People around us and the stories we tell are two timeless factors of our wellbeing. The vast and unprecise term for everyday stories – “the news media” is used as a scapegoat. Any political outcome, social unrest, or economic struggle can be connected to the controversial stories in “the news”. I don’t fall into the trap of simplification. Understanding the complexity of journalism, business models and the role of the Internet is vital for me. Until now The Correspondent was the best news project that unfortunately didn’t pass the test of time.
The New Power – How Power Works in Our Hyperconnected World and How to Make It Work for You
In April 2018 I’ve read a book about phenomenons happening at the intersection of social activism, network effects, and ubiquitous online connectivity. Stories range from grassroots political parties, recruiting methods of ISIS to adult LEGO fans embraced by the Danish company. If this sounds like an Internet meme, then you know just the surface of global Internet culture.
The “New Power” is open, participatory, and peer-driven. For me, one of the shiniest examples described in the book was the story of Rob Wijnberg and his successful crowdfunding campaign of the Dutch news media company – De Correspondent. In 2013 he proved that online readers can directly fund journalism and the organization has had a stable financial situation.
Crowdfunding and solution journalism
Kickstarter, then Indiegogo, and every other local crowdfunding platform has proven the “direct to consumer” model. Successes of even the most niche projects are aligned with the theory that each creator needs just one thousand true fans. It’s obvious that journalism is not a one-time gig and requires ongoing subscriptions. Still the idea that readers can directly support news organizations sounds like a remedy in the attention-grabbing ad economy.
In 2017 I’ve contributed to the Outriders crowdfunding campaign created by Jakub Górnicki and Anna Górnicka. For years I’ve been an avid reader of their travel blog. Even though they publish primarily in Polish I really appreciate their international initiatives. Then in 2018 the English version of The Correspondent has also drawn my attention and I back them up. Along with people from over 130 countries.
Both projects emphasized solution journalism. Every article was not only about the “problem” but also about what we, the global citizens, can do about it. That’s my preferred way of storytelling about current affairs. Explaining complexity and recommending solution methods requires a deeper understanding of the core problem. In the end, we get better quality reporting.
My relationship with the news industry
I have stopped following the news at the same time that I stopped watching television – around the year 2005. In my teenage years traveling and the Internet has already become the “window to the world”. While I occasionally stumble upon news articles I never developed a long-lasting habit of buying or even subscribing to a specific newspaper or journal. Monthly magazines about video games or popular science don’t really count as outlets covering current affairs, don’t they?
While I firmly believe in the importance of free speech and independent media organizations, I don’t feel the need to follow the news. In the last 10-15 years, I’ve developed a similar approach to what Rolf Dobelli is describing in his manifesto. If you truly want to understand complex topics – skip the news and read comprehensive sources – books in particular. By the way the podcast interview with him published in The Correspondent, convinced me to prolong my financial support for that organization. Even though I still don’t have a habit to regularly read articles – neither from Outriders or The Correspondent.
The test of time
Every journey must end. That’s the beauty of it. On the Internet, each year is like a decade in the real world. Outriders both in the Polish and English versions are financially sustainable. Unfortunately, that’s not the case for The Correspondent. On 10th December 2020, they announced that financial structure and their transnational content no longer match with a global readership. Their more local, Dutch organization De Correspondent is not affected by this shift.
As a digital nomad, I’m much more interested in issues that are global. Of course, whenever I’m based for a couple of months in one place – the immediate surrounding becomes my new local. Still, instead of reading the news, I prefer to talk, observe, and learn from people in my vicinity.
It’s this constant balance between thinking globally and acting locally. Some initiatives don’t pass the test of time, but I’m still grateful to Rob Wijnberg for experimenting. It was an amazing journey and I’m glad to have been part of it.