines our medical bills and how can we improve our healthcare system on a fundamental level? How will Artificial Intelligence affect our future and do we want that to happen? And how come innovation brought us 20 new apps to order pizza, but we still haven’t found a cancer cure or a way to move ourselves around in traffic without killing 1,25 million people a year? We’ll make these stories in a collaborative way, so you’ll have the opportunity to add your knowledge and experience before they are published.
Our correspondents won’t be chasing the latest breaking news, but asking their audience instead: “What do you encounter every day at work or in your life that rarely makes the front page, but really should?” They won’t just write one-off stories, they’ll share their learning curve. Meaning: they will keep a public notebook and share their questions, assumptions, data, sources, inspirations, and doubts with you as well. This kind of transparency helps you understand where we’re coming from and gives you the opportunity to share your knowledge and experience along the way. A correspondent’s published piece won’t be the end of the reporting process, but the starting point for a more in-depth conversation. So, finished stories are only half of what you’ll get as a member of The Correspondent. Our correspondents will shed light on the underlying forces that shape our world in a way that won’t leave you cynical and depressed, but informed and empowered. You can read more about how we’ll practice the journalism we preach here.
Our founder, Rob Wijnberg, has written 2,000 words on this subject, but here’s the short version: we don’t think these labels are very useful, because they’re mostly used to disqualify people you disagree with nowadays. We believe you can’t do justice to human beings with a simplistic partitioning like left or right, liberal or conservative, for or against a president. And we think the same is true of media. Worldviews — including those of journalists — are too complex for that. But our correspondents do have a worldview, just like any other human being. So we’re not going to pretend to be “neutral” or “unbiased.” Instead, our correspondents will tell you where they're coming from, in the belief that transparency about a point-of-view is better than claiming to have none. And if you really want to label us as an organization, here’s one we’re comfortable with: The Correspondent is grounded in progressive realism. This means we believe in the possibility of a better world, based on facts. And we will change our minds if the facts tell us to.
When we say we don’t believe in objectivity, we’re emphatically not saying “facts don’t exist.” And we’re not saying “facts don’t matter” either. We believe facts exist and we think they’re important. We also believe in being independent and fair — which are both different from being “objective.” When we say we don’t believe in “objectivity,” we mean that there’s no way for a human being to describe the world without having a point of view. Facts are human assessments of reality. They’re how we try to make sense of the world. They even shape the world around us. So instead of pretending to be “neutral” or “unbiased,” we believe it’s better to be transparent about our point of view than to claim we have none.
No, we’re not post-truth — and we wouldn’t recommend being that either. Try jumping out of a 20 story building and see if gravity cares whether you’re a liberal or a conservative. We believe there’s such a thing as reality and we believe in telling the truth about it. That doesn’t mean we think we know the Truth-with-a-capital-T. We believe that truth-telling is a deeply human endeavor, prone to all kinds of mistakes and guaranteed to cause disagreement. That’s why we think truth-telling, above all, requires being open and honest about your assumptions, beliefs, doubts, and mistakes. There’s no such thing as “just giving you the facts” — facts need interpretation to have meaning. And we all interpret things differently. That, in turn, does not mean all things have “two sides.” They don’t. The earth is not flat, it’s round. Well, actually, it’s not round either — it’s an oblate spheroid. But you get the idea.
We can’t give you any specific names yet, because we will only begin hiring our editorial team after we meet our campaign funding goal of at least $2.5 million (you can help us reach it here!).
But you can expect your future correspondents to be deeply passionate, knowledgeable, and curious journalists who will dig deep into the important developments and issues of our time. They will write in English, and could be based anywhere in the world. They won’t report on a specific country though, but will cover fundamental forces and developments that shape our world You can read more on how they will fulfill their role as correspondent for you here.
You can expect our topics to be about fundamental developments and issues that shape the world around us, but are not “sensational” or “explosive” enough to be on the evening news. They will help you grasp the future of our energy, health care, education, work, personal relationships, and more. What topics we’ll cover exactly, we don’t know yet, because they will depend on the writers we work with. Correspondents won’t be sought to fulfill predefined roles and they won’t be expected to cover traditional news categories like ‘domestic politics’ or ‘foreign affairs.’ Instead, correspondents will be hired because of what they know and care deeply about — and will be given the freedom to set their own journalistic agenda, provided the subject matter they want to cover is relevant for helping you understand the world around you.
To know what we think about ‘clickbait’, click here. Honestly, we don’t like clickbait. That’s why we’re funded by members instead of ads. We don’t want to grab your attention by luring you in with headlines that don’t make good on their promises, and only want to sell your ‘click’ to advertisers. Having said that, we still really want you to click here though. Seriously. We need you to click here now. There are 18 unbelievable reasons to click here (and the 14th will shock you). Please click here to help us stop doing this.
On the contrary, we think a society can only thrive with a free and lively press. While we’re critical of different aspects of the news industry, we are unequivocally not jumping on the “blame the media” bandwagon. Even more so, we’re concerned about the growing hostility towards journalists the world over. We don’t like it when people say “the media” as if it were some kind of conspiracy. Nor do we mean “all of journalism” when we point to the shortcomings of news. We do think that the hostility, distrust, and cynicism towards media is a good reason for more fundamental introspection and constructive debate within journalism circles: why are we distrusted and what can we do about it? We want to help restore trust in journalism. That’s why we show it tough love from time to time.
Definitely not. We want to tell stories in many different ways — in words, photography, illustrations, graphics, audio, video! You can expect much more from us than just text.
