Twenty-two year-old Masua Abaneru, a father and a fisherman, was kidnapped by the Lord’s Resistance Army and forced to serve as a porter. When he grew too weak to be of use to them any longer, LRA soldiers dragged him into the jungle. Then, they ordered captive children armed with sticks to beat him to death. Masua survived, but bears the brutal reminder of his ordeal on the back of his head.
The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting tells Masua’s story in the project “The Lord’s Resistance Army: The Hunt for Africa’s Most Wanted.” It includes articles, videos, blogs, and slide shows.
Dedicated to international journalism, the Pulitzer Center focuses on issues that are “under-reported.” Besides the Lord’s Resistance Army project, some of the center’s recent projects include:
- Sudan in Transistion
- After the Quake: HIV/AIDS in Haiti
- Journalism and Censorship in the Caucasus: Revisiting Stories Never Told
These are the kinds of stories I like to read, but are not often covered by major news outlets. The Pulitzer Center is more gracious than I am. It claims that it’s “dedicated to supporting the independent international journalism that U.S. media organizations are increasingly less able to undertake” (emphasis added). I’m not sure it’s as much a matter of ability as it is valuing soft “news” more.
With a staff of between 20 and 25 reporters, the Pulitzer Center uses internet and multi-media to produce stories it then gives away. Its funding comes through grants and the Pulitzer Foundation.
The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting is based on an interesting model. It turns news coverage into “media campaigns,” in order to highlight critical, but overlooked international issues. The innovative model incorporates collaboration, financial support to journalists, educational resources, citizen engagement, and interactive multimedia.
We will illuminate dark places and, with a deep sense of responsibility, interpret these troubled times.
These were the words of Joseph Pulitzer III upon becoming editor of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. In 2006, John Sawyer, former Washington bureau chief for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, became the founding director of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, which continues to illuminate dark places in increasingly troubled times.
Democracy Now! is an independent not-for-profit national news agency with a daily radio/televisoin programme that airs on over 900 stations, “pioneering the largest community media collaboration in the United States.” It’s donor- and foundation-funded, and does not receive government or corporate support.
The stories produced by Democracy Now! have strong human rights themes and are often highly critical of government, but justifiably. They provide the information citizens should have in a democracy, in order to make informed choices about their government and its policies. Democracy Now! shines a spotlight on issues that rarely get coverage in the mainstream media. It’s been a valuable resource for research I’ve done on several topics: how anti-terrorism measures violate human rights; President Obama’s rapid acceleration of drone attacks on Afghanistan and Pakistan; and on the private military firm, Blackwater.
It’s encouraging to know that there are many independent news organisations in operation today. I found 37 in the US, and one in Canada (which I mentioned in my last blog post). I hope that they find ways to increase their visibility so their stories and reports are read, watched, and heard by more people. The world needs all the informed citizens it can get.