The Year of Magical Thinking
by Maura Bogue, Managing Editor
It has been a privilege to participate in Global Press Institute’s growth since joining this vibrant team two years ago. And 2012 was a transformational year for GPI.
This time last year, I was living in Buenos Aires to develop the Argentina News Desk. When I first met Ivonne Jeannot Laens, the desk’s pioneer reporter, our conversation teetered along GPI’s aspirations. I dusted off my memory of the conditional and the subjunctive in Spanish as I hopefully explained how GPI “would” like to grow around the world.
I am now in awe to reflect on the year that followed with a proud past tense and a strong indicative mood. Because the growth of GPI in 2012 was bolder than my loftiest projections.
Months after that initial conversation, Ivonne and I led our first training in Buenos Aires. One of the new recruits, Dina Gonzalez, had no journalism experience. But her fierce belief in giving people a voice and an innate understanding of how this could drive social change made her an ideal addition to the GPI team.
Following the training, she introduced herself as a “periodista” with pride. A pride I now feel to see her write one of the Top 12 GPI News Stories of 2012, under the caring and creative guidance of Ivonne, who fast earned a promotion to country editor.
Tara Bhattarai also earned a promotion this year to country editor of the Nepal News Desk. The first article I ever edited for GPI was by Tara. Her arresting coverage made me stand up from my computer, find the nearest person and proclaim that I had found the type of journalism that I wanted to dedicate my career to. It was an honor to travel to Kathmandu in July to commence Tara’s editor training.
The reporters of the Nepal News Desk embraced us with the warmest welcome I have ever received. Getting to know these bright and beautiful women in person after working together online for months or years reinvigorated my optimism that GPI journalism can and does improve our world.
To strengthen their arsenal, reporters also received one of GPI’s first photojournalism trainings from Paige Stoyer. Multimedia training also characterized the launch of GPI’s 26th news desk, in Ethiopia. Led by GPI reporter and trainer Jennifer Ehidiamen and country editor Selome Desta, the girls have already produced their first photo essay on shifting gender roles in their town.
This year also welcomed full-time reporters to the GPI ranks. Nakinti Nofuru of the Cameroon News Desk and Mary Wairimu of the Kenya News Desk have brought new types of coverage to the GPI Newswire, which also received a redesign this year. Nakinti and Wairimu elevate their skills with each piece they publish, while earning increased wages that they use to support their families.
The training and hiring of reporters, the promotion of country editors and full-time reporters, and the launch of new desks and coverage types attest to how much GPI has grown this year. But in addition to growth, what also made 2012 transformational was an accelerated awareness about GPI journalism.
Pivotal awareness came thanks to Grinnell College’s selection of GPI founder and executive director Cristi Hegranes as a Young Innovator for Social Justice. This prestigious prize validated GPI’s mission to educate, employ and empower. It also recognized Cristi’s fearlessness and fierce compassion in envisioning and executing a social venture that is changing the news and the world.
I had the honor of speaking about this change to one of my former professors’ classes this month. The course was the first journalism class I had ever taken, which introduced me to the traditional principles that I now strive to pass on to reporters at GPI.
One of the most powerful moments of the year for me was learning that GPI reporters are passing this journalism knowledge on to others. Comfort Mussa of the Cameroon News Desk shared with us that she uses the feedback from GPI headquarters on her articles to lead informal training sessions in her living room for experienced and aspiring journalists in her community who do not work for GPI but are hungry to learn more.
Our goal for 2013 will be to expand these trainings for GPI reporters so that they can continue to grow as leaders in their profession and communities. Every GPI News Desk will receive a training in the coming year in everything from investigative reporting techniques to video journalism.
With her gorgeous photography, Aliya Bashir of the Indian-administered Kashmir News Desk will become the first GPI journalist to receive a videojournalism training with new multimedia editor Casey Beck.
Another first will be a global editors’ training in San Francisco, where GPI established its new headquarters this year. Ivonne, Tara and new country editors will enhance the editorial process with their diverse backgrounds, develop new skills, and then share them in their countries and regions.
New regional editors at GPI headquarters will also help to streamline our editorial process. Jackie Leavitt earned a much-deserved promotion to editor of the Asia New Desk this year, and we will be hiring editors to lead the Africa and Americas desks to increase the number of stories on the GPI Newswire throughout the year.
The stakeholders’ stories have long been important, and GPI reporters’ voices grow stronger with each piece they publish. But what was new in 2012 was the volume of listeners – in both number and intensity of sound.
Strengthened by a new strategic plan by Third Plateau, a blossoming board and optimistic social investors, this growth and awareness are poised to continue in 2013.
So as the year winds down, thank you to everyone who has told, covered, instructed on, edited, read, commented on, shared, acted because of and invested in these crucial stories. The mood of the world indicates that social change is imperative, and together, we will shift to future tense.