Story July 13, 2007
Pulitzer Center Staff
Are we tempting fate, to start a new blog on Friday 13th? Maybe so, but then we started the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting at a low point of media interest in global reporting -- and you only have to click through the Center's site for proof that great reporting is still being done, and finding outlets.
This blog is about highlighting some great international reporting, especially pieces that haven't gotten the exposure they deserve. We'll point you to useful commentary on what's gone unreported too, what to do about filling the gaps and, more broadly, what is the role of professional journalists internationally at a time when barriers of all sorts are breaking down.
One of the issues close to home for me is the role of classic foreign correspondents, stationed several years at a time in a single region, versus enterprise project reporting. By the latter I don't mean "parachute journalism," jumping in to cover a coup or earthquake or flood, but rather a considered commitment of time and resources to a specific region or topic of interest. That was traditionally the route chosen by my old newspaper, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and it afforded people like me the opportunity to do many in-depth projects around the world. I know we missed a lot. We were usually reliant on translators and local fixers, for example, and couldn't pretend the sort of lived knowledge that time alone can bring. What we had on the best of these projects, however, was the luxury of prolonged focus on the subject we had chosen. Post-Dispatch photographer Odell Mitchell and I got to spend six weeks traveling all over South Africa in the spring of 1990, for example, a time when most of the foreign correspondents based there were swamped with simply reporting the news. We had the opportunity to attempt a portrait of the country as a whole, at one of the most tumultuous periods in its history.
The other asset we brought to assignments like that was a fresh eye. You can say that risks naivete -- sometimes surely it does -- but it also gives you a report much closer in sensibility to that of your average reader or viewer back home. You see things that the rest of us, inured by years of travel, look right through. Which brings me to several examples that crossed my inbox this month from my old colleague Bill Freivogel. Bill was deputy Washington bureau chief for the Post-Dispatch and then deputy editor of its editorial page, an award-winning journalist known for tenacious investigations and one of the best legal minds in journalism. He now directs the journalism program at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.
For all his experience Bill has not traveled much overseas -- and never to Africa, until this month, where he joined a group of SIUC colleagues for meetings with journalists in Kampala, Nairobi and Addis Ababa. He's been writing his family and friends about the experience and has agreed to let me share them here ("Letter from Murchison Falls," "Letter from Kampala," and "Letter from Nairobi" ). To me they are great arguments for the fresh eye, for the importance of remembering to report what you actually see and to never forget that energy, enthusiasm and an open mind are usually at least as important as the advance knowledge you bring to an assignment.
Let us know what you think! And give us your thoughts in general, on stories worth passing along and subjects that deserve more coverage than they're getting.
The Pulitzer Center has steadily increased its presence on the web, and especially its interactive features. Our reporting projects now routinely include blog posts from the field, we have more and more videos on YouTube, and now our Global Gateway education initiative is up and running, too. We want to bring that same immediacy, and opportunity for debate, in our discussion here.