Boston Journalists Launch, Alternative to Traditional Media’s Shrinking International Coverage

Declaring that “quality journalism in America is threatened more profoundly today than at any time in our history” by the accelerating death throes of the traditional newspaper and TV news businesses, two veteran Boston-area journalists yesterday launched GlobalPost, an online-only source for on-the-ground international news of the sort that’s increasingly scarce in the mainstream media.

Philip Balboni, the founder and longtime president of New England Cable News, and Charles Sennott, a staff writer and former foreign correspondent at the Boston Globe, say in the site’s mission statement that they want to “redefine international news for the digital age.” They’ll do that by hiring top correspondents who live in the countries they’re covering to write with “a decidedly American voice” about complex international issues—without all the expensive encumbrances of the traditional media, such as printing presses and satellite TV equipment.

“American television networks today largely cover the ‘hotspots’ of international news, and even then, not comprehensively,” the founders write in a statement about GlobalPost’s business model. “U.S. newspapers have significantly cut back their foreign bureaus. Ironically, this comes at a moment in history when globalization is sweeping across all continents.”

Balboni and Sennott hope to counter that trend by providing a daily mix of text articles, photos, videos, podcasts, and blog posts that both delve into the details of conditions in countries where correspondents are located and highlight cross-cutting regional or global issues. The operation, which is a kind of professional, for-profit echo of the Global Voices project launched in 2005 by Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, already has 65 correspondents in locations as varied as Pakistan, Senegal, Bolivia, and Zimbabwe. Many are freelancers or correspondents for other publications; for example, Jane Arraf, GlobalPost’s at-large Middle East correspondent, is the Iraq correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor.

For financial support, GlobalPost is counting on a combination of online advertising revenue, syndication deals with online and newspaper partners, and a soon-to-be-introduced membership system called Passport. Individual Passport memberships will cost $199 per year and will provide access to “exclusive content on key economic and political events”—including monthly newsletters, short text alerts on breaking news, and live conference calls with correspondents—that won’t be available to readers of the free site.

Sennott, who is the site’s executive editor, said in an interview yesterday with WBUR’s mid-day local news program “Here and Now” that GlobalPost hopes to restore something of the Edward R. Murrow tradition of passionate, engaging international coverage tailored for American news consumers.

“We’re looking for people who have a passion for a country, a language facility in that country, who want to be there based as writers or videographers or radio reporters and who are great at telling stories,” Sennott said. “We almost don’t care what medium you want to tell it in. We just want to know that you know how to tell a story that’s grounded in fact, that’s well reported, that has a sense of the American ear for a narrative, and that really understands and is unabashedly in an American voice—not in any way nationalist or jingoist, definitely not, but understanding that you’re writing to or doing a video for an American audience that needs to understand the world.”

Wade Roush is a freelance science and technology journalist and the producer and host of the podcast Soonish. Follow @soonishpodcast

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3 responses to “Boston Journalists Launch, Alternative to Traditional Media’s Shrinking International Coverage”

  1. Karuna Gomez says:

    GlobalPost is a great idea, good luck to you guys and gals in journalist land. I look forward to reading honest straight coverage of what’s happening in our world.

  2. Wallace D, Johnson, Jr. says:

    Thanks for this new real source of online news. looking forward to “Passport”.