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One of the promising new digital-media efforts I try to keep an eye on is News Deeply, the company that former ABC News and Bloomberg foreign correspondent Lara Setrakian launched in 2012 with a site focused on news about Syria called Syria Deeply. From the beginning, Setrakian said her plan was to build a network of such sites, and she just launched the latest one on Wednesday: a site dedicated to ongoing coverage about Ebola called Ebola Deeply.
As its Syria project does for news about the ongoing conflict there, the new site will combine original reporting from a network of freelancers in Africa and elsewhere with crowdsourced content, as well as stories taken from partners such as Associated Press and aggregated from other mainstream and alternative sources.
Setrakian told Fast Company that the site has 34 freelancers in Africa and the U.S., and the managing editor behind the site lived in West Africa for several years covering health care. Ebola Deeply launched with an interactive map of existing cases, a real-time infection counter, background pieces on the science of the disease and video interviews with key players such as the president of Liberia.
In a personal essay about why she got involved with News Deeply and the new site, CNN International anchor and correspondent Isha Sesay writes about how her family is from Sierra Leone — where thousands of cases of ebola have been reported — and her fear for their safety drove her to help start Ebola Deeply:
We always think of guilt as a bad thing, but sometimes it can motivate you to do the right thing. In my case, that has been to join a group of incredibly passionate and talented individuals to build Ebola Deeply. Our mission is simple: to humanize this public health emergency and to drive the dialogue in search of new ideas and solutions to the crisis.
Setrakian also wrote about why she decided to start Ebola Deeply — which she called “an attempt to find new and creative ways to raise awareness, to amplify aid and to generate solutions-driven thinking” — in a piece published at the World Economic Forum website:
[blockquote person=”” attribution=””]Why did we do it? Because embedded within the Ebola crisis there is an information crisis. There has been a lack of coherence in the narrative, a persistent gap in what we need to know in order to tackle the spread and end the outbreak. Those gaps in information have led to missed moments and overlooked opportunities for impact – ones we can no longer afford to ignore.[/blockquote]
In many ways, News Deeply is a slightly different take on the “explainer journalism” efforts of companies like Vox — and one that I personally find a lot more effective. Instead of just providing information cards and objective background pieces on a topic, News Deeply does smart aggregation and curation of existing information, but also has its own reported pieces, and crowdsources valuable content from social media and from individuals who are living in the places it reports on.
As a company, News Deeply isn’t just focused on media but also on the social benefits that such content can provide: it is what’s known as a “Benefit Corporation” — one that considers social purpose as well as the bottom line — with the stated mission of “advancing foreign policy literacy through public service journalism.” The site’s description says Ebola Deeply’s goal is to “add greater clarity, deeper understanding and more sustained engagement to the global conversation” about the disease.
News Deeply relies for funding on grants from a number of public foundations, as well as white-label versions of its topic-specific sites that it creates for clients such as the World Economic Forum, Columbia University and others.
Post and thumbnail photos courtesy of Thinkstock / Maxsym Yemelynov