I have spent my life committed to the craft of journalism. The science of information gathering. The art of storytelling.
But by the time I finished school and emerged into the field that I had spent my life preparing for, I found it in shambles. Corporate ownership diluted storytelling. Diminished ethics compromised accuracy and information. Pundits replaced investigators. Opinion replaced fact.
This was unacceptable to me.
In 2004, I was a stringer on assignment in Nepal. In my first weeks on the job I realized that my dream job was anything but. I lacked access to real people. I, like most foreign correspondents, worked through fixers and translators. I was barely scratching the surface.
It was there, in Nepal, that I had my epiphany—I was the wrong person to be reporting the news. No matter how familiar I became with Nepalese culture, I would always be an outsider, a foreigner facing an unbridgeable gap in reporting the social, historical and political context of these people and this place.
My frustration turned to action when I met Pratima in a tiny, remote village in eastern Nepal. Although Pratima had only a fourth grade education, she was literate and highly respected in her village. She was the community matriarch and a mediator, with access to exceptional sources and fascinating stories about the region’s struggles and successes.
What if savvy, inspired women like Pratima had the opportunity to be trained in the principled practices of journalism? The news they would produce could change their communities and even the world. But how would it work? I quickly realized that I had two things that Pratima did not— journalism training and a credible global platform on which to publish my work.
With Pratima as my muse, I leaned in and began plotting a journalism platform that would both train and employ in order to empower the practitioner and liberate the community with new access to information. I began to understand that investigative local journalism could drive community development. On an international stage, it could be a development tool, capable of elevating a global awareness of the human condition, increasing tolerance and promoting justice. From this vision, Global Press Institute was born.
Today, Global Press Institute (GPI) is an award-winning, high-impact social venture that uses journalism as a development tool to educate, employ and empower women in the developing world to produce high-quality local news coverage that elevates global awareness and ignites social change. GPI has trained and employed more than 130 women in 26 developing countries.
To be clear, these women are not bloggers or citizen journalists. They are professionals who earn a strong, living wage for their work. They are bound by a code of ethics and work within a network of fact checkers and editors who ensure that each piece of news emerges accurately and ethically every day.
And the results of the work are nothing short of inspiring. We have two law changes to our credit. We syndicate our news to more than 50 other outlets that have come to depend on our unique, authentic coverage. Over the last seven years we have won more than dozen major journalism and innovation awards.
But despite our success, one of the most common questions I’m asked is – Why women?
The answer to that question is neither political nor controversial.
GPI works with women around the world because it makes sense. It is a good investment. And it makes for exceptional journalism.
I founded GPI to breathe life into my dying profession. But in truth, I continue to do this work because of the women I am so blessed to work with. GPI journalists come from a vast range of circumstances and cultures. They defy social norms daily and never relent in demanding answers to the most difficult questions. They are constantly hopeful for the possibility of a brighter tomorrow. And they are indignant at every encounter with injustice.
Like me, the women journalists of GPI are deeply committed to the craft of journalism. And they understand the urgency of their work. They meet their deadlines so that lives can change faster. They demand accuracy from themselves and each other so that knowledge can spread farther. They rely on the necessity of story so that human beings can understand each other better. They do these things everyday because the vision of a more just world is constantly in their sights.