More than 20,000 new readers have signed up to this newsletter in the past six months, which means there’s a sizable bunch of you who haven’t been reading The Conversation for very long. Hopefully you’ve been enjoying our evidence-based journalism powered by experts. But you may not know much about the approach that underpins our work, so I want to take just a few minutes to explain.
The Conversation was founded in Australia in 2011 – by a visionary newspaper editor Andrew Jaspan and co-founder Jack Rejtman – and it is based on addressing what economists would call a market failure. We get the bulk of our information from media outlets that give too much space to vested interests and opinionated blowhards who don’t know what they are talking about. Yet there are thousands of clever and highly educated people working in universities from whom we hear too little.
There are many reasons for this unfortunate situation. The media tends to favour loud voices and cheap drama, and it too easily falls prey to disinformation and spin. To be offered a public platform you need a set of communication skills that many academics don’t naturally possess. The media market often selects for unimportant qualities – such as a loud voice and a thick skin – rather than real expertise.
Yet clean information is as important to democracy as clean water is to health. If we are going to make sensible decisions about the key issues of the day we need to have the best data and the latest research at our disposal. Ideally we’ll have an expert by our side who can explain complexity in plain English.
The Conversation was founded to provide this service. Articles on The Conversation are commissioned and edited by journalists but written only by academic experts. They provide analysis and research and basic explanatory content to arm you with the knowledge you need to make up your own mind. The Conversation has no ideological or editorial agenda, other than to bring you the best of what is to be found in universities in Australia, New Zealand and around the world.
Over the past nine years we’ve learnt there is a huge appetite for this work. Colleagues have set up Conversation teams based in Africa, France, UK, Spain, Indonesia, Canada, US and New Zealand. All the work we do is free to read and free to repubish so it can reach everyone looking for quality information.
We do this to help academics share their expertise and to support a healthy media ecosystem in a time of attacks on press freedom and an existential challenge for media businesses. It seems to be working. COVID-19 has brought a big spike in traffic to news websites and many of those readers are coming to the expert analysis from The Conversation.
Last month our audience in Australia and New Zealand doubled to more than 26 million reads to Conversation articles, on our site and via republishers. To give you a rough idea of where this sits in the Australian media scene, the March Nielsen figures had the ABC on 15.2 million reads and The Guardian on a record of 11.6 million reads.
If you’re new to what we do, thanks for reading and please tell your friends about us. As a not-for-profit news organisation we rely on donations from readers, so please consider making a donation if you can.
Most importantly, stay safe, stay home and keep seeking information from sources you can trust.
Authors: Misha Ketchell, Editor & Executive Director, The Conversation