Sunday 18 August 2019

De Correspondent says ‘we screwed up’ over $4.3m US launch plans

US media critic Jay Rosen promoted the project on The Daily Show

Dutch media company De Correspondent has apologised to its supporters in America after several high profile backers criticised the company for failing to set up a base in the US after all.

De Correspondent, which raised $1.8m in runway funding and over $2.5m via crowdfunding to launch an international version of their platform, said in March that it has closed its New York office and will base its English language operations in Amsterdam.

This was despite basing the crowdfunding campaign in the US, using high profile US supporters and repeatedly talking about bringing ‘unbreaking news’ to America.

Last week, website Nieman Lab published an interview with Zainab Shah, the company’s first US hire for The Correspondent, in which she said she ‘felt like it was a betrayal, and we had raised funds on false pretense’,

Shah, who left Buzzfeed to take up The Correspondent job, has since left the company and several of the plan’s backers, including FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver and ‘The Wire’ creator David Simon said on Twitter they were disappointed about the decision not to be US based.

Jay Rosen, the NYU professor who has been the project’s biggest American supporter and whose appearance to promote the project on The Daily Show gave the campaign a major boost, said on Monday had ‘strongly advised The Correspondent’s leadership that they needed more financial transparency and they assured me they will do that’.

In particular, the website’s decision to spend $1.8m, including a $100,000 grant to hire a US editor in chief, on raising $2.5m has been criticised.

The questions from supporters have now prompted an apology from the Correspondent, although the document is not signed, and which states that ‘we screwed up’.

‘We failed to give adequate insight into what we meant by a global platform, leaving the impression we would be US focused,’ the document says.

De Correspondent was launched in September 2013 after raising more than €1m in a Dutch crowd-funding campaign. The Dutch website has some 60,000 paying members but also attracts hundreds of thousands of euros in sponsorship from Dutch media funds.

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