Discover Lafayette welcomed Christiaan Mader, founder and executive editor of the Current, Lafayette’s first non-profit digital news organization which he launched in 2018, to our show. He is also the host of Out to Lunch Acadiana, a radio show and podcast on KRVS that features Acadiana business community members.
Christian is an award-winning investigative and culture journalist, whose work has appeared in The New York Times, Vice, Offbeat, Gambit, the USA Today Network, and The Advocate.
Most notably, Christiaan Mader, in an investigative series as the lead reporter involving former Lafayette City Marshall Brian Pope for The Independent, along with IND editors Leslie Turk and Walter Pierce and photographers Robin May and Wynce Nonelly, was awarded the Freedom of Information Award by the Louisiana Press Association. This award is the highest honor that can be awarded to journalists in their field.
A Lafayette native, Christiaan graduated from high school at Episcopal School of Acadiana and Emory University in journalism. He spent a decade touring as a musician with The Brass Bed and to this day says, ” If I had my druthers, I’d be Paul McCartney!” And, we think he really means it!
Christiaan loves Lafayette and attributes his good fortune of traveling as a musician for ten years as satisfying his curiosity to see the world. He realized at a young age that he loved Lafayette and was very happy to be a part of the fabric of his beloved Lafayette community; yet, he is grateful to have had the opportunity to see other places and be able to have freely chosen Lafayette as his home with no regrets.
A few years back, Christiaan returned to his journalism roots and wrote cultural pieces for Lafayette Travel (Lafayette Convention and Visitors Commission). That work led to other opportunities, initially encouraged by Mary Tutwiler who was a writer for the former local periodical, The Independent. Christiaan enjoyed writing local pieces but never thought he’d end up writing political pieces, which editors Steve and Cherry May eventually encouraged him to do.
The Current has gained traction since its initial launch in a news market which includes The Advocate and the Daily Advertiser. Christiaan shared that when he originally began his digital publication, both local newspapers were following the national trends of smaller local staffs and downsizing operations. Within 14 to 16 months thereafter, things were quite different, and both local newspapers were back in the game as viable news organizations. In fact, The Advocate, owned by the John Georges family, is invested in preserving its print product and its market has grown across South Louisiana.
The cultural shift to digital media has greatly impacted traditional print journalism. Google and other social media platforms are very inexpensive ways advertisers can get out their word, and it has affected profitability of print media. Lafayette is very unusual as it may be one of the smallest markets in the U. S. with two print newspapers.
Christiaan spoke of two big trends in journalism: the loss of revenue resulting in a loss of paid journalists on staff, and fewer companies overall due to consolidation of publications. He shared that most people don’t realize how labor-intensive journalism is; experience and institutional knowledge are critical factors in producing accurate and knowledgable reporting.
The Current’s mission to serve the public good without concern for debt aligns with the nonprofit sector of journalism’s focus on editorial independence; it is one of only 250 other nonprofit publications in the United States. “The business model is like public radio,” Christiaan shared, “in that people either subscribe at $5.00 to $250 per month to support the mission, or they draw upon corporate underwriting and grants from organizations that support journalism. The Current’s revenue stream does include a bit of advertising dollars. All content online is free to the public to consume and for others to republish, in line with its nonprofit mission.
Christiaan Mader is the only full-time employee of The Current, with Leslie Turk as Managing Editor, and reporting contributors including Geoff Daly, Leslie Turk, Christine Baniewicz, April Courville, Ruth Foote, Nathan Stubb, and Matthew Holland.
Journalism is a facsinating field and when asked how most stories come to be, Christiaan concluded that there are few times when you get a call from a “cloak and dagger type” of informant. Most stories shared are about 60% ture and his obligation is to check out the facts. “Most of journalism is checking out the details of tips. Doubt everything and then try to confirm it. Most of the time the rumors don’t check out.”
The bread and butter reporting of The Current involves Lafayette Consolidated Government issues and the publication focuses on making community connections. Christiaan’s approach is centered around putting things in proper context, i.e., not just reporting on problems but on how solutions are being developed.
One series which he proudly referred to is Lifeline Covid which highlighted the chasm in access to healthcare faced by the poorest among us. “The pandemic’s weight strained the bones of Louisiana’s brittle healthcare system, which took on one of the worst outbreaks in the country. We already knew the underlying disconnections — race, income, location, age — that have persisted even as hundreds of thousands more Louisianans now have health insurance through the state’s Medicaid Expansion, adopted in 2016. What we didn’t know, perhaps, is that a tool for bridging those well-documented gaps was already in the pockets of millions: phones.”
We thank Christiaan Mader for his commitment to the truthful and transparent reporting of issues in our community. For more information, please visit https://thecurrentla.com.