Hello everybody, I am Rob Wijnberg, founder and editor-in-chief of decorrespondent.nl, a Dutch news platform that set a world record in journalism crowdfunding, on a mission to redefine news into something new. You can learn more here: https://decorrespondent.nl/en and here: https://www.facebook.com/thecorrespondentcom?fref=ts

I participated at Hackers Connect in Berlin, see: https://storify.com/burtherman/hacks-hackers-launches-connect-series-in-berlin


PROOF: https://twitter.com/robwijnberg/status/615899593222541312

Thanx for all the questions! I had a great time. Any remaining questions I'll answer tomorrow!

Comments: 100 • Responses: 40  • Date: 

jippiejee15 karma

Do you ever follow the comments and discussions on /r/thenetherlands when we link to your articles?

RobWijnberg9 karma

no I haven't, already too busy ploughing through my email ;-)

smous11 karma

How do you feel about the criticism that some of your articles have a 'holier than thou' / 'let me explain how the world works' vibe? For me, it's sometimes annoying. Like old-school teaching instead of learning together (however cheesy that may sound).

RobWijnberg10 karma

we are all too human; sometimes we make mistakes, the one you mention included. But I would also feel the criticism is somewhat prejudiced: irony has it that our 'let me explain' stuff is by far the most popular, so it gets shared more and than the feeling arises that all our articles are like that. completely differenties stories, like the ones from our war correspondent Lennart Hoffman (who never, ever does a 'let me explain'), go a bit more unnoticed.

butmysoulsonfire6 karma

What are you most proud of when it comes to all DeCorrespondent has done since launch? So besides the world record funding and getting enough subscribers to get going? Any articles stand out or anything you wanted to achieve that you did?

RobWijnberg11 karma

May sound cheesy, but I'm proudest of the group spirit we have here. We all have the feeling we are on a mission; and we all enjoy our work and each others company very much. I never go to work feeling that I'm going to 'a job'. Secondly: I'm proud we really set the journalistic agenda on some important topics here in The Netherlands, like basic income, privacy and income inequality.

Kaasindekoelkast6 karma

I'm a coming and going reader of decorrespondent.

Fast news isn't your deal: It's about backgrounds and opinions. You seem to be more focussed on opinions than anything else. Why are opinions so important? Is it to attract more readers?

Second question: A lot of your editors seem to be leftwing. Any rightwing editors?

RobWijnberg13 karma

On opinions my opinion might divert from yours ;-) Bad journalism is subjective reporting pretending to be 'neutral' and 'factual'. Good journalism is explicitly subjective reporting. All journalism is opiniated; we just may seem more opiniated than others because we say so out lod. As for left wing: more diversity in perspectives on our platform is a high priority for us, although we try not to think in terms of left or right.

Kaasindekoelkast1 karma

so what do you do to acquire more diversity? It sounds like a big issue for you, so it's safe to say there isn't enough diversity yet.

RobWijnberg2 karma

scouting, asking a wide range of guest authors to contribute, hiring the ones we like the most. thats basically what we try to do.

KaasKomijn6 karma

Would it not be better, morally and perhaps even from a business perspective, to make De Correspondent a workers' collective, fully employee-owned? Did you ever (or do you still) consider such a move?

RobWijnberg5 karma

The founding editors (the first group that joined) are actually shareholders of DC.

KaasKomijn1 karma

I know, but there are more people working there now, right? How about them? That is: how about transitioning to a worker-owned "platform"?

steelpan11 karma

Nice try, person working for De Correspondent.

KaasKomijn2 karma

Haha, I'm not! Disappointing though that Wijnberg evades the question (and ignores my second try).

RobWijnberg1 karma

I'm not ignoring anything, I didn't see the follow up until now. My answer would be: no, it wouldn't be better, neither business wise nor morally, because current shareholders all have taken great risks, in part by investing a lot of their own money up front, or by holding more responsibility (for example: by not having a unemployment insurance). Furthermore: fiscally it would be a disaster for our employees, because they would then have to pay an enormous amount of tax, based on the estimated value of their stock.

samplenoise4 karma

Will you be doing more of those Hackatons? It seems like an interesting vehicle for investigative journalism, but it's also unconventional for a hackathon to start from a specific agenda ("today, let's do X"), in my experience. How did the last one work out?

