Coffee chats with executives: Nesrine Mazjoub

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Whether we get it delivered to our front porch every morning, through updates on our phones at the swipe of our fingertips or even through Anderson Cooper on CNN, news is a central part of our daily lives. It is the most effective way we stay connected with the rest of the world. However, most 24-hour news cycles only give us a glimpse of an entire story. Is there clean water in Flint yet? Have the Rohingya refugees finally found peace? In our technologically advanced society and interconnected social media sphere, why is it so difficult to keep up with news stories that fall out of the interest of the 24-hour news cycles?

Nesrine Majzoub solves this issue with her startup news organization, The Lens. After graduating from Cal Poly with a major in sociology and minor in religious studies in 2017, Majzoub spent some time traveling and creating documentaries. Between her visits around the world, from Thailand to Washington D.C., where she covered inauguration weekend, Mazjoub decided she wanted to take her work to the next level.

She wanted to tell stories about the human effects of political and social issues, and add a deeper, more personal element to news reporting. With this goal to increase empathy and understanding, she co-founded The Lens.

Majzoub’s startup provides monthly updates on stories that have been overlooked or pushed aside from the public eye. The Lens publishes one video a week, following various stories from all over the world.The Wire sat down with Mazjoub to get insight on this revolutionary new way of reporting news and their fun company worth working for.

NT: What makes The Lens so unique compared to other news sites?

NM: We specifically focus on first-person stories. It’s easy for the human element to get lost in a bird’s-eye perspective of reporting news, and we want to directly focus on the people being affected. We also provide ways for the audience to take action if they want to through simple life changes. Moreover, we commit to following stories over time rather than sticking with a 24-hour issue and dropping it. Story reports like this are never fully understood and don’t accurately depict the gravity of the situation. We ultimately offer a user-generated platform by connecting stories we produce and allowing the audience to consume and participate in them.

NT: How have you used your newfound social platform?

NM: Well, we’ve covered a couple of different events: the Venezuelan political crisis, Rohingya crisis, March for our Lives in Washington D.C. and the Opioid epidemic in the states. It has been really moving and powerful to give these people a voice and to try to understand the struggles they’ve been through.

NT: What are some goals you want this company to achieve in the next year?

NM: We just applied for an incubator at Matter in San Francisco. Matter helps media companies that work towards social good and The Lens’ mission and values align with theirs. I want to get connected with more resources and with investors that understand this industry. A long term goal of mine is to up our publishing from one to four videos per week. I also want to expand our team and to grow our audience so we can reach more people consistently.

NT: Where do you see this company five years from now?

NM: I see us producing 300 videos a month with a large team working behind it. I also want our own fancy headquarters that we can build our own fun company culture around. I hope that The Lens will create change in society that will far outlast any of our lives. I want it to continue to grow and bring a larger meaning to society, and eventually become a dominating news publisher on a domestic and international scale. Ultimately I see it becoming an active force in creating empathy in the world.

NT: What value does your company provide to someone who is looking for an entry-level job?

NM: The Lens is unique because there is no corporate ladder. We currently have a small team so whoever joins holds a lot of responsibility and requires great ownership to be taken. More importantly, The Lens is a place to have big dreams and to go achieve them. I would consider myself to be a “loose boss” because I help make the environment of our company more fun yet still challenging. I hire people who have these big dreams and goals and urge them to go out there and accomplish them in any way they can. I just want my employees to create something meaningful in society. At the end of the day, I’m proud of what I do at work and I look forward to coming here every day.

The next time you’re mindlessly scrolling through your news app on your phone, take a step back and think, are you really reading news you can connect with? From first-hand interviews with Rohingya refugees to speaking to the citizens during the Venezuelan political crisis, The Lens invites readers to step into the shoes of those affected by these crises and empathize with them. Unlike other news organizations, it is interactive and calls for action from its readers. Now that is new news.

Check out The Lens at .

*This interview has been lightly edited for style and clarity. 

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