A calm garden of news

decorrespondenten

Run from a former art gallery in Amsterdam, De Correspondent aims to move away from the daily news cycle by focussing on context, rather than what happened in the past 24 hours

From SNDS Magazine 1, 2016

Launched in 2013 following a record-breaking crowdfunding campaign that raised $1.7m, Netherlands-based De Correspondent now has over 45,000 paying subscribers.

De Correspondent currently has an editorial staff of 30, including 14 fulltime journalists, plus a network of 22 contributing correspondents.

Rather than trying to catch up with the usual news flow, the expectation is that readers will follow a particular correspondent who collaborate with the communities around them.

Founding Editor-in-chief Rob Wijnberg says that when other media claim to be reporting “the news” there will always be thousands of other stories to be told. De Corres­pondent aims to let their reporters tell these stories on the publication’s website, which was designed by digital creative agency Momkai, featuring a custom-made cms  called Respondens.

The mission
Each journalist has a particular area or ‘garden’ on the website – sections of the site they can call their own, and in which they can build a relationship with readers who choose to ‘follow’ them.

“De Correspondent has a stated mission of establishing a lasting relationship with the readers, who are also asked to contribute their expertise on the topics, the correspondents cover,” says Stine Carsten Kendal, Director for development at iBureauet, a media company owned by Danish newspaper Information.

She thinks that Scandinavian media can learn from the Dutch startup:

“Information is inspired by all the new things going on in the exciting world of journalism. In Holland, journalists, designers and web developers worked together to create the new platform and cms for the online journalism, and everything is thoroughly designed to invite the readers to participate. They call them ‘members’ to stress the inclusion and particip­ation of the readers. The new media platform is also kept ad free, which I know is something all designers enjoy!”

stine-quote

Spaces of calm
However, the decision to make the publication completely ad free is not to please designers, although this is a nice touch, but rather to give the readers a special environment for reading. Creative Director Harald Dunnink compares the spaces on the De Correspondent website to rooms in a welldesigned art museum:

“The museum affords me a calm space where I can focus on the works of others. This is an idea that ties in seamlessly with our approach at Momkai and The Correspondent. In the fragmented real time of digital media, we are bombarded by images and messages non-stop. Rarely do we tune out this background noise long enough to listen attentively to a single, solitary message. Our mission therefore, as I see it, is to create online spaces of calm.”

In a recent article he describes the basic principles for succeeding with this philosophy (see bit.ly/cultivatingcalm).

Openness to readers
Stine Carsten Kendal visited De Correspondent in 2015 when they were expanding their staff and were thrilled that their initial succes with crowdfunding was continuing.

“I was introduced to De Correspondent through Cathrine Gyllensted, a Danish specialist in constructive journalism, who has just been appointed director for constructive journalism at a Dutch journalism school. By communicating very professionally about their succes, De Correspondent has received international attention. I think it is also due to the simplicity of their site, design and message. Another thing I like is how they use infographics to show how they spend the membership fees, to show their responsibility towards their readers and their openness,” Stine Carsten Kendal says.

“One of the issues De Correspondent has raised, is how to qualify comments and debate following the journalism. They work both with the cms and with active participation by the journalists, and also with little triggers like pointing out some members as specialists or experts and showing their comments more prominently. They also make it possible to add notes to the article for further reading, without interrupting the flow with links.”

Synergy in publishing
In today’s multi-layered media landscape, it’s not enough to focus on a single outlet or on just reporting the news. It’s important also to reach out to readers on other platforms and through other media:

“To me, it is interesting that this new online only journalism organisation publishes a book, sets up an art exhibition and arranges public meetings. It shows that the synergy between different kinds of publishing is also important in a digital first world,” says Stine Carsten Kendal.

“So much interesting is going on right now with online media that I cannot wait to see what the future brings.”

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Sources/Read more:

De Correspondent:
decorrespondent.nl

Dutch journalism platform the Correspondent reaches milestone of 40,000 paying members:
bit.ly/corresmile

De Correspondent on Medium:
medium.com/de-correspondent

Cultivating calm: a design
philosophy for the digital age:
bit.ly/cultivatingcalm