RobWijnberg4 karma

for sure. the last one was very productive (it was on the porn industry, and the pieces we got out of it earned us a reward for best online journalism)

AnnaKaren4 karma

Thanks for doing an AMA. De Correspondent advertised when they started a kind of journalism that wouldn't just passively run after everything that happened during the day ('een medicijn tegen de waan van de dag'). The last three days you published at least three articles (long reads?) about greek crisis. It was good, but if you said was published in de Volkskrant I would have believed you as well. My question: if you write the correspondent is a medicine against the haze of the day, but when you do tend to write about the haze lf the day, isn't de correspondent a placebo?

How are you going to prevent this and/or innovate the correspondent in an ever shrinking news market?

RobWijnberg12 karma

Thanks for your question Anna. One big misconception about our slogan is that being an antidote against the hype of the day means that we ignore current events by definition. We don't: some current events are no hype, because they have great impact on many people, and/or on future events. Our first rule is: value relevancy OVER recency. We don't consider recency bad in and for itself. The problem with a lot of the daily news is that it works the other way around: recency trumps relevancy. Then, our second rule is: always add context to the news that help our members understand the underlying trends. So, as for Greece: we mainly focused on the long history of debt of the country; we zoomed in on what the troika actually was demanding (not the political fighting); we focused on the real life consequences of the crisis (in two documentaries) and we had some commentary on how the debate was misinformed by cliches and myths about sound economics and the Greek people. In short: you can talk about the hype and still go against it, as long as you write about it in a more contextualizing way.

tyrannosaurusknex4 karma

I am really proud to see the future of journalism (Blendle, De Correspondent) coming from the Netherlands. Are you, just like Blendle, planning on expansion to other countries soon?

Also, I really liked the articles on internet safety and your own piece on racism during the Zwarte Piet-debate. So thanks for those!

RobWijnberg7 karma

Our first priority: getting a lot better at what we do now in Dutch first. Then: make a step into English. And then, hopefully, in many more languages as well. But all with everything but a hurry. Thanx for the compliments, btw.

tyrannosaurusknex2 karma

Seems like you've got your priorities in order then. As a follow-up, I know you target the more high-educated portion of society, but those less educated are perhaps the ones most in need of information on topics like internet safety. What do you think is the best way to spread (a part of) your articles to a wider audience, including maybe the less educated public?

RobWijnberg2 karma

One way we have discussed is: creating a separate platform with simpler, shorter versions of our best articles. but thats not on our short term list for now. another is: keep trying to write as accessible as possible every day.

tyrannosaurusknex1 karma

Okay great, thanks for answering. Good luck with De Correspondent in the future!

RobWijnberg2 karma


seven___3 karma

What's your view on clandestine advertising, for instance the public tv show DWDD that almost begged viewers to become DC member, and how it affects media whom for obvious reasons abstain from it but do get hurt by competitors who use it? I ask this because DC has a rather negative view on advertising, and even forbids it, because it, so to speak, interferes with journalistic freedom. But on the other hand it got big infotainment plugs from DWDD instead of a more critical and journalistic approach at the launch and forgot that DC in it's core is a for profit private enterprise (BV) and not the charity it somewhat appeared to be.

RobWijnberg3 karma

By your line of reasoning, any platform that doesn't sell ads must refrain from promoting itself. Or: any platform that doesn't sell ads cannot appear on platforms that do. I don't see the logic there.

MaethYoung3 karma

I've been a long-time subscriber (since the beginning) and I enjoyed reading the articles a lot. If possible, I would still like to ask two questions.

I recently noticed a certain trend that starts to irk me. There seem to be less articles that really go in-depth, I really enjoyed those. Will the publishing rate of such articles increase again?

My second question is related to the recent texts about Greece, there seems to be no objectivity left, and that the problem is solely due to the troika. This is rather specific, but these articles are really one-sided, and I noticed more of them recently. Are the articles going back to providing information objectively, or is this a trend that is here to stay?

Good luck with De Correspondent! And thanks!

