We have freelancers knocking on our doors every day who want to go to Iraq, but we don’t do that. We use a correspondent who we know is very experienced and who we know can go there and report in an important way and tell us the big developments. There’s plenty of live coverage out of Iraq. We want something we consider value-added and the same is true of Afghanistan.
AF: What I got from “Life, Death and the Taliban” was that this is a crucial moment, time is ripe for dialogue, and lot of factors, including the election and the surge in U.S. troops, have set the region up for a major transition. But a recent report by David Folkenflik for NPR cited statistics from the Project for Excellence in Journalism showing that the story in Afghanistan has not been very high profile. In fact, it saw just as much coverage this whole year as Michael Jackson’s death and that only happened in June.
CS: I heard that and I was dismayed that they [NPR] didn’t include our coverage. Disappointed even. Because I felt like, ‘God, we really have tried to provide context we really have covered it over time.’ And here we are, this very small, new news organization and he was talking with a lot of really interesting people —I thought it was a good report — I just, as a co-founder of a new news organization, you constantly feel like you want to alert people to check out what we’re doing.
AF: Right, he was talking more about legacy news outlets, The New York Times, The Washington Post, andthe Associated Press.
CS: But he said, “the media” and you’re like, ‘Well wait, you’re not really looking at the whole landscape of it.’ If they’re only looking at newspapers, well what about other news organizations? There’s a very retro, mainstream media set of analytics that apply. And we are a stealth news organization. We are, I think, a model for how you can operate without the ancien regime approach of big, old media. I don’t know if you’ve ever been in the presence of the networks covering a war, but they set up palaces with heated swimming pools and lots of producers and it’s what I call “the ancien regime.” It’s a lot of profligate waste that could be going to good old-fashioned reporting but it goes to a lot of cachet and access.
AF: Does that still happen now that foreign bureaus are closing?
CS: Less so. It’s more Spartan now for every news organization but some of that was still there. I could still feel it a little bit when I was in Afghanistan recently.
AF: So the funding is drying up for sustaining the kind of foreign bureaus that your organization is replacing, but is the appetite for international news still there?
CS: I think it is. When I do an appearance on “Fresh Air” or I’m on the NewsHour and you sort of tap into the great power and engines of these great news organizations that have great reach, our Web site generates a lot more traffic and then the comments we get are, ‘Thank you for doing this.’ And so we sense a yearning out there. I think there’s no question that there is a greater demand in America for news on Michael Jackson. What that says about America, I don’t know. But I know that there’s also a great yearning for serious journalism about the world and I think the landscape of American news media continues to be pretty barren in terms of what is offered to an American news audience for international coverage.
GlobalPost is a small news organization. We can’t compare to great news organizations like The New York Times, The Washington Post, BBC, NPR, that have a longer tradition and a great tradition of excellence for foreign reporting, but we are trying very much to be many new sets of eyeballs in the world that tell great news stories for an American news audience.