CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts — James Reston, the much admired newspaper columnist from an earlier time, once wrote that he thought of his commentary in The New York Times as “a letter to an absent friend.” Reston and other columnists of the mid-to-late twentieth century exerted wide influence on public affairs through the quality of their arguments. They also wrote relatively free of challenge, for the opinion pages of that day offered few opportunities for “absent friends” to get a letter to the editor in the paper. On the broadcast side, to be sure, no forum existed at all for reply to the radio and television commentators of the day.
This all seems old fashioned now. The digital revolution has created, among many things, a place where professional commentators, public officials, citizen bloggers and communities of citizens can talk with one another, contesting points of view, offering up new ideas, looking at things from fresh perspectives, adding different facts and information to the arguments. And, of course, social media — Facebook, Twitter and so many others — have transformed how conversations are taken up and how content is shared among friends, family and colleagues.
This new technology also is defining the limits of the old media. Declining revenues are forcing publishers to impose cuts in staff, news space and coverage. Foreign bureaus were widely shuttered at the very moment crises were exploding around the world. The disruptive effects of newspaper downsizing also invited entrepreneurs to create new ways of filling the void left by the mainstream press.
When it was launched three years ago, GlobalPost meant to help fill that void in international news. It has pursued this vision with talent, energy and dedication. A staff of 70 to 100 reporters in every region of the world working with editors in Boston has kept its audience informed on the global forces impacting the economy, the environment, the politics and, indeed, the future of the United States. GlobalPost today stands among the top rank of U.S. general interest national news sites in terms of audience size.
And, like any new and growing organization, GlobalPost has bold aspirations. Among them is a new section called “Commentary” that launches today.
In a very real sense, Commentary seeks to fill a void in the diversity of thought and points of view from the rest of the world. Commentary most often available to us tends to be American-centric. It is a familiar way of seeing the world through a lens that focuses on American self-interest, American aspiration, American democracy, economic and military power. To these important national perspectives, Commentary will add an international perspective.
Our vision is being built on a global network of contributors that can offer well-reasoned, expert analysis. Most will write from other countries. Among the contributors will be scholars, well-placed government officials, journalists, representatives of worker organizations, thoughtful voices from NGOs and citizens who can bring informed thinking to the discussion.
We want perspectives not typically articulated in the U.S., pieces that tell us how America looks from other corners of the world or how the conventional wisdom of Washington is playing in their capitals. Many GlobalPost commentaries will follow the news, as developments unfold in Syria, Afghanistan, Iran, North Korea, Russia and places not currently in the spotlight. We want to provide the broadest possible range of perspective on the great issues and controversies of the day. Almost no subject is off-limits.
One caveat: Commentary does not publish pieces that have an ideological bent or a political agenda.
GlobalPost Commentary invites your participation. We welcome submissions from those who have special qualifications to write on a subject. We are looking for pieces with an idea in mind that can stimulate discussion and response. Commentary is a place where citizens of the world can talk with one another about the important issues affecting each and all of us.
Please join us.