Filling a Void
When GlobalPost launched in January 2009, its CEO and Co-Founder Philip S. Balboni told Reuters: “There is an enormous appetite for knowing what's happening in the world … it's just not being met by traditional media.” That sentiment was at the core of GlobalPost’s mission: to fill the void being left behind as mainstream media outlets pulled back from vital international reporting.
Shortly after GlobalPost launched, The New York Times noted it as “offering a mix of news and features that only a handful of other news organizations can rival.” The mix of content was designed to offer visitors intelligent, fair, and courageous location-based reporting and analysis from throughout the world and especially from those geographic areas that had been consistently ignored or underreported by the American news media. By 2010, GlobalPost’s correspondent network included some 70 journalists spread across more than 50 countries who provided reports in text, photo and video, and the site had received millions of visits from more than 200 countries.
It wasn’t long before GlobalPost’s ambitious reporting made its way into the national conversation on international issues. In February 2010, GlobalPost reported that U.S. military laptops were turning up in markets in Pakistan, containing sensitive material on the drives and showing weaknesses and flaws in American military vehicles being employed in the war in Afghanistan—the story was featured on the CBS Evening News. Also that year, a year-long probe into USAID funding in Afghanistan found that Afghan subcontractors had been funneling millions of dollars in American taxpayers’ money to the Taliban. U.S. officials confirmed that the probe was sparked by the findings of a GlobalPost investigation examining a Taliban “protection racket” that was taking place in Afghanistan development projects.
Distinctive Reporting Garners Acclaim
GlobalPost quickly became known for its steady flow of hard-hitting video reports. Each episode of its weekly “On Location” video series took viewers to a remote location—from deep inside Syrian dungeons; to the war-torn Libyan city Sirte; to the illegal adoption rings in Shanghai; to the burning streets of Tibet, the flood-ravaged shores of Japan, and the frontline of the drug war in Mexico. The reports introduced viewers to extraordinary characters and compelling stories that provided context to key global issues. When “On Location” was honored with a 2011 George Foster Peabody Award, the Peabody Board praised it for focusing “on news and events neglected or ignored by other media outlets.” The series was also the recipient of back-to-back Edward R. Murrow Awards in 2011 and 2012.
At the same time, GlobalPost was gaining a reputation for consequential international business reporting. In 2011 it was honored with ten Best in Business Journalism Awards from the Society of American Business Editors and Writers (SABEW), which recognized top publications and websites and the best business news reporting during 2010. That year, GlobalPost received the second highest number of awards, ahead of The New York Times, which received eight, and second only to Bloomberg, which received 20 awards. The site would go on to win more than 30 SABEWs.
In 2014, the site was honored as the recipient of a Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award for its multimedia series “Myanmar Emerges,” which took a hard look beyond the fairy tale narrative of a reform movement in Myanmar with uncompromising reporting on how decades of oppression were casting a long shadow on the country’s economy and people. GlobalPost received the award, which is given to work that provides “insights into the causes, conditions, and remedies of human rights violations and injustice, and critical analyses of the movements that foster positive global change,” in the New Media category. The series also won the Edwin M. Hood Award for Diplomatic Correspondence from the National Press Club.
A Rare Breed of Journalist
By the start of the Syrian Civil War, GlobalPost was home to a rare breed of journalist—the trained, experienced, and courageous conflict correspondent dedicated to giving face and voice to victims and to revealing the human toll of war. GlobalPost’s Tracey Shelton was among the few journalists with the diligence, courage and journalistic skill to deliver consistently from a war zone. Throughout 2012 from her base in Turkey, Shelton made frequent trips inside Syria—often being smuggled in and out under the cover of darkness—where she opened channels of communication, built a network of sources, and through months of on-the-ground reporting, produced a steady stream of authoritative writing and gripping video. Her most viscerally- engaging work came from the use of powerful video and images to tell poignant stories born from the violence of war that were at once shocking and mesmerizing. In the Polk Award-winning video report “Life and Death in Aleppo,” Shelton took viewers on patrol with a group of rebel soldiers, telling the story of Issa, Ahmed and Qasim in the days before—and then at the very moment—they were killed in their back-alley post by a tank blast. The images she captured were among the most extraordinary to emerge from Syria, leaving those who see them with a searing impression of the suddenness and devastating speed at which tragedy strikes in a conflict.
