Worth a look: The Groundtruth Project and Foreverstan

Last night I attended the launch of the Groundtruth Project, a non-profit news organization focused on training the next generation of international correspondents and producing international journalism. Today, Groundtruth has published their most recent project, Foreverstan, a current and nuanced look at the United States’ longest war. There’s an introduction video embedded above, but the project website is really worth a look.

groundtruthproject First, a little about the Groundtruth Project. It was founded by Charles Sennott (co-founder of GlobalPost and longtime reporter), Gary Knight (co-founder of VII), and Kevin Douglas Grant (formerly the Senior Editor of Special Reports at GlobalPost). In Sennott’s introduction last night he said that he had been talking with the Ford Foundation, one of Groundtruth’s funders, about the difficulties of running GlobalPost as a business. They said that GlobalPost may technically be a for-profit enterprise, but it’s really a non-profit. Sennott then founded Groundtruth as a non-profit dedicated to international newsgathering and training young journalists for international reporting.

Though last night in Boston was the official launch of Groundtruth, the organization has been active for a few years. They’ve funded a number of reporting fellowships and projects: in Egypt, in Burma, on global health, human rights in Africa, millenials around the world, and this year’s Middle East Fellowship. They’ve also published a number of special reports on topics around the world in addition to these fellowships. Crucially, Groundtruth makes sure that their stories reach wide audiences, partnering with a number of international news organizations including Public Radio International, WGBH, PBS Frontline and others.

Screenshot of the Foreverstan website - a project by the Groundtruth Project
Screenshot of the Foreverstan website – a project by the Groundtruth Project

Foreverstan is the latest of these special reports, published in partnership with WGBH and funded by the Ford Foundation and The Bake Family Trust. It combines writing, video, and photography by Jean MacKenzie, Beth Murphy, and Ben Brody, looking at the current situation of Afghanistan through stories centered around the internationally-built Ring Road in the country. The stories are separated into three sections: a look at the military handover to Afghanistan forces, girls’ education in the country, and the lives of Afghanistan’s millenials, who’ve only known war during their lifetimes. It’s an ambitious project, but one which looks a bit deeper than most conflict reporting. At the launch last night, the founders and panelists stressed the importance of “context” reporting, examining the circumstances surrounding and leading to conflict.

Keep an eye on Groundtruth’s site for future projects and ways to get involved. Also, not to be missed is the Groundtruth Project’s Field Guide, which includes guidelines for reporting from the field and a collection of essays on lessons learned from the field by a number of international correspondents, including James Foley. It’s a free download and a great resource for those interested in international reporting. You can also keep up with Groundtruth’s projects at their blog.

Analyzing ISIS’ Photography

A foreign fighter enjoying a kebab at a post-battle celebration in Iraq. September 2014.
A foreign fighter enjoying a kebab at a post-battle celebration in Iraq. September 2014.

In November last year, Aperture published a fascinating article about the use of photography by ISIS (aka Islamic State, ISIL, DAESH, Da’Ish. See this wikipedia section for the various names) by Sam Powers. I’ve been meaning to link to it since then, but am just now getting to it.

The article looks at images in ISIS videos and publications and speaks briefly about the almost journalistic infrastructure across the world that produces and disseminates these images, often for a Western audience. The article examines themes used in recruitment and publicity materials and echo other media outlets’ efforts to analyze the production of ISIS propaganda. Vice looked at video production and branding, PRI examines video production and especially the speed at which videos are released and the quality of their translations, Slate compares the imagery to Homeland and addresses the history of jihadist propaganda, and the Daily Mail (I usually try not to link to them, but this seems like a decent article) reads various ISIS videos in a method reminiscent of the Kremlinology of the Cold War (and more recently). This sort of analysis, looking for clues beyond what is most obvious in ISIS’ communications, is particularly interesting with the videos featuring British hostage John Cantlie as a news presenter.

Worth a listen: Lynsey Addario interviewed on Fresh Air

It's What I Do - by Lynsey Addario
It’s What I Do – by Lynsey Addario

Photojournalist Lynsey Addario was interviewed last week by Terry Gross on WHYY/NPR’s Fresh Air for the release of her memoir, It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War (at right). The interview is wide-ranging, but specifically address Addario’s experience being kidnapped with three other photographers in Libya in 2011. I wrote about that kidnapping and their release previously. You can listen to the interview in the above embedded player or at NPR’s website.

Fresh Air doesn’t often feature interviews with photographers, but last year, they spoke with Tyler Hicks about his Pulitzer-winning coverage of the Nairobi shopping mall attack. That post has links to a few other photographer interviews from the show over the years.

Make sure you also read the New York Times Magazine’s recent piece by Addario about working while pregnant, it’s an adaptation of parts of her book. The Lens blog also featured Addario and other photojournalists last year in a piece about balancing parenting with the life of a photojournalist.


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