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GROUNDTRUTH: GlobalPost's Field Guide for Correspondents

GlobalPost is setting out to redefine international reporting in the digital age, but we are old school when it comes to journalistic standards.

I thought I might share with you the introduction to a field guide I wrote for our correspondents. I wanted to give you this glimpse of the document in the spirit of full transparency but also because it is our call to a mission, a statement of principles and a declaration of what we intend to do at GobalPost. So here it is:

GroundTruth: A Field Guide for International Correspondents is dedicated to putting some of these standards in writing and sharing policies and practical information with our reporters, columnists and contributors in the field.

This is a working document, the same way your dispatches from the field are a rough draft of history. There is a revolution going on in media right now. And we are in its tumult and we love being there. It’s truly an exciting time. So we believe it smart and necessary to keep our eyes wide open to new and perhaps better ways of carrying out the craft of reporting and the art of story telling.

We want to create a community of correspondents – decorated veterans, mid-career professionals and younger reporters looking for their first shot at a foreign posting – who share their insights and stories and learn from each other in this changing environment for journalism.

To that end, we have collected essays from veteran correspondents connected to GlobalPost. In this collection, GlobalPost columnist HDS Greenway weighs in on nearly 50 years of work in foreign news; GlobalPost editor-at-large Sebastian Junger writes of the practical advice that keeps you alive covering conflict; GlobalPost Senior Editor Andrew Meldrum reflects on covering and living the story of Zimbabwe for 23 years; the BBC’s Simon Wilson shares what he learned from the Gaza kidnapping of a colleague;  GlobalPost’s Jane Arraf provides a woman’s perspective on covering the war in Iraq; and GlobalPost’s Matt McAllester takes a self-effacing look back on his reporting from Fallujah.
These essays each tell a story from the field that offers a teaching moment. In the coming weeks, they will be posted on my blog which you can link to from Eventually, the manual and the essays will be bound together as a hard copy and sent to you.
Later this year, we will also be creating an intranet site, a sort-of virtual water cooler where you, our correspondents, can communicate directly with each other. On the GlobalPost intranet, we hope you will share practical advice about everything from how you managed to get a great story to low rates on a hotel in London to tips on obtaining health insurance as a freelancer. It will be a place to track inside information about journalism grants and fellowships or the latest technology and new opportunities for freelance work.

We recognize that GlobalPost correspondents are freelancers and we want to encourage and foster a sense of community, a feeling of camaraderie that is too often missing from the wonderfully independent but sometimes isolating life of a freelancer.

We want to invite you to write essays from the field on this intranet site and then we plan to republish them every year into this Field Guide. So as we go along, please let us know if you have ideas.  

We want to hear from those of you in the field about how we can work together to create a new voice in international news, a voice that is consciously attentive to an American audience. We do not mean that we will be in any way jingoistic or nationalistic. Nor do we want to imply that our stories will only focus on issues that affect America or involve American interests. The world is much bigger than that.

We are looking for reporters who can tell the kinds of stories that resonate with an American audience. We want writing, photography and videography that has a good ear for the music of America – an ear that ranges in its appreciation from Miles Davis to Johnny Cash to Yoyo Ma.  A sense of writing about the world that seeks to emulate great American truth tellers, including Mark Twain, Langston Hughes and Edward R. Murrow.  We want stories that ultimately enlighten all of us about the world in which we live. But we are particularly attentive to an American audience because we believe America, despites its tremendous exertion of military and economic power in the world that is dramatically under-served in international news. We believe the paucity of American venues for international news is a dangerous blind spot for America, and one that often has a wider impact on the world. We need look no further than the war in Iraq for proof of that.

We are consciously setting out to try our best to fill the void left by so many American mainstream newspapers, magazines and television networks who’ve chosen to cut back and in many cases abandon the mission to cover international news.

While we consider this Field Guide a work in progress and we are eager to gain new insights from those of you in the field, we also want to be clear about the simple, time-tested values in which we believe and which we expect to see carried out by our correspondents.

That is, we believe in fairness. We believe in accuracy. We believe the best reporting comes from good old-fashioned shoe leather.  We believe in listening and allowing yourself to be convinced by a point of view you may not have considered before. We believe good reporters do more than merely present two sides of an issue, they unearth facts and then consider all sides in a way that helps create a new understanding of the kinds of complex issues that we face globally.

We believe in giving voice to the voiceless. We believe in respect for different faiths and cultures and ways of seeing the world. We believe humor is a good way to get at truth, but we have less time for laughs at someone else’s expense. We believe in connecting the dots and saying something important without resorting to the kind of rabidly opinionated reporting that is cluttering too much of the airwaves and the internet.
In the end of the day, we have faith in you, our team in the field to embrace these standards and to go out and find the great stories that make for great journalism.