RobWijnberg2 karma

I don't think the rate of in-depth articles has gone done, if anything we aim at getting it up (of course). On Greece: we have written extensively on the facts that are in play, and from those facts it is hard to draw any other conclusions than: what the troika did has worsened the situation to the point that you can speak of a humanitarian crisis - even the IMF draws that conclusion itself. To suggest that there is an 'other side' to this which denies this reality, is not objective but political. (Which doesn't mean the Greek didn't do anything wrong: we have written on Greek corruption and clientelism as well, for example.)

shibumi1 karma

Is allocating the blame between Greece and the 'troika' in this one-sided way not utterly subjective? Even a moderately well-run country does not get into trouble like this. Europe cannot give Greece a healthy economy, they have to do it themselves. Europe can provide money and debt relief. It can advise on best government practices. It already has done both extensively.

RobWijnberg2 karma

If we didn't have the euro, Greece could have devalued it's currency and fix it's problems itself. Like it had done before. If your in a currency union you don't have the luxury of devaluing your currency, nor can you make your own fiscal policy. As for the troika's advice: reality shows it was not that sound - they even admit that themselves now.

lula24883 karma

What's the most simple thing that makes you really happy?

RobWijnberg3 karma

How much all my employees/co-workers enjoy working for De Correspondent. Their happiness is the most important ROI we generate here, imho.

VeryMuchDutch1013 karma

Rob, What is your opinion on the TTIP?
And do you think most people in the Netherlands know about it?

RobWijnberg8 karma

I haven't seen any polls on familiarity with TTIP, but my uneducated guess would be it's not a majority. With regards to my opinion on it: I'm a strong skeptic about the economic theory underlying it, an informed-speculative pessimist regarding its (social) effects, and a fierce critic of the undemocratic nature of the whole enterprise - both in the way its negotiated and implemented and with regards to the content of the agreement.

steelpan2 karma

Did you wish for more questions from international Redditors? Do you plan on expanding to other countries as well?

RobWijnberg6 karma

As far as questions on Reddit are concerned: I'm 100% agnostic with regards to their origins. :) And yes, we would very much like to go abroad one day, but we're not in a hurry.

ArchangelOfLove2 karma

Rob, which books would you recommend to a layman wanting to get into philosophy?

RobWijnberg4 karma

History of Western Philopsohy by Betrand Russell, very good intro. Contigency, Irony and Solidarity by Richard Rorty - little bit tougher to read if you did not read any philosophy before but still manageble. Rorty gives a sublime overview of western thinking. And of course: Nietzsche & Kant lezen de krant, En mijn tafelheer is Plato (my own books, by no means comparable to the other two :)

Ljosmyndun2 karma

How do you think De Correspondent will look like in 3 years?

RobWijnberg6 karma

Completely different from what it is now. To paint a fuzzy picture: we won't be a 'publication' anymore, but a platform, where not only our own journalists but hundreds or thousands of experts will share valuable knowledge and expertise on and openly discuss a wide range of topics. Or to put in a metaphor: what FB is for social life, and Linkedin is for your professional life, De Correspondent will be for your knowledge.

QWieke2 karma

Sounds really ambitious. Should such a thing really be put behind a pay-wall?

RobWijnberg2 karma

It seems to me that ambition and money compliment each other very well.

QWieke1 karma

Sure, but a Facebook for knowledge doesn't sound like something that ought to be put behind a paywall, in a open-access kind of way if you know what I'm saying. Though admittedly the paywall you guys have erected is rather porous to begin with and I'm not sure what kinds of alternative revenue methods could be employed that wouldn't introduce unwanted influences and such.

Any plans to include some kind of scientific (peer reviewed, etc) publishing? Cause that would be kinda interesting.

RobWijnberg1 karma

Indeed, our pay-wall is pretty soft. And indeed: other models, like ads, might compromise our independence. To be sure: my FB-analogy is a little bit overdone; i don't think this ever will be a billion-user venture. But you get the idea. And yes: that scientific model is surely something we have in mind, in part at least.

zomaar0iemand2 karma

Are you going to translate more and more articles and eventually launch and English site?

RobWijnberg2 karma

Yep! (2x) We actually hired a FT translator last month.

zomaar0iemand1 karma

Cool! Last one for lazy people like me ;), any hopes on a mobile app?

RobWijnberg2 karma

on the app: not any time soon. but you can fake the app very easily though: https://decorrespondent.nl/197/Doe-net-alsof-we-een-app-hebben/5049110-d1479b0e

Smugasaurus1 karma

I have two questions:

  1. Is De Correspondent currently working on one or more projects of true investigative journalism we might not know about and do you feel that they will bear fruit any time soon? Do you have the resources for this sort of thing?

