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2016 General Excellence in Online Journalism, Small Newsroom finalist

De Correspondent

About the Website

De Correspondent is a fully-responsive journalism platform that serves as an antidote to the daily news grind. We are proud to be entirely ad-free, beholden only to our 46,000 paying members and our journalistic principles.

Founded by Rob Wijnberg, Ernst-Jan Pfauth, Harald Dunnink, and Sebastian Kersten, De Correspondent owes its existence to the power of digital social networks. Our 2013 launch kicked off with a record-breaking crowdfunding campaign. Some 20,000 pioneering members showed their support for De Correspondent’s mission of producing in-depth journalism that actively engages readers. Since then, members get to read and share quality pieces that provide context for interpreting other news stories and the world around us. Journalists in turn benefit from a ready network of member expertise. The stories emerging from this unique online collaboration are changing journalism. De Correspondent gives sound knowledge and new voices a firm foothold in the media, shaping the stories we tell one another.

In terms of user interface and interactive innovation, De Correspondent’s design philosophy centers on cultivating calm in an age of digital distraction.* The platform is consummately readable and is designed to allow readers to focus on one story at a time.

An innovative approach to hyperlinks – Rather than rely on the usual clutter of hyperlinks peppered throughout an article’s text, De Correspondent maximizes the utility and minimizes the distraction of links through three different tools: 1. Info cards that address the reader’s potential knowledge gaps through dropdown, inline explanations. 2. Side notes work like an annotated text, providing explanations of exactly what is being linked to and giving readers the context needed to decide whether or not it’s relevant to them. 3. Featured links strategically placed either within a piece, to show connections with other articles in the same series, or at the end of articles, where they serve as welcome supplements to the piece a reader just completed rather than distractions from the story at hand.

An elegant system for sharing insight and expertise that transforms commenters from an afterthought into a community of writers and thinkers. At a time when many media outlets are shutting down their comment sections, De Correspondent is investing in new ways of leading well-founded discussions of each article we publish and providing readers with incentives to contribute. Rather than policing the comment section, we choose to provide a safe and inviting space where readers can share their knowledge with our authors and other members. We end each article with a specific question to focus the discourse. And journalists are actively engaged in the discussions, responding to readers’ queries and tips, highlighting particularly insightful or useful member contributions and moving these to the top. The reader then receives an email, thanking them for sharing their views. Those with demonstrated expertise are invited to join our expert database, which correspondents call on if they are in need of a critical eye in a particular field. Our thriving comments section boasts discussions as interesting as the article above them.

A sharing functionality that balances a subscription-based site’s need for a paywall and readers’ desire to share stories that interest them. While one must become a member of De Correspondent to enjoy our full archives and view our contribution sections, members can share a link to any article with anyone they wish.

Spare design elements that reduce all background noise to a minimum, allowing The Correspondent’s stories and artwork to shine. According to our Creative Director Harald Dunnink, “In the fragmented real time of digital media, we are bombarded by images and messages non-stop. Rarely do we listen attentively to a single, solitary message. Our mission therefore, as I see it, is to create online spaces of calm.” The Correspondent is such a space – an online refuge-cum-public square where journalists help readers get to grips with the world around us. A platform that cultivates calm, so that only the content can drive you to distraction.

The Correspondent makes dynamic use of online technology to both present our journalism and engage our readers.

Our extensive network of newsletters ensures that readers stay up-to-date with the coverage that matters to them. Readers can opt to receive newsletters in English or Dutch, daily or weekly, and topic-centered, author-centered, for a particular series, or general interest. The system is intended to serve readers and journalists alike, cementing the bond between them, and grounding our journalism in the reading community.

We actively anchor our online community offline by organising hackathons and festivals. We also created a speakers’ bureau on our website, through which organisations, government, companies and individuals can invite our correspondents for talks and events.
We believe journalism is not a one-way street and therefore actively engage with our readers right from the start by publishing ‘calls to action’, in which we ask readers to help us with an investigation or project.

A telling example of how we present our stories is “Operation Easy Chair”*, a feature article characterized by its successful roll-out strategy, with multiple related articles, a strategically timed ebook release and the use of multimedia (comics, archival documents, newsreel footage).

Jay Rosen, professor of journalism at New York University, writes “That’s it. I’m declaring De Correspondent the most interesting journalism start-up.” According to philosopher Alain de Botton, “The world of news is crying out for intelligent re-invention and The Correspondent promises a raft of innovations in this direction.”

Wilfried Ruetten, Director of the European Journalism Centre, declares that “De Correspondent might be the new kid on the block, but they do not shy away from investing in cutting-edge tools to present their articles and engage with readers. This is one of the reasons why they won our Innovation in Development Reporting Grant. They will build a dedicated page on the United Nations Global Goals with on-going in-depth reporting on development. We are confident the project will resonate with people’s needs to understand the context behind the news.”

Cathrine Gyldensted, the world’s first Director of Constructive Journalism at Windesheim University says, “In 2013, De Correspondent floored me with their innovative online platform and their bold vision on what modern journalism can be,” she said. “Now, three years later, they still impress me. Journalism professionals travel from Europe and the US to visit their headquarters in Amsterdam, to learn and be inspired. Bold innovation and moving the fence poles for what journalism can be, is what this profession needs. I hope Online Journalism Awards will choose to recognize and support these intrepid journalism innovators.”