When the Berlin Wall fell, optimists happily predicted 'the end of history.' The'post-Cold War world would see unparalleled freedom, with a wave of media development unrivaled in human history. Well, it didn't happen that way. The world remains an erratic, unsure place, by both press freedom and media development measures. 2009 sometimes looks suspiciously like 1989.
'The world needs new media development leaders. Knight Foundation's biggest international grantee, the International Center for Journalists, is becoming just that. ICFJ's president, Joyce Barnathan, is the chair of the Global Forum for Media Development, with 500 members in 100 countries.
ICFJ runs the Knight Journalism Fellows Program. Its tightly target approach is attracting many new partners. Gates Foundation funds Knight fellows, $4 million so far. Other funders support $3 million in Knight fellows.
What makes the Knight Fellows so important? They do more than just train journalists. They accomplish specific things: producing high-impact stories, or new investigative reporting organizations, or new journalism schools or new freedom of information centers.
How does ICFJ know where to work? An international group of advisors identifies the world's best media projects,'ones that will create lasting, visible change, and matches fellows from anywhere in the world to those specific opportunities.
A little money can go a long way. $200,000 for a training fellow for one year in Kenya equaled $7.5 million in new government spending on health care because the stories done moved the community to action. In Indonesia, great reporting helped stop the dumping of medical waste. In Uganda, it saved lives with better vaccinations, in Bangladesh, it helped save more lives with cleaner water.
Why care about all this outside America? Because the modern world is turning into one very big city. Bad health reporting on one side of the planet can lead to a killer flu coming right into this room. Journalism in a connected world matters. Here's the press release announcing $6 million over three years to extend the Knight International Journalism Fellows. And here's where you can suggest a project or apply for a fellowship.
-- Eric Newton is the vice president of the journalism program at Knight Foundation.