Why Journalism Is A Development Tool

Courtesy of the Global Press Institute

WHEN YOU PICTURE A NEWSROOM what do you see? Writers tapping away on laptops, or reporters talking on smartphones?

What if these newsrooms were comprised of all women, and the news desks were in places like Kenya, Mexico, and Nepal?

You’d have the Global Press Institute, founded in 2006 by journalist Cristi Hegranes. GPI is an organization that trains women in developing countries to be investigative reporters.

GPI’s training-to-employment programs has trained over 100 women and currently operates news desks in 23 countries.

Courtesy of the Global Press Institute

I spoke recently with Hegranes about GPI’s mission to advance the skills of journalists around the world. She told me why journalism is a development tool, especially for women.

“Many women in developing countries have no employment, or work at menial or domestic tasks and jobs,” she says. “Working as a reporter gives a woman a real living wage.”

The inspiration for GPI, says Hegranes, was born out of her experience as a foreign correspondent. Hegranes learned that international reporters, while well-intentioned, are not always the best people to cover a story.

The very nature of being in a country for as little as 48 hours prevents a journalist from capturing the whole story. “I realized, ‘I’m the wrong person to do this story’,” she says. “I knew it’s more powerful for the local community to tell their own stories.”

Hegranes believes there needs to be a new paradigm which harkens back to the “old days” of journalism. “It’s one of those rare times when the ‘third’ world, to use that term, leads the ‘first’ world back to quality reporting, to the kind of news we once prized—and paid for.”

Hegranes is a passionate advocate for a return to that kind of “old-school” journalism. “Speaking to traditional journalism is very important to what we do,” she says. “It’s real, feature-length news reporting, and a solid foundation in ethical reporting.”

GPI recently announced a content partnership with United Press International and will be one of UPI’s featured syndicators.

The organization is moving fast to utilize social media by getting more reporters on Twitter and Facebook, and networking with one another. The local news desks are also busy moving from desktops to laptops.

But sometimes it’s the most basic needs that are still a challenge. “Electricity is one of the biggest infrastructure problems, in places like Nepal for example,” she says. “We’re actively trying to combat those barriers.”

Despite these challenges, Hegranes says her work is constantly rewarding. “NGOs will call us and say, ‘we read your story,’ and ask us to connect them so they can help out, or they’ll want to donate to an organization we wrote about,” she says.

Ultimately, it always comes back to ethical journalism. “These are stories you’ll not get anywhere else: it’s context-rich reporting.

Recent features include a report on government torture in Kashmir and how a drought is affecting farmers in Kenya.

Hegranes says GPI’s model is low-cost and high impact. She wants to inspire others to support women and the tradition of journalism. “Our work changes societies by helping create new laws and policies. It inspires people to take direct action.”

To support GPI, you can subscribe to GPI’s weekly newsletter for free to get topics from news desks around the world.

You can also directly participate by becoming a mentor to help coach reporters. Hegranes says you can mentor from home, online, for as little as two hours.

To find out more, visit the Global Press Institute.