De Correspondent

by Ingrid Robeyns on September 30, 2013

Today I finished grading more than 250.000 words of MA-theses (that’s what you get when students who don’t graduate by September need to pay fees for an additional year). It feels wonderful, to have an evening in which I can bring the kids to bed without stressing about all that still needs to be done, to make a cup of tea, sit down, and ask myself: ‘So, what shall I do tonight?’.

So lucky me, since today is also the day that De Correspondent got launched, a new completely on-line advertisement-free ‘newspaper’ (not really, no). 100% funded by crowdsourcing – by people who want journalists who serve the readers rather than the stockholders, who don’t want sensation on their frontpage, nor censorship of and selfcensorship by the journalists.

You have to be ‘a member’ to be able to read all the pieces, and it’s all in Dutch. I read a few pieces – on income and wealth inequality in the Netherlands, on the increasing numbers of walls on Earth that separate countries or areas, and a column by Arnon Grunberg — and my first thoughts were: this looks really good. The lay-out is great, it’s user-friendly. I like it. Yet content-wise, it’s much more like our place here then like a newspaper. But with much more power: they have money (more than 20.000 ‘members’ who donated money), and with those monies they could hire journalists – I mean, ‘correspondents’. Some of these correspondents will be writing full-time for De Correspondent, but some will hold other positions, like Ewald Engelen, who holds a chair in financial geography at the University of Amsterdam.

Since the platform is online-only, since pieces will be released at several moments during the day, and since readers can leave comments, I would think that the correspondent is a blog, really – though very likely and hopefully a high-powered blog. It’s interesting that they don’t present themselves as such. Why that would be – I have no idea. In the meantime I’m really glad they are there, proud to be a supporter of this adventure (oops, I should say ‘member’), and looking forward to watching their impact on the quality of the public debate.



GiT 09.30.13 at 9:08 pm

It seems to me that “blog” is associated with editorializing and reposting journalistic content, and they probably want to emphasize that they’re making journalism. That would be my guess for avoiding the label blog and going with newspaper.


js. 10.01.13 at 12:21 am

What GiT said. Plus, when I think “blog”, I don’t think of the writers getting paid. If they’re actually hiring people and paying them to write, to me it makes sense to call it a newspaper—tho there’s no paper, obviously. (What does Politico call itself? Sorry, that’s an awful comparison, I know. Propublica?)


Ingrid Robeyns 10.01.13 at 5:26 am

Ah, that’s a good point GiT – that they are writing their own pieces with own research/interviews etc., though I think it will be a mix then – since one of the pieces I read was in effect summarizing research done by others with interpretation of the author (so typically a piece one could have here too). Also, there are many other blogs were people also write their own pieces, not just reposting journalistic content. So I suppose the boundaries are blurred — but I consider that a good thing, since it gives all of us more freedom to do what we really like and find important.
Yet I don’t see how writers being paid can make a difference in understanding what the medium is – even though it is quite obvious that money buys time and time makes it possible to deliver higher quality, all other things equal.


GiT 10.01.13 at 6:03 am

Yes, I don’t think pay makes sense for the distinction. Gawker and Buzzfeed and Politico are all clearly “blogs” and they have paid staff. And certainly the boundaries are breaking down, so it’s definitely not like “well this is certainly a blog and that is certainly a newspaper.” But I get the impression that saying, “oh no, we’re not a blog, we’re a newspaper” still works as a sort of signal about about professionalism, objectivity, and journalistic craft, even while you have push back from the other direction establishing that “blog” doesn’t just mean “random people posting stuff they think about on the internet”, like with Monkey Cage moving to WaPo tomorrow.


des von bladet 10.01.13 at 6:04 am

Is it actually a legal requirement that every respectable Dutch periodical has to have regular contributions from Arnon Grunberg?

Since the platform is online-only, since pieces will be released at several moments during the day, and since readers can leave comments, I would think that the correspondent is a blog, really

The defining difference from The Guardian is that they don’t support a legacy treeware platform?


Ingrid Robeyns 10.01.13 at 7:15 am

Des: good point about Grunberg. I had a line on Grunberg in my post which I deleted. Self-censorship, I guess – I am generally a conflict-avoiding type. But since you’re at it I’ll go on record: I really fail to appreciate Grunbergs views, and his boundless cynicism. I think he is an excellent master in having made himself into a hype, and keeping himself being a hype. That is, I think he is vastly overrated. Ergo, as far as I am concerned, his contributions can be removed from most media for which he’s writing. But given the number of Correspondents, it would be quite a miracle if all of us would appreciate the work of all of them – so any of us is free not to read what we don’t like. My ‘membership monies’ will surely be well-spent on other correspondents. But none of this removes the power of your observation.


dsquared 10.01.13 at 11:54 am

Is this the one that Joris Luyendijk is involved with?


ingrid robeyns 10.01.13 at 7:06 pm

dsquared: yep. I, together with many other ‘members’, thought he would become a correspondent /journalist – but now they official explanation is that he is an advisor – so that’s greatly disappointing. Not a very clear way of communicating, that is the least one can say; but I think it’s also reasonable to feel deceived.


ingrid robeyns 10.01.13 at 7:20 pm

Fact-checking: I re-watched the ‘promotional’ vimeo in which Luyendijk explains what he expects from this new kind of journalism. And under his name is written ‘advisor’, in small print, for a second or two. So we, ordinary people, could have known, but still given that Luyendijk is a journalist they initiators could have made it much more explicit that he would not be writing (at least, not for the time being). Apparently he is going to retreat from the public scene to write a book….

Comments on this entry are closed.