Lara Setrakian was frustrated. She was covering the Syria conflict as a correspondent for Bloomberg and ABC News, but her own media diet was inconsistent and unreliable. Her response: create Syria Deeply, a website that uses the latest digital tools to add context to news and social feeds, and tell a richer story. Setrakian and her team add interactive timelines and maps, post news briefs on SoundCloud, arrange Google Hangouts for experts to compare notes, and invite a community of op-ed writers to give an up-to-the-second snapshot of the country. The lively format sets a high bar for single-topic coverage. “I want to redesign the user experience of news,” says Setrakian, who boasts that 50% of her audience visit the site again.
Setrakian engenders that kind of loyalty by thinking like a host. “Every time someone comes to Syria Deeply, I feel like they’re coming over to my house for dinner,” she says. “What will I serve them today?” (Her version of seeing what’s in season at the farmers’ market: “What are people talking about on Quora? What’s confusing people?”) Not surprisingly, Setrakian feels, well, deeply about the region. An Armenian-American, she cites as inspiration the history of Armenian refugees who walked across the border into Syria 100 years ago. Today they’re moving in the other direction. After much clamoring from readers to replicate the Syria Deeply model, she’s finally ready to do so. Iran and Pakistan will be the next Deeplys. And not a moment too soon.
[Photo by Flora Hanitijo]