3 ways to fix a broken news industry

Misleading, fake and hysterical news headlines have eroded the trust in media; now at an all time low. Publishers are working on various ways to regain that trust and fix a broken media system.

Lara Setrakian, founder and CEO of News Deeply, a media and technology company dedicated to providing thorough analysis of global issues, has years of experience in in-depth journalism. She proposes three ways to fix this broken news industry in a recent TED talk. De Correspondent follows a similar approach by providing quality journalism for paying members.

Lara Setrakian started out with Syria Deeply, a look into the civil war dating back to the Arab Spring which was designed to be a news source that makes complex issues easier to understand. Lara Setrakian was able to build a business model based on this high quality information. It proved to be a business model that scaled. She and her team have since started new channels writing about topics ranging from Ebola to the Arctic and Women & Girls in the developing world.

In a TED talk she explains how news can get out of its critical state of distrust. Setrakian mentions 3 ways to fix a broken news industry

  1.  Deep-domain knowledge

Newsrooms have been gutted. Newspapers and TV networks are focusing more on broad coverage and have left the art of specialized reporting behind. When it comes to foreign news she proposes to work together with local journalists. Those local reporters can bring stories that give background to complex world issues and would be difficult to find for outsiders.

  1. Pledge to do no harm

Journalists need to speak the truth and be aware of their responsibilities to society. That means acting ethical and recognizing that what they are doing could potentially harm the public. Setrakian mentions covering the Ebola crisis as an example. The public was flooded with sensational and sometimes even inaccurate coverage. By creating panic and getting facts wrong it was harder for people to make informed decisions and resolve what was actually happening.

  1. Embrace the complexity of the world

Simplification often overlooks the complexity of stories and fails to properly report an issue. News should be educational and should challenge people. Understanding complexity is crucial to know the real threats. Setrakian sees it as her responsibility as a journalist to translate those threats and prepare people to know how to fight them off.

“It’s our job as journalists to get elbow deep in complexity and to find new ways to make it easier for everyone else to understand.”

De Correspondent – new concepts for quality journalism

earn trust

De Correspondent, the successful Dutch journalism endeavor, lives by similar rules. Since its launch in 2013 the site has reached 52,000 paying members, making it the largest subscription-based news site in the Netherlands.

De Correspondent sees itself as an “antidote to the daily news grind”. Instead of chasing headlines they cover structural developments that change the world, similar to News Deeply channels mentioned above. They involve readers in their reporting and actively exchange with them. They want to earn trust by working for (and with) readers. Ernst-Jan Pfauth, co-founder of De Correspondent, points out that they have to stop looking for constant attention but strive to inform readers in the best possible way. Reporters keep a public notebook to give members insight into how stories are researched and background information of the article. In line with a New York Times R&D blog post, they want to experiment with new formats apart of the traditional article.