When I began grad school for journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I had every intention of preparing myself for a career in international reporting. For me, effectively communicating across cultural tensions is a fulfilling lifelong pursuit. Journalism is a means of addressing apathy towards issues of human rights abuses, poverty and natural disasters that largely derive from physical distance.
Foreign correspondents recognize this disconnect and seek out the nitty-gritty details and personal narrative in desperate situations that will drive these issues home with their viewers. I would argue that the best liaisons are able to balance these disheartening exposes with empowering stories of hope and inspiration, which often aren’t celebrated enough.
While I’d still choose coffee with Nicholas Kristof or Lisa Ling over dinner with any Hollywood hunk, I’ve discovered an alternative to foreign reporting that has shifted my international news ideals. The goal – raising awareness – hasn’t changed, but the strategy has. Instead of sending Western reporters to report on foreign issues, these media organizations I’m interested in allocate their resources to helping local journalists report on humanitarian issues that they have unique access to in their own communities. Even a well-intentioned Western reporter may not be fully equipped with the language skill and cultural understanding needed to access sensitive, nuanced issues such as women’s rights and child labor systems.
Since August, I’ve been keeping a list of international news organizations that cater to grass-roots journalists and the growing number of citizen journalists in developing countries. To varying degrees, these organizations are specifically dedicated to empowering female reporters to report on women’s issues, which are grossly underreported in the media, at large. Check out the Global Report on the Status of Women in the News Media for more details. (more…)