CS: The tension is there, and in order for us to succeed in doing the more ambitious project reporting we will need to be entrepreneurial and creative in how we fund it. And in this project we were. And in how we balance time—in what we can invest in a project versus what we have to pay attention to every day. On a separate note, our network of seventy-five correspondents, sixty-five on contract in more than fifty countries, that network lends itself to project reporting. Another example I would throw out to you, which is a much lighter metabolism for project reporting, is our “World of Trouble” series. It was a really fairly simple concept, which was twenty correspondents in twenty countries will tell you what’s happening with the global economic downturn. We produced these short text blocks from twenty countries that can capture in a snapshot some metrics and some anecdotes of what’s happening all over the world as the economy turns down. That is a very good kind of project for our organization. Very different from “Life, Death and the Taliban” but something we also want to pursue.
Our next partnership is with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. We have partnered with them because they are a syndication newspaper—so they pay for GlobalPost syndication. They have the G-20 hosted in Pittsburgh this year on Sept. 20th. So we are right now turning our attention to a new partnership. It’s a completely different model which takes that “World of Trouble” module that we created, much simpler Flash development than Brian Storm’s model. We did this in-house. It’s much less ambitious in terms of its functionality and how slick it is and how much time it involves putting together. But it’s really practical and it really plays to our strengths. So we’re going to do a G-20 module built off the “World of Trouble” module for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for both our Web site, GlobalPost, but also for their Web site and their print edition.
We’ll do twenty stories that will look at the G-20 countries and where they are and what they expect to get out of the G-20. We’re really trying to help print newspapers to see that we offer something extraordinary, which is we will localize foreign stories for you. So these are not big projects that require Flash development and state of the art videography and photography. But they are also important and we’re trying to balance the different models and both deliver something really in-depth for what I believe is the most challenging foreign policy issue for the Obama administration, which is Afghanistan, and use our network to take on another huge issue for this country and the world, which is the global economy. And in those two you have very different approaches but two good examples of the kind of project reporting we want to do.
AF: In the context of current events, you talked earlier about the purpose of “Life, Death and the Taliban” but what about the timing? Why now?
CS: The Obama administration announced the offensive with the increase of 21,000 troops, which would deploy over the summer, so I wanted to do the reporting in the summer and catch that news wave, which is crashing right now. We also had the election on August 20 and we knew that date, so we were looking at launching at the time of the election to help shape the debate when we knew it would be very much in the spotlight. And, sadly, violence and casualty rates have gone through the roof. They’re higher than they have been since 2001 and the U.S. and international forces’ losses are very high. So there’s a sense of a critical crossroads in Afghanistan and we wanted to time the project to that but we also wanted to build a project that can hold content for the whole rest of the year. So that’s why we called it, “Life, Death and the Taliban” and we tried to frame it as giving you the history and the current context you need to follow this story. We now have our live reporting on the election going into this project and our live reporting on an embed in Helmand Province by Kimberly Johnson, who’s a fantastic reporter.
AF: So now that the election has happened, what is the consensus about how it played out and how does the piece inform what has happened?