While traveling with his two millennial daughters, veteran journalist Nelson Graves noticed they were attune to news headlines, but they didn’t necessarily understand the context behind them.
“When it comes to the news, we don’t actually require or often offer the kind of background that helps people or young people make sense of events,” said Graves, who has held several reporting and editing positions at Reuters from 1986-2010.
In an effort to fill the knowledge gap, Graves decided to start News-Decoder, an online outlet for millennials everywhere to discuss international affairs and learn the historical context of current headlines.
As a nonprofit, News-Decoder's model will be two-pronged: The first part, a free and open site, will be curated with content produced by millennials and experienced journalists. The second aspect of News-Decoder will be a closed forum. The closed forum will be subscription-only, but academic institutions and libraries will pay — not millennials.
Within the closed community, academics, students and experts will discuss and debate current events. Within the open community, young people from all over the world will share perspectives on issues happening in their own countries through written posts and multimedia.
Graves and his co-founders recruited more than 30 experienced journalists to become News-Decoder correspondents. Correspondents will contribute content and help lead discussions. The team has previously covered presidencies, wars, major international events and worked in bureaus all over the world. The catch? None of the News-Decoder correspondents are millennials.
“We want a balance between experience and age,” Graves said, noting that once the project gets off the ground, his first goal is to hire a team of young people. “We want these two generations to complement each other.”
Graves has already received significant support: So far through a crowdfunding campaign, he's raised more than US$47,000, and there are still seven days until the campaign ends. (Graves’ original goal was US$40,000.)
Below, Graves shares how News-Decoder will unfold once he kicks off the pilot phase in Fall 2015.
IJNet: What kind of content will the millennials produce for News-Decoder?
Graves: Let’s say a theme that we’re discussing is the Arab Spring. I could very easily see millennials, or young people who live in Arab Spring countries, sharing their experiences and insights about what’s going on there.
I could see a roundtable with young people from various places sharing their experiences with people from other countries.
This will not become an open Twitter feed where people can throw up whatever photo they want. It will be curated, but [there might be] some impressive images that will be taken by millennials to illustrate or capture their experiences.
The global perspective is really important. Even the bigger media groups tend to be national in focus. They see the world as us and the rest of the world. Even news organizations like CNN see themselves as American and the rest of the world as international and foreign.
We want to break down that paradigm entirely. We want to be absolutely international so that everything we do is talking about big international themes so we can allow young people across the world to come and grapple with big themes on the same terms.
IJNet: Will you have millennials pitching ideas to you?
Graves: Actually, the plan is to hire young people to help get this thing off the ground. That’s an important aspect. I’ll be involved at arm's length, and the day-to-day operations will be run by bright millennials.
I’m not entirely sure what system we’ll come up with for handling contributions. This will be thought of during the upcoming pilot phase. I’m going to rely a lot on millennials to share their ideas on this. I suspect they have ideas and knowledge of ways to share that I may not have.
This interview has been condensed and edited.