1. Smartphones in the classroom: What it’s like to have to check your cell phone at the door
Johannes Visser is part-time teacher, part-time Education Correspondent. He regularly uses student input (ages 15-18) in his journalism, including in his podcast Listen up!, which he puts together every other week with some of his students.
In a recent project, he asked his students to hide their smartphone for a week (article in Dutch only) and write about what this was like for them.
This resulted in a string of articles that provided unique insight into the lives of teenagers and a weeks-long discussion engaging parents and teachers about the pros and cons of using smartphones in the classroom.
Johannes’ students are contributing members of De Correspondent and actively engage in the discussion.
2. A thousand doctors know more than one healthcare correspondent
Primary caregivers in the Netherlands revolted two years ago against what they perceived as excessive bureaucracy hindering their daily work. Our healthcare correspondent already had The Big Story on this emerging revolt because of the hundreds of stories health professionals had shared on De Correspondent when asked for examples of bureaucracy in healthcare.
This collaboration between reader-experts and our healthcare correspondent resulted in a series of stories, including this one, This is what keeps your doctor up at night (in Dutch only), which was based on some of the best examples provided by readers.
Or take this one, How sacred is doctor-patient confidentiality? (in Dutch only), an open-ended op-ed that asks to what extent doctors respect patient confidentiality. The piece prompted a lively debate among professionals in the field.
3. UN employees transformed into sources
Our Conflict and Development Correspondent Maite Vermeulen wrote extensively on the UN in the year this institution turned 70. As always, she started with a call for expertise, which generated some 70 people who work or used to work in the UN system and who were eager to help. She decided to ask a group of them (17 people at UN missions around the globe) to keep a diary for a week and send it her way. Their varied experiences and insights resulted in a story about Just another surreal day at the UN (in Dutch only).
4. Fact-checking with readers
Our Clean Tech and Mobility Correspondent Thalia Verkade is currently researching batteries. She stumbled upon a statement by Elon Musk that he could meet the world’s energy needs by building 100 megafactories around the world, and decided to check his claim, with the help of three readers with relevant expertise. The story continued in the contribution section (in Dutch only).
At the close of the piece, Thalia credits her readers:
“In writing this piece, I was assisted by quite a few experts and members who proofread my work, and whose expertise exceeded my own. Yvo Hunink guided me back from a dead-end involving diesel generators and pointed out the importance of peaks in energy demand, for which Luuk Veeken then provided a mathematical model. Jan Derk Stegeman alerted me to the work being done by Mark Jacobson. Many thanks to all of you for your time and effort.
Any mistakes in logic or calculations are purely my own.”
5. How a porn actress, a producer, a researcher, a porn addict, and a bunch of hackers helped us cover the porn industry
When we started out covering the porn industry, we issued a call as we always do when launching a new project. In this case, we asked for assistance with scraping and analyzing data from the world’s most popular porn sites:
“Who are we looking for?
We’re trying to assemble a multidisciplinary group. We’re looking for engineers who are good at scraping data, for example, and who know how to use APIs.
We’re looking for people who are versed in network theory and are skilled at using programs like Gephi and NodeXL.
We’re looking for people who are skilled at data scrubbing and analysis.
We’re looking for people who can contribute insights from a sociological perspective (preferably including quantitative skills).
We’re also very eager to have women on board to help drive and execute this project.
Source: Call to readers for porn project (in Dutch only)
We received over 50 useful responses to our call, ranging from a man who was being treated for porn addiction to a reader who said she worked in the industry as an actress. Ten of these people (also including an academic researcher, an industry producer, and artists who reflect on porn through art) attended the reader expert day in our newsroom and spent the day sharing their experiences with, and knowledge of, the industry.
While they talked, a group of 10 members with hacking expertise were monitoring the flow of information on and to the 100 largest porn sites. This all resulted in our article, Porn is more female-friendly than ever, and other things the data reveals about our desires (explicit images, in Dutch only).
And here’s the article about a contributing member who shared her inside knowledge of working as an actress in the porn industry (in Dutch only).
6. A critical reader of one story became a source for the next
Correspondent Arjen van Veelen set out to write about the many discontents in Dutch society today, in an attempt to understand the rise of populism. In his first piece he mentioned that most populist voters are from low income families in old parts of town.
This resulted in some angry remarks from one reader who is an electoral geographer by profession. He showed Arjen some maps which paint a different picture. Instead of ignoring this reader and his comments, our correspondent decided to invite him to share what he knew, and Arjen went on a guided tour through one of his city’s middle-class suburbs. Admitting his blind spot for a considerable segment of Dutch society, Arjen then wrote a great account of the trip, with the geographer as his guide (in Dutch only).
Afterwards we asked this geographer to publish a series of maps in the run-up to the Dutch election in March 2017. So he turned from a critical reader into a source and is now a contributing correspondent.
7. New to the Netherlands: connecting readers and refugees
Some 2000 members of De Correspondent signed up to find a newcomer (a refugee who had arrived in the country sometime in the past year) and then meet up for six monthly questionnaire-based interviews. Nearly 400 pairs of members and newcomers have since formed.
Three months in, the New to the Netherlands project has already led to a wealth of new perspectives and a string of stories – from individual portraits to general pieces on what refugees run up against while trying to start a new life here – all based on the one-on-one interviews conducted by our readers, across the country. Here’s one piece, in English.
8. Dementia Diaries
Our Aging Correspondent Heiba Targhi Bakkali wanted to interview people with dementia, because dementia is rapidly becoming the #1 disease in the Western world. But how do you interview someone with Alzheimer’s, when you can’t know whether their recollections and memories are reliable?
Heiba decided to hand out phone-like devices, specifically designed for use by people with dementia, to record their thoughts and send them to our editors. Around 25 members of De Correspondent responded to her call because they either have dementia or know someone who does. These readers now contribute to what we call the Dementia Diaries (in Dutch only).