Our correspondents will share their story ideas with members and keep a public notebook of their research. We do that because we want you to know what we’re working on. And because we want you to share your knowledge and personal experience about a topic with us. That’s why our correspondents are always listening and talking to you: our readers. This ongoing conversation regularly leads to new story ideas and changes in the stories. We cherish our editorial independence, meaning: we’ll always have the final call about what makes it into a story or not. But collaboration with knowledgeable members, tapping into your expertise, will be central to the way we do journalism.
First off, we hope you’ll let us know what you don’t like and why — that way we might be able to do something about it. We’re always open to suggestions on how we can improve ourselves (it’s even one of our founding principles). If you really don’t like the way we have executed on our ideas, you can always choose not to renew your membership after the first year. If you have chosen a one-time payment (the default option), you don’t have to do anything to cancel your membership. It will expire automatically. If you have chosen a recurring payment, you will have to cancel your membership manually. We won’t be able to give refunds to founding members for our first year, because our very existence depends on your support.
Our platform will initially be a responsive website that will look, feel and work smoothly on all devices, big and small. If you bookmark us on your home screen, it will pretty much work like an app. We’ll also make sure our stories look great in offline reading apps like Instapaper and Pocket. If the size of our development team allows for it, we’ll definitely consider building apps for specific platforms and devices in the future.
Our campaign HQ is in New York City. Our Dutch team at De Correspondent resides at our European HQ in the beautiful city of Amsterdam. But we hope to build a global platform featuring correspondents from all over the world.
Our correspondents will be based in places that make the most sense to the topic they’re covering. That might be in New York City. It might be in rural Wyoming, or on the Texas-Mexico border. It might also be in London, Berlin, or Bucharest. Khartoum, Jakarta, or Melbourne. With your help we hope to cover the fundamental forces that shape our lives with talented correspondents from all over the world. We’ll give our correspondents the support they need to do the work where it needs to be done.
As soon as we reach our funding target of $2.5 million, we’ll start building The Correspondent’s editorial team. If you’re interested in being on that team, keep an eye on our jobs site.
The easiest way to reach us with general questions and queries is via email@example.com. Advice and encouragement are always welcome! Constructive criticism too, of course (we like it most when put forward politely and respectfully). If you are interested in writing for The Correspondent, keep an eye on our jobs site.
If we successfully raise $2.5 million or more on December 14, we will launch the actual platform before mid 2019. We need enough time to hire correspondents and supporting staff, and find an office. We will keep you posted on our progress via thecorrespondent.com and ask you for your input on all kinds of company decisions.
Actually, yes! And we broke a world record in journalism while doing it! We launched De Correspondent in The Netherlands in 2013, with a promise to be “an antidote to the daily news grind.” This promise resonated so widely that we raised $1.7 million from 18,933 backers. In five years, our Dutch platform has grown into one of the largest ad-free, member-funded journalism platforms in Europe, currently supported by more than 60,000 paying members. In 2017, 94 percent of our $4.5 million revenue came from our readers ( the remaining 6 percent came from speaking engagements and syndication). And we are open with those who make our journalism possible about how we spend their money, from salaries and book publishing, to marketing and rent. We now have 52 full-time staff members based in our Amsterdam HQ, including 21 correspondents.
Firstly, The Correspondent will be in English (whereas De Correspondent publishes in Dutch, the beautiful language spoken in the Netherlands). Also, The Correspondent will have its own (English speaking) editors and correspondents from all over the world.
We take our impact on the environment very seriously. At De Correspondent in The Netherlands, we’ve been mapping out our carbon footprint and have bought fully verified carbon offsets for all our historical emissions. As of January 2018, we compensate our known emissions ten-fold. In doing so, we have effectively introduced an internal price on carbon of over $100 per ton. This works as a push to further reduce emissions in the near future. We’re also developing a broader sustainable practice, using our leverage with suppliers, service providers, and our pension fund to push for more sustainable practices. We consider this a part of our core mission–-and we report on it as such, hoping to inspire other organizations to follow suit. The Correspondent will adopt all of these practices as well, when launched successfully (you can help us launch by joining as a member here!).
The Correspondent is a for-profit company with a dividend cap. That way we combine the best of two worlds: the discipline that comes with being a sustainable company that provides journalism people are willing to pay for, but without the harmful pressures of chasing profit maximization. In our founding principles, the dividend cap limits shareholder return to 5 percent of revenue. This means that the founders can never extract more than 5 percent of the revenue as dividends.
This and our nine other founding principles are safeguarded by a ‘public service veto’, enacted by the Dutch Foundation for Democracy and Media (Stichting Democratie en Media). This foundation, founded during World War II to protect the then-illegal resistance paper Het Parool, is a priority shareholder with a veto over all decisions that would alter The Correspondent’s fundamental purpose or endanger its founding principles. SDM safeguards our dividend cap as well, to make sure our journalism will never take a backseat to profit maximization. You can read more about it in this article by our Trust Advisor Jay Rosen.
Contrary to the trend in media all over the world, we minimize the data we collect about you as much as possible. Firstly, because we don’t want to collect data about you that we don’t really need. We see privacy as a fundamental human right – and think breaching that privacy by collecting sensitive data is wrong. Secondly, because we don’t need to collect all that data. We are fiercely ad free, so we don’t have demographics to cater to or eyeballs to sell. We can afford being very privacy friendly, because our members are the ones paying us. That’s why we only collect the data we are required by law to collect, or that is necessary for our platform to function correctly (such as login names, passwords, and correspondents that you follow). We do not sell this information to third parties. Our reasons for collecting data must be explained clearly. And wherever possible, members must have control over the data collected. Protecting your privacy is also one of our ten founding principles.