As a crowdfunded membership platform, it is in The Correspondent‘s best interest to hold itself, not only financially, but also journalistically accountable.
Last year its annual report concluded its members’ biggest issues were that the newsroom was “too young, too white, and too difficult to follow in terms of subjects”.
That signalled change was needed, according to deputy editor-in-chief Karel Smouter, and founder and editor-in-chief Rob Wijnberg, who believe that a newsroom needs as many different perspectives as possible to be able to put the world into context.
That is why they launched a campaign to proactively and openly seek out more diverse writers. We focused on this in an interview in April: “Being a writer’s medium that believes in evident subjectivity rather than objectivity, it is even more important that our newsroom is a reflection of our society,” Smouter said.
The diversity efforts resulted in producing dozens of articles and hiring about 20 new multicultural journalists – freelance and staff. Today, the newsroom is made up of 22% of writers from a non-Western background in a country where 21% of the population is not of Dutch origin.
Its diversity efforts weren’t limited to ethnicity. They also decentralised its writer base to establish a network of writers from all parts of the Netherlands, and the world.
A newly hired international editor secured 91 local guest correspondents in 31 countries, and an in-house English translator and English social media correspondent are gradually internationalising the platform.
Image: The Correspondent’s international network of 91 guest correspondents from 31 countries (source: The Correspondent)
Adding experience to a newsroom considered “too young”
While The Correspondent is actually proud of having a newsroom with an average age of 33, as opposed to 50 elsewhere in the country, it hired more experienced journalists to balance the newsroom. That turned out really well as they found that bringing in new, more experienced storytellers, helped provide historical context to stories, and opened an incredible network.
In terms of gender, the newsroom is more balanced with about 56% male and 44% female staff, including five women in management positions.
Improving storytelling to make stories more accessible
The third criticism was that stories were “too difficult to follow”. This includes complaints about articles being too long, with complicated language, and an overall tendency to target a higher educated audience.
To overcome this challenge, the newsroom hired a second editor-in-chief, charged with making stories more accessible. Instead of producing more material, it dedicates more time and effort to each story. It also invests more resources in video, podcast, events and other new forms of storytelling.
The editors noticed that a few of the best-read articles this year were not actually new, but old materials that became relevant again. “No wonder, because we don’t follow the news agenda, but put the world around us into context,” the report reads, indicating that, going forward, the newsroom will think of ways to re-introduce archive materials.