Australian start-up The Conversation is bringing on academics to contextualize news stories by adding depth, background and analysis to the day’s events.
Take, for example, yesterday’s Taliban attack on Kabul’s Intercontinental Hotel. Today there’s commentary from a lecturer in Middle East Studies at Deakin University aptly titled, Afghanistan: what the Hotel Intercontinental attack means.
The idea here is move beyond having a few quotes from experts on a topic, to having experts write about the topics themselves.
While the site uses professional journalists as its editors, it uses academics to provide the content for the site. The goal, says the site’s charter, is to provide “a fact-based and editorially-independent forum” that will “unlock the knowledge and expertise of researchers and academics to provide the public with clarity and insight into society’s biggest problems” and “give experts a greater voice in shaping scientific, cultural and intellectual agendas by providing a trusted platform that values and promotes new thinking and evidence-based research.”
The academics are unpaid but have an interesting motivator: part of Australia’s approach to university promotion is how well and how often academics engage the public with their work. The Conversation gives them a platform to do just that and delivers metrics back to contributors (think: pages views, retweets, etc.) so they can quantify their impact.