My journalism manifesto comes down to three words: local global mashup.
Here’s the back story. I’ve spent my entire career—18 years of it at the BBC—in international journalism, reporting and editing stories “abroad” for audiences “back home.” But what’s become increasingly clear is that this kind of distinction is artificial. We may all be aware of the fact that we live in a globalized world but it’s not very often that you see journalism that explicitly connects the dots between what’s happening in one country and another. Why is a Brazilian company employing former NASA engineers to build corporate jets in Florida? How did the governor of Nebraska get over 50,000 followers on Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter? And what are people in other countries doing about bullying, an urgent problem on the agenda of schools across the U.S.?
To put it colloquially, it’s time to “mashup” (the wonderfully graphic term I’ve borrowed from music and Web development) the local and the global. As we’ve found at my journalism startup Latitude News, there’s a gold mine of stories crying out to be told, stories that our readers and listeners say are “fresh”, “powerful” and—here’s the kicker—“relatable to.” Once you relate to something, chances are you are going to be interested and engaged.
It is a truth that’s been acknowledged for decades in most newsrooms that Americans aren’t interested in the rest of the world. I want to challenge that view. One because international isn’t “foreign” anymore and two because we journalists need to ask ourselves how much our coverage has contributed to that disinterest.
Local global mashup journalism isn’t a quick fix. Developing a different perspective is akin to taking on a new routine at the gym to build up a previously ignored muscle. It’s not a technology play, although technology makes cross border reporting so much easier than it used to be and, at the same time, offers huge potential to partner with our users in discovering the international dimension of their backyards. Local global mashup journalism is unabashedly a content play. It puts a premium on two of the oldest skills in the book, listening and storytelling. But that doesn’t mean that it’s old fashioned.
My point is that innovation can be about content, too. The stories we’ve broken at Latitude News, I believe, prove that, as has the “glocal” reporting of our colleague Doug McGill in Rochester, Minnesota. It’s time to widen the debate around what it means to cover your local community in a globalized world.
Maria Balinska, NF ‘10, is the founder of www.latitudenews.com, a multi-platform website that explores connections between Americans and the rest of the world. Maria was for ten years World Current Affairs Editor at BBC Radio in London is also the author of "The Bagel: The Surprising History of a Modest Bread."