Meet Laura Carpenter, CEO & Founder of Abridge News, which is a political news platform that makes it easy for readers to engage with different sides of an issue. Abridge News’s proprietary technology, the ‘Opinion Spectrum’, offers multiple perspectives of a debate allowing readers the opportunity to see viewpoints across the entirety of the political spectrum.
APRIL: First of all, I was so excited when I found Abridge News, I was desperately searching for smart media outlets that care about offering the news in a thoughtful way and then I came across you. Tell me a little bit about Abridge News.
LAURA: I co-founded Abridge News two years ago, because I thought it was way too hard to see smart opinions on different sides of a debate. Unlike most news outlets that offer just the facts or a single opinion piece on a top, Abridge News gives readers multiple perspectives across a debate spectrum for every topic published. Our users react to each featured perspective, and then, can see how their reactions compare with those of other readers. We have an iOS app, a daily email newsletter, and a website.
APRIL: What has been the general response from the audience, are people favoring this type of reporting as opposed to the bigger and more partisan news networks?
LAURA: We get great feedback from our audience. People like Abridge News because it’s a different way to engage with interesting topics. Some people use our app because they don’t know what to think about an issue. Others use Abridge News because they want to learn how to rebut an opposing argument. And sometimes, people with an existing opinion will read an opposing view on Abridge News that changes their mind.
APRIL: I noticed you have a sliding scale on all your articles that allow readers to swipe left for more liberal views and swipe right for more conservative news. How did you come up with that and what has been the importance of it?
LAURA: We built the sliding scale – which we refer to as our “Opinion Spectrum” – to make it fun and easy to jump back and forth between different views. We took inspiration from companies like Tinder. We wanted a fundamentally new user experience, and wanted to make sure that the Abridge News experience is fun, rather than feeling too academic.
APRIL: How do you ensure that the information you provide is as objective as possible? What is the biggest challenge you face trying to be an objective and ‘unbiased’ news outlet, given that we’re all guilty of implicit bias?
LAURA: We never claim to be ‘unbiased’ or 100% objective. Because our site relies on human curation, our bias will always influence our product. Our bias impacts choices that we make in terms of which topics to cover, which opinions and editorials to feature, and which arguments to highlight. There’s no human (or algorithm) that will be truly unbiased. However, right now, we are building out a process by which anybody can submit topics, opinions, and arguments to our site. This ‘contributor-based’ approach will help us achieve a bottoms up editorial process. Here, we are taking inspiration from Wikipedia.
We aren’t trying to be objective or ‘unbiased’. Instead, we are trying to be inclusive and fair, by showcasing the best arguments on opposing sides of a debate. Nobody will truly be unbiased. It’s more important is to be open-minded.
APRIL: Do you think that the people who need your type of approach to news the most are the ones that are least likely to look for it, and how do you bridge that gap?
LAURA: We are not out to change views – specifically, we don’t aim to make liberals more conservative or vice versa. Instead, our mission is to increase empathy and critical thinking in the world by exploring diverse perspectives. People who share this mission will enjoy our site.
APRIL: Lastly, I just want to ask you… Where do you see our media culture going in the next five, ten years?
LAURA: I think that traditional reporting and investigative journalism will be concentrated among a few big players like the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal, because they will have the resources and the scale to do it well. Other platforms that specialize in commentary or opinions will see their success hinge on the quality of their community. I believe that a bottoms-up approach to opinion-style content (where content is contributed by the users of a media platform and moderated by super users) is the best path forward.