  2. I enjoy reading De Correspondent a lot of the time. There is one thing that irks me though, and that is the way you title your articles. Things like 'How [insert thing] happened.' and 'Why [insert person] is wrong.' are often headers to articles where the title actually doesn't fit that well. Often the 'how' is in the title already or the 'why' is not a 'why' but a 'how'. Have you considered moving away from the modern trend in titles for articles, which I feel is too ubiquitous, click-baity and often wrong?

RobWijnberg4 karma

Yes, many. Let me focus on 2 of them. We are currently working on a big project to cover the Dutch elections in 2017 in a completely new way (data driven). Also, we're setting up a project around the future of energy (more specific: the future of batteries).

QWieke3 karma

We are currently working on a big project to cover the Dutch elections in 2017 in a completely new way (data driven).

I hope your plans are flexible, I'd be really surprised if the cabinet actually lasts that long.

RobWijnberg1 karma

We're planning on starting early ;-)

Smugasaurus1 karma

Thank you for the answer.

Also, my apologies for making it look like you didn't answer the second question. I actually edited that one in around the same time Mr. Wijnberg was answering my first question, so he might not have seen it.

RobWijnberg2 karma

Indeed, I didn't see the question :) As for the titles: we aim to vary as much as possible. We try to use how and why only if the piece actually does what the title promises, and because, as a platform focused on background and analyses, we ask (and answer) how and why questions a lot, we tend to use it more often than regular news sites. But then again, if you look closely, it's not that often actually: I would guess around 8 out 10 articles have different kinds of titles. The fact that you might think it's a lot less proves the effectiveness of those how/why-titles: they get read and shared a lot ;-)

DutchTourist1 karma

What do you think are the points at which De Correspondent should improve?

RobWijnberg14 karma

On the top of our lists are: 1) diversity in staff (less male, less white, less left-leaning) 2) diversity in topics (more politics, food, latin-america, asia, science) 3) more tools for members to better share their knowledge (improving the comment section and developing 'dossiers' (files))

kidhelios1 karma

I'm interested in where you thought a a public service (non-commercial) model of De Correspondent might head, as well as the most interesting ways to bring your readers back into the loop of the writing? Just emailed you as well on behalf of the BBC - Thanks - @kidhelios

RobWijnberg4 karma

To be sure: DC is not non-commercial; we are not against making a profit (we do however have a profit cap, to avoid profit maximazation). With regards to bringing readers in the loop, we have a number of rules of thumb: 1) be very specific in what you expect from them. ask very specific questions. if you don't you'll probably get loud opinions. if you do, you get valuable knowledge and expertise. 2) talk back. if you want readers to spend valuable time on you, you should spend valuable time on them. 3) don't regard conversations with readers as a side job. make it 50% of your work. 4) meet readers. talk to them in person. invite them over if you think they can help. 5) regard them as individuals, not as target groups. (and, if you can: 6) stop selling ads, because otherwise you'll fail at no. 5)

mgoyoda1 karma

What's your favorite song?

RobWijnberg2 karma

I'll get back to you when I figure out my favourite color first. :-)

beleg-cuthalion1 karma

What's your opinion on the current quality and added value of nrc.next? Do you, like me and many others (judging by the rapidly declining readership numbers), think it rather lost its touch after you left?

RobWijnberg3 karma

I don't want to sound cocky or blunt, but I decided a few months ago not to comment on nrc.next too often anymore. I still love the people there, I owe a lot of my success to the chances they gave me, and our paths divided because of (radically) different views on what the future of journalism might look like. And I'm way too caught up in realising the path I chose, that I rarely think about theirs anymore. Too little to have an informed opinion on it, that is.

koproller1 karma

Hi! Thanks for doing this: What's your opinion about Blende?

RobWijnberg2 karma

I think it's a great tech-company that has done a lot of smart things to make good journalism more accessible. i don't think they are going to "save journalism" (and they don't either).

noahhaon1231 karma

1.What do you think of sites that aggregate links to enable people to read everything without a subscription, is it a good or bad thing?

