Stories from far and wide: News Deeply creates news sites for urgent issues--from the Ebola outbreak to the water crisis. Former foreign correspondent Lara Setrakian was fed up w?th superficial news coverage--so she decided to build a new model for journalism.
Most online journalism operations these days are addicted to the dopamine rush of racing to be the first to spit out a blurb, no matter how vapid, when news breaks. Lara Setrakian believes the future of news can thrive on the other end of the spectrum, too.
Setrakian, a journalist turned entrepreneur, is the co-founder of News Deeply, a New York City-based digital news startup that hatches single-subject journalism sites about the world’s most pressing crises. In 2011, while serving as a foreign correspondent in Dubai for ABC and Bloomberg News, she became frustrated by the coverage of the Syrian civil war, which she felt was both one-dimensional and confined by linear storytelling. “We were never able to capture with complexity and consistency what was going on around us,” says Setrakian, 33, who speaks six languages.
The new model she’s created is much like that of an emergency crew in triage: When there’s news of an issue that she believes is “highly consequential but poorly understood,” like the war in Syria or the Ebola outbreak (the subjects of News Deeply’s first two sites), her team creates a single comprehensive destination to report it. For each site--Syria Deeply, Ebola Deeply, Water Deeply, and, coming this fall, Arctic Deeply--Setrakian hires a journalist with mastery on that particular issue to serve as editor, who then recruits expert freelance reporters from around the globe. “I want to leave no community unserved when it comes to the important stories of our time,” she says.
Each site weaves together timelines, conflict maps, video presentations, and both original and aggregated reportage--sometimes getting a boost in distribution via partnerships with massive news outlets like AP. The ultimate goal is twofold: to create sites that exist only as long as an issue is salient, and to devise a system so turnkey that a new site can be launched in a matter of hours.
Like that of many modern media companies, News Deeply’s business model is at times murky and is not currently profitable. Under the umbrella of B Corp status, its revenue comes from a hybrid of sponsorships, live events, grants, and client services for entities such as the World Economic Forum and the Global Ocean Commission.
But with the momentum gained from such accolades as the National Press Foundation’s Excellence in Online Journalism Award for Syria Deeply, Setrakian is hoping to broaden the company’s potential impact. “My vision for News Deeply is as big and ambitious as it is humble and experimental,” says Setrakian, who has dozens of ideas brewing for new Deeply sites--including one to cover the public health implications of diabetes and another to share the untold stories of Native American communities. “I don’t need this or want this to be a digital CNN or a new version of The New York Times,” she says. “I want this to be the platform that serves specialized communities with the most important information on the issues that count.”