Our strategy to build better journalism
A message from Heba Aly, CEO of The New Humanitarian.
The current journalistic model is broken: Audiences are demanding that the hierarchical, elite-led system of news-gathering and presentation be dismantled in favour of a more inclusive and holistic model based on more equitable access to information and more nuanced and diverse narratives.
The business model is also broken, with many media going bankrupt during the pandemic – despite their information being more valuable than ever – because of a dependence on advertisers.
Finally, exploitative and extractive practices have long been commonplace in media and other businesses.
We think there is a better way. We want to build something different.
Our new five-year strategy outlines how we will do so. It is an ambitious vision to become a transformative newsroom – and one that we need your support to achieve.
First, we will decolonise our journalism – by being more inclusive of and guided by the communities we serve – so that we better represent the issues that matter to them.
Standard international reporting is a legacy of an old model in which foreigners with little knowledge or experience of a country parachute in to tell a story in service of a foreign audience. Narratives often focus on the white/Western characters or institutions as the protagonists. The subjects of the story are often disempowered to shape the outcome.
Around the world, there is a growing demand for decolonised, meaningful, participatory humanitarian and media spaces – with different power dynamics – and an increasing expectation of journalism as a constructive force for good, rather than simply an “objective” chronicler of the news.
The New Humanitarian seeks to meet that demand.
Second, we will centralise impact in our work – by proactively mapping and reaching out to the audiences that can be served by a given story – so that every story finds the audience that can use it to drive change.
For each story we seek to publish, we will ask: Who needs to read this for it to have its intended impact? And if they are not current TNH readers, how do we get this story in front of them?
We will also consider the potential impact when deciding which stories to pursue. We will increasingly translate content into other languages, so that people in different markets – and in affected countries – can more easily access it. We will produce short videos of our in-depth stories to reach wider audiences on social media. And we will strike distribution partnerships with media outlets at both the local and international levels as relevant to reach the right audiences.
Third, we will strengthen our newsroom – by investing in key editorial functions and support systems – so that we can more consistently report from the heart of crises.
We will increase our presence on the ground, grow our investigations team, and improve our ability to access high-risk areas.
Fourth, we will diversify our income – by growing grant funding and developing new revenue streams – so that our journalism remains independent and sustainable.
We will nurture our nascent membership programme, launch an individual giving programme, seek out non-Western sources of funding, and generate earned revenue, with the aim of doubling our budget in the next five years.
Finally, we will nurture an organisational culture of excitement, innovation, and well-being so that staff feel valued, proud, and motivated to do their best work.
We will better understand needs through regular staff surveys; we will increase our leave allowance to guard against burn-out and offer psychological counselling to staff; and we will encourage innovation and connection.
Our new strategy builds on the last five years, in which we laid down strong foundations for this ambitious phase of growth.
In 2021, we hired a Podcast Producer and Multimedia Editor to help us tell our stories in different ways and reach new audiences; a Chief Operating Officer and administrative and finance assistant to manage our growth; and a Head of People and Culture to ensure we attract and motivate diverse talent.
We have diversified our board of directors with the election of two new members from Asia and Latin America: Chilean journalist, editor, and author Paula Escobar-Chavarría and award-winning Indian journalist and media entrepreneur Syed Nazakat.
Our budget has grown by 13 percent year-on-year; unearmarked income now makes up 85 percent of our funding, and we’ve built our reserves – all of which gives us more financial stability moving forwards.
We struck partnerships with the Guardian US, Al Jazeera, and Der Spiegel; we hosted events and reader salons; and spoke at more than 20 external events, bringing our work to broader audiences.
All while producing our award-winning journalism every day.
This year, we pubished six high-impact investigations, on topics ranging from fraud in South Sudan’s COVID-19 response to the civilian toll of France’s anti-jihadist war in Mali. We followed up on our investigation into sexual abuse and exploitation by aid workers during the 2018-2020 Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo – a story that triggered an independent commission at the highest levels of the World Health Organization, the dismissal of offenders, and a new emphasis on safeguarding within the UN agency. We also investigated the aid sector’s carbon footprint.
We produced reports with particular local interest on Nigeria’s secret programme to lure top Boko Haram defectors and claims by Burkinabé women that men demanded sex from them in exchange for aid.
We provided essential coverage of emerging crises, from access challenges in Ethiopia, to the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan, to lack of vaccine access in Haiti and elsewhere.
And we continued to shine a light on forgotten crises: We travelled to the far corners of Darfur to reveal the continued toll of the conflict there; published this intimate Reporter’s Diary on the truth and reconciliation commission in Burundi; and explored the impact on the families of migrants who die at sea.
We brought you a second season of our flagship Rethinking Humanitarianism podcast; introduced more artwork and illustrations to our visual story-telling; and offered you this interactive feature exploring Mediterranean migration.
In 2021, our audience doubled from 2019 levels.
In the age of misinformation and dwindling business models, producing quality journalism is already a feat. Doing so sustainably and ethically – even more so.
Our new strategy sees us continuing this important work while embracing the best of what journalism can be and shedding its more problematic qualities.
Help us prove that it is possible to produce world-class journalism on the international stage in a sustainable and ethical way.
Help us be the transformation we’d like to see in the news industry, by becoming a member of The New Humanitarian.
Become a member of The New Humanitarian today.
We are looking to recruit 100 new members before the end of the year to help us reach our target of $50,000 in revenue from reader contributions in 2021.
Thank you for your support, and may the year ahead bring you and your loved ones peace, equity, and well-being.
CEO, The New Humanitarian