  1. I love the the more "literary" content like the stories from Grunberg. Will we see more of that, or is that too different from your main goal: good journalism

RobWijnberg2 karma

  1. People will always find ways to get a free ride. Luckily, they are heavily outnumbered by the people who appreciate what you do and are willing to pay for that. Our attitude has always been: trust pays off, and fighting abuse isn't worth the effort. 2) there are many kinds of good journalism. the literary kind is one. we would gladly welcome more of all kinds.

samplenoise1 karma

Do you look at data regarding the way people use De Correspondent, e.g. what your members like to read and share? Do you use it to enhance your platform or would that go against your independent agenda and crusade against the pageviews mentality?

RobWijnberg2 karma

We do, and we do use it: to enhance our platform feature-wise (in a technical sense). It does not really inform our editorial decisions (although we always ask ourselves: is this relevant to enough people. we don't want to be too niche. but share count has little to do with that; we have written more on forgotten wars and refugees than anything else and I can assure you:we wouldn't have, based on clicks and shares).

itchymuller1 karma

Question about one of your articles on Zwarte Piet, in which you exclaimed (and I'm paraphrasing and probably forgetting some nuances) that due to the fact that all races are genetically extremely similar... the idea of 'race' as a concept is benign and should not be the focus of discussion.

To me that came over like a cheap cop-out where you purposely ignore the societal aspects of race as whole. Of course, the idea of races is biologically not relevant but in society it definitely is. It is very easy to proclaim that 'race does not exist' when you look at it from a pure biological viewpoint. Is it that you knew that this opinion would go over well with the masses of pro-Zwarte Piet reader who would then share the article because it seemed like pandering to a readership which you knew existed during a lively national debate.

Also, have you considered your own lack of perspective in this matter? I won't say: oh white priviledge blabla but you can imagine that in the eyes of a minority, your article might sting and seem like a: 'stop whining. there are no races so what are you complaining about?' -statement. It is not something you touch upon in your article and I would like to know your thoughts.

disclaimer: not about to start a Zwarte Piet-discussion. So tired of that. This is not about that. It is about the seemingly purposful ignoring of race as a factor in societal perception and hammering on the idea that, genetically, humans are so similar that the word race is stupid.

RobWijnberg1 karma

If I suggested to you or others in any way that racism is not a problem, or that people should stop 'complaining' about it then I regret my choice of words. I don't actually think I did if you read my piece on it, but -again - if I did: that was certainly not the purpose.

poeperdiepapie0 karma

Dear Mr. Wijnberg,

I'd like to thank you for all you've done so far for Dutch (news) media; it's been very inspirational.

Two questions:

  1. Do you fear that the forces that corr.es is trying to do better than will outlive everything that you have built? Will it all be for naught? (Like Jon Stewart has come and will soon be gone, but Bullshit Mountain remains)

  2. Where has the criticism of popular culture on corr.es gone? Did people read it at all?

RobWijnberg2 karma

Thanks for the compliment. As for your questions: 1) I don't ponder death, neither personal nor work related :) 2) Our two most prominent culture correspondents (Nina Polak and Lynn Berger) both have requested (and gotten) a sabbatical: the first to write a book, the second to finish her PhD. The good news is Nina will be back in a few days, Lynn in a few months.

handoverthecoffee0 karma

Would you rather fight a horse sized duck or duck sized horse?

RobWijnberg1 karma

Depends which one is more sensitive to my arguments that we'd better go for a beer and talk out our differences instead.

jmcx0000 karma

I am studying journalism. Any advice for future journalists?

RobWijnberg4 karma

Follow your heart. Do journalism only about things you really care about. Find an obsession or a beat and try to become an expert in it (without losing your curiosity). Develop your own tone of voice. Find en exploit one truly unique talent that can't be copied. Talk and listen to people who you admire and try to hang out with them as much as possible.

Jeffums0 karma

What's the deal with airline food?

Toinnem0 karma

I am already a real fan of how the correspondent engages with the readers. Do you have more plans / ideas on how to further develop this ?

RobWijnberg2 karma

many. 1 is: adding more features to our contribution section (like: verifying somebody's expertise and marking comments as valuable info). 2 is: building dossiers where members can add sources of knowledge to a collection of our articles on specific topics. if you have more ideas, feel very welcome to share them with us by email!