The Conversation is a nonprofit news organization whose mission is to provide the public with credible, evidence-based journalism by unlocking ideas and research from academia. Stories range from politics to science to parenting, from the largest of trends to why paper cuts hurt.
A staff of 17 editors identifies the right experts on a given topic and works with them to write articles based on their own research. Everything goes through a rigorous editing and fact-checking process to make them accessible, relevant and engaging.
Here’s something that Maria Balinska, editor of The Conversation, recently wrote about The Conversation’s goals:
At a time when only 41% of Americans have trust in the media to report the news “fully, accurately and fairly,” I believe the collaborative knowledge-based model of journalism we are building at The Conversation can help rebuild trust.
We are truthful. Our content is based on evidence. The Conversation is not opinion-driven. We welcome strong argument, but it must be based on evidence that is linked to sources that readers can check out for themselves. If authors don’t know something, they say so. If they are making a controversial argument, they make the reader aware of the opposing arguments. If they are speculating, they label that accordingly.
We are transparent. Our authors place themselves firmly inside their articles, using the first-person pronoun to state who they are and why their expertise is relevant to the subject at hand or to tell the story behind their research. Every time they write an article they must fill out a disclosure form that lists grant funding and affiliations that are relevant to the article, and we put that right on the article.
We are independent. The Conversation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. We are supported by foundations and university membership, but we work for the public. Our first loyalty is to citizens and that is explicit in every grant application and university membership contract we make.
We are explanatory. We don't cover breaking news – but we do put it into context. From the major political issues of the day to cutting-edge research in science, from societal trends to interesting phenomena, our expert authors help you understand the world.
We are civil. One of the things readers have said they like about The Conversation is that our tone is polite: We treat them with respect.
We are hopeful. Journalism is often criticized for its “If it bleeds, it leads” approach to the news. Audiences feel overwhelmed, powerless and therefore disengaged when exposed to a problem but offered no way out. The Conversation’s articles take full advantage of the fact that many academics are precisely looking at how to solve problems – from how Facebook could “fix itself” to how fungi can help concrete heal its own cracks.
At a time when journalism needs some good news, The Conversation’s story certainly provides hope. There are audiences for evidence-based reporting. There are academics who want to engage with the public. There are media organizations keen to work together. Thanks to all of them, The Conversation is delivering on its mission to promote truthful, timely information and to strengthen journalism by unlocking the rich diversity of academic research for audiences across America.
As Maria highlights, The Conversation is collaborative, working with any news outlet that would like an expert perspective on a subject. (For instance, a story on talking to your kids about opioids was commissioned as part of a PBS NewsHour series on the opioid crisis.)
Funding comes from 12 foundations and 54 universities, all of which are looking to strengthen public dialogue, encourage scholars to engage with the public, and contribute to the health of the media ecosystem.
To that end, all stories from The Conversation are available for republication for free under a Creative Commons license. If you’re interested in learning more (or would like The Conversation to let you know when there’s articles that might fit your needs), please contact Joel Abrams and Jason Lindley at firstname.lastname@example.org.