Our site sets out to have a distinctly American voice. Not a tone that is nationalistic or jingoistic, but a writing style with a good ear for American storytelling and a respect for the standards of American journalism. We also want to provide both current and historical context—for instance, by recognizing that Americans do not have enough grounding in history to understand international stories. So we built interactive timelines for many of the country pages. We began our launch with a fifty-part series from many corners of the world titled “For Which It Stands,” focused around a single question that we wanted to pose on the eve of the new presidency: What does the idea of America mean to the world?
GlobalPost has assembled a stellar team that includes veterans such as H. D. S. Greenway and William Dowell, both with distinguished careers that stretch across a half century, from Vietnam to Iraq. We have decorated, mid-career correspondents such as Joshua Hammer in Berlin, Matt McAllester in London, Matt Benyon Rees in Jerusalem, Edward Gargan in Beijing, Caryle Murphy in Saudi Arabia, and Jane Arraf in Baghdad. And we also have tremendous young talent, such as Mildred Cherfils in Paris, Theodore May in
Cairo, and Patrick Winn in Thailand. All are working with us as a piece of freelance portfolio. They are paid a steady retainer of $1,000 per month for four dispatches, and they get ten thousand shares of the company. Overall, employees make up nearly half of the non-investor common stock in the company.
On the business side, Phil has kept us nimble and expanded our opportunities for revenue to include two new streams. First, we have developed a syndication model for newspapers, which are cutting back on or abandoning foreign coverage. We announced during the week of our launch that we had signed on the New York Daily News, a huge opportunity for our company and a great full-circle moment for me personally. Second, we created a membership model for premium content, called Passport.
It’s been thrilling to be on the street for the revolution that is unfolding in our business. And of course we’re not alone. In January 2007, Jim VandeHei and John F. Harris, the former Washington Post political reporters, started Politico, which has capitalized on the most exciting election in a generation and done an excellent job building a news organization that has become a must-read for political junkies. Less than a year before our launch, Paul Steiger, the legendary Wall Street Journal editor, got his nonprofit ProPublica off the ground. More reporters and editors are and will emerge from the traditions of great newsrooms to try to find a niche for well-reported storytelling in the digital age.
There are many of you in your cubicles in the newsroom or your home offices now, I expect, plotting your own escape from mainstream media, and I encourage you to break out. It is an exciting time, a historic shift in how the world will be informed. I compare it to the Middle Ages. The entities that make up the Holy Roman Empire of journalism—the big city newspapers and networks—are seeing the reach of their far-flung armies diminish as smaller principalities emerge and construct their own walled city states.
I still nervously hope that those of us who’ve made the jump will not be remembered as Don Quixotes tilting at windmills. I try hard to convince myself on the drive home from work at the end of some very long days that we are more akin to knights of a new order, marching out with battered armor to slay some dragons.