Posted in Industry Insights

How to gather international news in a perilous world

, by Lauren Easton

When more than two dozen international editors convened in Boston on Friday for the International Press Institute/Associated Press Foreign Editors’ Circle, they discussed the challenges journalists face when working abroad.

AP Vice President for International News John Daniszewski, who facilitated the conversation along with the co-founder and executive editor of the GroundTruth Project, Charles Sennott, shared these thoughts:

John Daniszewski, vice president, international news. (AP Photo)
Given the chance, here’s what a group of foreign editors talk about: How well do we cover the world? What is the future of international coverage for the new generation of news consumers? How do we ensure safety and protection for freelance journalists abroad in an increasingly perilous environment? How can editors and news people cope with the looming cybersecurity threats to their emails and confidential sources? Convened Friday at WGBH in Boston, the IPI/AP Foreign Editors’ Circle hashed through these topics, taking advantage of a rare opportunity to discuss challenges common across news organizations among editors organizing the coverage of international news. This was the fourth such meeting organized by the AP and the International Press Institute’s North American Committee. It also was the largest since the Circle was formed with a first meeting in 2013 at AP headquarters to meet the need for a forum for North American foreign and international editors to meet regularly. Among 26 participants were foreign or international editors from AP, Reuters, BuzzFeed, Mashable, The New York Times, The Washington Post, CBS News, the Philadelphia Inquirer, Public Radio International, "Frontline," the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting, the Christian Science Monitor and the Boston Globe. Hosting was the GroundTruth Project, and its president Charlie Sennott. His nonprofit, housed at WGBH, provides reporting opportunities for younger journalists to cover international news not involving conflict. For me, the best part of these meetings is the chance to hear from so many intelligent, thoughtful and committed colleagues in one room, articulating problems news organizations face working internationally, in an environment of increased government hostility and heightened control and surveillance in much of the world. It is an anxious time: There are restrictions on access and worsening security, both digital and physical. Threats range from denial of visas to arrest and imprisonment to murder. Faced with such impediments, the editors concluded there was little alternative for news organizations than to double down on tough, accurate coverage, take all possible precautions, and let the governments’ obstructions speak for themselves. Other important moments: Diane Foley, mother of murdered freelance journalist James Foley, shared thoughts on the ordeals of families of captive Americans; Doug Jehl, foreign editor of the Post, spoke about the value of solidarity among news organizations when faced with a challenge like the arrest of journalist Jason Rezaian; and AP International Investigations Editor Trish Wilson discussed tools she uses to protect the confidentiality of AP reporters abroad with Mark Maybury, vice president and director of the National Cybersecurity FFRDC. It was at the Circle meeting in 2014 that the editors launched an initiative that has since grown into a set of internationally recognized best safety practices, now adopted by nearly 100 news and journalist organizations around the world. At this meeting, David Rohde, Reuters' national security investigations editor, updated that effort, which has coalesced into a task force called the ACOS Alliance, to help create and maintain A Culture of Safety by sharing security information with freelance journalists. Among other activities, it is focused on creating an affordable insurance pool for freelancers and grants for hostile environment training. It’s a point of pride that AP has been a charter member in this journalists’ safety campaign, and for me -- having launched these meetings a little more than three years ago -- it is more than satisfying to see the role the Circle continues to play.