In 2011, GlobalPost was on the ground from the first moments of the conflict in Libya, following Libyan rebels from Benghazi as they marched towards key cities and, eventually, to the capital Tripoli. In April, GlobalPost correspondent James Foley was captured by forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. Foley was held for six weeks before being released and then returned to Libya that September, where he continued to cover the conflict and contribute reporting. GlobalPost was on the scene at the rebellion’s bitter end, obtaining the earliest reporting and most complete video of Gaddafi’s capture and death in Sirte, which dominated the news cycle, running on major television networks around the world. The reporting of Gaddafi’s fall received a prestigious Overseas Press Club (OPC) award for Online Coverage of Breaking News.
When Foley was kidnapped at gunpoint in northern Syria in November of 2012, conflict reporting was a deep part of GlobalPost’s journalistic DNA. Balboni, who was instrumental in helping secure Foley's release after he had been taken prisoner the first time in Libya, worked tirelessly once again to find him. Foley was also an example of that rare breed of journalist: willing to go into harm’s way to shine light in the dark places, tell the human stories of war that would otherwise go untold, and advance the conversation on issues that for too many seem remote and tangential. It was that courage and dedication to his craft that led him to want to show the world the humanity of the Syrian people before he was murdered by ISIS two years after his kidnapping near Raqqa.
GlobalPost’s reporting continues to have impact. In 2015, after the publication of “Fugitive Fathers,” a year-long investigation into how the Catholic Church has allowed priests accused of sexually abusing children in the United States and Europe to relocate to poor parishes in South America, two of the priests profiled in the series were suspended from their posts. And in September, GlobalPost announced its most ambitious-ever reporting initiative, a year-long in-depth series called “Longreads on Conflict,” which is aimed at revealing the full extent of the humanitarian toll from major conflicts raging in the Middle East and investigating the responsibility borne by governments and leaders in the region and by major world powers.
The inaugural report in the series came from one of the world’s leading war reporters, Paul Wood, who writes powerfully about the humanitarian impact of the war in Syria, now in its 4th year. The report, which The Poynter Institute called an “engrossing, painful debut to yearlong series on Middle East conflicts,” investigates the plight faced by Syria’s refugees, following the story of one particular family that paid the ultimate price.
Another report in the series uncovered instances of US airstrikes that probably killed civilians but which were not officially investigated, or which were investigated and dismissed. In one case, GlobalPost provided testimony from a witness to the US Central Command — CENTCOM — which as a result said it would look into a bombing that locals say killed civilians while the US maintained it had no record of any such casualties.
For seven years as a standalone news site, GlobalPost delivered on its mission with the highest-quality reporting from a network of credentialed international correspondents based in countries across the globe. Whether the goal was to shed light on the overcrowding, pollution and poverty that are rampant because of the “Rise of the Megacities,” or to take a deep look at the darker side of production at major technology companies in “Silicon Sweatshops,” GlobalPost has raised the bar for international reporting in the digital age.
Today, after its acquisition by Boston public media producer WGBH and Public Radio International (PRI), GlobalPost’s mission continues as an integral part of PRI’s respected global news platforms. As part of PRI, GlobalPost Investigations will lead PRI’s hard-hitting conflict reporting and narrative, in-depth projects about topics no one else is covering the same way. These extensive projects go beyond the daily headlines to give readers a comprehensive look at the underlying issues driving a particular story. It’s the kind of ambitious enterprise and investigative reporting on international issues that has become increasingly uncommon in today’s media landscape.