In a previous post, we asked the ominous question, "Are Small News Outlets Doomed?" After all, your typical small-town rag lacks the resources to keep up with rapid technological change while simultaneously catering to fickle demographics who can get the product for free. (Spoiler alert: The answer to the question is, "Maybe. But hopefully not.")
But the increasing technological change engulfing the journalism world also forces us to take a closer look at the long-term prospects for other elements of the field. Take international reporting and journalism, for example.
The prognosis is a bit more optimistic. In an ironic twist, the proliferation of technology and social media has made it easier to connect with colleagues across the globe. And as the Arab Spring showed us, anyone with a smart phone can be—for a lack of a better term—a "citizen journalist." It's exciting stuff, but it requires a whole new rule book.
This brings us to the GroundTruth Project. According to its mission statement, it seeks to "build the capacity for freedom of expression in developing countries around the world by helping to train a new generation of correspondents who can work together across different media platforms and cultural backgrounds." The project, which is based at PBS flagship producer WGBH, just announced support from two influential and deep-pocketed foundations to further its mission. What's more, funding from each foundation will go to two main pillars GroundTruth's mission—issue-specific reporting and training.
First up is a $300,000 grant from the MacArthur Foundation to support the GroundTruth's reporting on issues like climate change, youth unemployment, global health, and the legacy of the Arab Spring. As GroundTruth's web site notes, it works to "foster dialogue and engagement about these issues, with the aim of finding solutions as well as exposing injustice."
In other words, GroundTruth provides an internationally oriented "big picture" lens through which we can understand the major issues of our day. For the sake of juxtaposition, let's pretend you were a reporter in the 1970s during the energy crisis. The crisis was global, yet your instincts rightfully told you to focus on the impact on the American consumer and the economy. (You'd likely interview someone waiting on line to fill up their gas tank.) And given the landscape at the time—eons before the Internet and social media, much less free trade agreements that created an highly interdependent global economy—that approach made perfect sense.
Not today, of course.
This is something we all can agree on, but getting from Point A to Point B—that is, effectively presenting an issue's impact across diverse geographies and demographics while leveraging emerging technologies—is easier said than done. And for an answer about how to do it correctly, we turn to the GroundTruth's second gift.
The Ford Foundation has renewed its support to GroundTruth to continue a reporting project titled "Generation TBD: Despair and Opportunity for Millennials in an Uncertain Global Economy." Not content with focusing solely on American millennials, the project features 21 fellows, each trained on applicable multimedia technologies and tools, reporting in 11 countries. The series won a Regional Edward R. Murrow Award for video and culminated with a conference focused on the search for solutions at International House in New York.