By Lynnemore van Ommen
Are you, as an editor, looking for in depth information to add to a headline on Colombia but your media organization does not have a correspondent in that particular area? Just login at Correlations.nl, click on the map and find the local journalist you need. The map localizes journalists, photographers, stringers, fixers, researchers, cameramen -or women or citizen journalists from all over the world. By clicking on one of the spots, the portfolio of the person in question pops up and you can read about the expertise and experience of the correspondent, as well as the language skills and contact information.
How it all started
Femke Awater and Charlotte Waaijers noticed that increasingly less media organizations have a budget to pay for a fulltime correspondent abroad. Fulltime correspondents are being replaced more and more by freelancers. However, freelance correspondents experience that it is hard to “sell” yourself to media organizations from a far distance. The aim of the non-profit organization Correlations is to put (freelance) correspondents worldwide on the map. They offer a platform for correspondents and media professionals from all over the world to meet. They want to show where correspondents are located so editors can find correspondents on a specific location.
Correlations made a kick-start by winning the Challenge-award 2014, a Dutch award for innovative start-ups within the profession of journalism. Since the official launch of their platform one year ago, they joined forces with Lokaalmondiaal, Free Press Unlimited and Hostwriter (Germany) to accomplish their goal: To improve the journalistic practices.
How do they distinguish themselves?
Correlations is not the first platform that attempts to connect freelance correspondents with media organizations. The American platform Storyhunter, a kind of Airbnb for freelance journalists, was founded in 2012. Storyhunter not only allows journalists, that have been accepted by the platform, to post their own videos, photos or stories but they also allow journalists to pitch a story they would like to carry-out. Media organizations can search the database to look for a journalist with specific capacities in a specific place to carry out a specific story. Likewise, PayDesk is an English marketplace where media organizations and freelance journalists could meet.
The Dutch platform Buitenlandredactie seemed to be competing with Correlations. However, where Buitenlandredactie only offers a platform for research on correspondents and locating them, Correlations goes further. Freelance correspondents are wasting more and more time on selling themselves and searching for employers. Therefore the aim of Correlations is to function as a billboard for freelancers and to connect freelancers and media organizations with each other.
In my opinion is Correlations more accessible for freelancers than Storyhunter and PayDesk. Everybody can create an account on Correlations, regardless of being a professional or a citizen journalist. The correspondence between the media organization and the freelancer happens in a direct manner, without interference of the platform. Moreover, the focus of Correlations lies on the immediate availability of in depth information that are compulsory to the headlines. They try to accomplish this by directly connecting editors to local journalists. These features are in contrast with Storyhunter and PayDesk. At the platform of Storyhunter and PayDesk freelancers need to be “screened”, they need to be accepted before they can enter. Besides, the correspondence between the media organization and freelancer happens indirect, through mediation of the platforms.
How could it be improved?
Some in depth investigation on the platform of Correlations showed that at this moment 136 freelancers are joining the network worldwide. However, of this 136 freelancer, 91 freelancers are based in Europe of which 64 are based in the Netherlands. I created an account as a “citizen journalist” (which I am clearly not) and was registered right away. So it is highly possible that of the 64 Dutch based freelancers, a great amount only created an account to see how the map works.
Conspicuous is that only 7 media companies are joining Correlations. The problem the platform faces, is making profit. In my opinion they should focus more on getting media companies excited to join the platform. This way they could have the possibility to increase their profit by means of commission.
It could be interesting for the platform to provide information on the current status of Correlations and for example (success) stories from editors and freelancers.
Correlation as a platform is a good initiative, it certainly has potential. However, it still needs to be modified and improved.