So I had all this stuff I wanted to share with Sally and her husband Don and we’re sitting here watching it in my office in Boston when I got back. And then that night, which is the morning in Afghanistan, the road into the school was bombed. And that’s when the twenty-five people were killed, including thirteen schoolchildren, two of whom were girls in the school, and the other eleven of whom were boys in the neighboring school. It’s so sad; it’s such a journey. It’s so truthful to what is happening in Afghanistan, which is complex and fraught with peril and fear and diminishing hope and I thought that story, in and of itself, says so much. And I thought Seamus’s story also, visually, gives you that sense of a contrasting reality, really, which is—in the long run aren’t things a little bit better? Even as bad as they are now, let’s really look at the fifteen-year trajectory. And that family story tells us that, slowly, Afghanistan is rebuilding.
AF: In talking about the sheer amount of planning and production that goes into something like this for the Web in which, you said, the metabolism is really quick., Media Storm and Brian Storm put together these beautiful, almost documentary pieces—so how do you reconcile the two?
CS: We tried to bring our metabolism and try to balance that with Brian Storm’s. I did a lot of reporting on veterans. [MediaStorm’s] “Marlboro Marine” is the best narrative that’s been done on veterans in America. Period. It is the most powerful and searing portrait of what it’s like to come home. It is excellent. But. It’s very difficult on a Web site to get someone to watch something that is eighteen minutes. So we very intentionally wanted to break this up so that we could appeal to those faster metabolisms of the Web but not compromise fully the sense that we do need to tell you some long, cool stories and to gird them with history, with reporting, real old-fashioned reporting, you know? Names, sources, dates, times, all that stuff. That balance is what we’re looking for.
AF: So how do you do something that can be very high-gloss and very production-intensive and make it sustainable?
CS: One of the ways we sustained this project was we partnered. We partnered with PRI’s The World. I worked with Bob Ferrante of PRI to get funding for global religion reporting. The Henry Luce Foundation provided that to PRI. We, GlobalPost, paid for the photography, videography and the editing and the build out the landing page but we took the audio and combined it with what we were able to gather and then we used our reporters in the field to complement the reporting. Then we created our own package. So it’s not like it’s all one partnership but it’s a partnership that allowed us to each go to our strengths, for radio, for the web, through GlobalPost. In a more ad hoc fashion, we did it with the NewsHour as well. The NewsHour used our content to build an online profile of the Taliban leaders who I interviewed, and then they did a piece in which we talked about “Life, Death and the Taliban,” and they showed B-roll behind it. I wouldn’t call it a full-on video package that aired on the NewsHour, but next time we’ll get there. We’re on our way. We did The World and GlobalPost this time, and NewsHour sort of fell into partnership with us. And now NewsHour, The World, and GlobalPost are intending to do another one down the road, to be determined.
AF: Is the tension between getting the daily story and doing long-form narrative pieces any more strained in the field of foreign reporting, where just being able to have a reporter on the ground at all has become a luxury?