Global Voices community members at the 2008 Summit in Budapest. Image by mentalacrobatics.
It’s that time of year when all us professional procrastinators scramble to make that donation we meant to give months ago — just in time to avoid the tax man (sort of). My donation will go to the brilliant volunteers and underpaid/overworked staff at Global Voices. I appeal to you to join me in giving to Global Voices.
Global Voices seeks to aggregate, curate, and amplify the global conversation online – shining light on places and people other media often ignore. We work to develop tools, institutions and relationships that will help all voices, everywhere, to be heard.
Global Voices first came to my attention a few years ago when a friend of mine was working on a project with Ethan Zuckerman, one of the GV founders. I was impressed and followed the effort from a distance, but I didn’t have occasion to approach the GV team until Karina proposed the first G20Voice project at the London Summit. We knew we wanted to bring in “rising voices” from the Global South, but none of us were sure where to look. Lucky for us, GV had a started a project called, “Rising Voices” to train, support and promote new and rising bloggers from the south. We worked with GV and other partners to bring 50 bloggers from 22 countries to cover the London G20 Summit. This was the beginning of a project that includes G20Voice, ConflictVoice and ClimateVoice, which worked with TckTckTck to bring bloggers to the COP15 in Copenhagen.
I read the site, skyped and emailed with the staff, but it wasn’t until Paula Góes spoke at our G20Voice review day in London that I really understood the power of GV. She said, “We help the world’s ‘Blog-o-spheres’ talk to each other,” and the dusty doors of my mind blew open. GV wasn’t simply translating blogs to give me the scoop on what Iranian bloggers thought, they were letting Iranian bloggers communicate with American bloggers who in turn communicated with spanish speaking bloggers, etc., etc.
GV maintains 17 translation communities and growing with an impressive network of volunteer translators. Their power to amplify voices that those in power want silenced is compelling, but the most powerful aspect to me is how GV enables us to understand each other better. The posts from political turmoil are a Godsend. The posts about things like a local effort to save a Beirut landmark give those precious insights that make it harder and harder to see those separated by language and distance as, “Other.”
Beyond what Global Voices is doing, I’m giving because of what they can do and what they stand for — the future of media and information sharing. The old guard will continue to bemoan the death of print journalism as circulation and advertising continue to fall. However, what Legacy Media and their faithful regard as the “Death of journalism,” I see as a mere restructuring. A nonprofit model of journalism can save reporters’ jobs and save the industry from increasing pressure to maximize profit over information.
Texas offers examples of both the right way forward, and futile clinging to the past. In the latter example, The Dallas News announced plans earlier this month for Section Editors to report to Sales Managers. Some back and forth between the management and reporters served to water-down the initial memo and clarify that editorial would remain independent…sort of. Still, the clear message is that newspapers like The Dallas News need to give greater weight to advertising opportunities and concerns if they are to stay in business.
The Texas Tribune offers the complete opposite side of the future of media coin. The online publication uses a not-for-profit model to promote civic engagement with public policy issues in the state. They provide excellent original reporting without the profit constraints and concerns of traditional news organizations. The shooting at Fort Hood military base proved to be one of the first tests of the young website and their seasoned news team. As the rest of Texas-based and national media scrambled to own the story, The Texas Tribune stayed put. Tribune journalist Matt Stiles explained simply, “It wasn’t our story. Should we have just been one more news organization rushing to Fort Hood? I don’t think so.” A traditional news source does not have the luxury to make such a bold decision when news breaks in their state.
Are we worse off for it? Does the fact that 12 more journalists didn’t rush to Ft. Hood make us understand the story less? Or are we better off, because generous support allows that news team to stay dedicated to their area of expertise? The New Media revolution is not about the falling away of journalistic standards and the end of quality reporting, it is a brave new world where an explosion of new voices and diverse media outlets will break the information monopoly that keeps us delusional in the dark.
Nonprofit journalism like the Texas Tribune provides more expert analysis as the big papers continue to fail, not less. Global Voices ensure that the increasing amounts of information are better understood, rather than sources for confusion. In short, these not-for-profit efforts will do more to increase our understanding and ability to hold leaders accountable. They will make the media better. They will make the world a better place. And now, I put my money where my mouth is. I hope you will too.
Donate to Global Voices