<< A Quick Word <<

It is tempting to ignore far-off news. With so much already clouding our line of sight, who needs more problems beyond the horizon? Yet, as British commentator Andrew Marr puts it, free people either play a part in shaping their common destiny or they are deserters.

This little book is for those not prepared to desert. It is aimed at journalists and students who look beyond borders, but also anyone else who wants to keep track of a complex world.

Wherever we turn, someone is redefining news. Reporting, we’re told, will be an unpaid hobby as “content” comes fast and free from the ether. Already, readers can pick only what looks appetizing, as at a dim sum lunch. Guesswork and outrig ht lies go unchallenged. Editors offer interactive feedback and have-it-your-way news. Russia invades Poland: what’s your opinion?

Anyone in our wired world can add scope and detail to distant stories. Yet anyone can also get things wrong at the speed of light. Journalism is a craft with essential skills, a vocation of bedrock principles and ethics. To report, you have to be there.

H.R. Knickerbocker, a star Hearst correspondent, observed in the 1930s: “Whenever you find hundreds of thousands of sane people trying to get out of a place and a little bunch of madmen struggling to get in, you know the latter are newspapermen.”

Today, there are also plenty of madwomen, and newspapers are a dwindling part of it. Our tools are far better now. That struggle may mean simply braving a Roman cab ride. Still, nothing essential has changed.

I have drawn from my own lifetime of reporting but also from generous colleagues of a dozen nationalities who share a basic view: What matters is the message. The challenge is to get it right within a context of history and humanity. The rest is only process.



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Little Bunch of Madmen is the cornerstone of Reporting Unlimited, an LLC formed to develop curricula, to inspire students to work abroad, and to help journalists from different cultures see beyond the simple elements of stories that matter. Soon this site will offer teaching plans for university and high school journalism courses as well as guidance for discussion in book clubs.

We’re now a little bunch, but we urge others to join in – given today’s world – a vital cause. Thanks to generous friends, we have no corporate or foundation ties. We hope to work with the many effective programs and groups that already do much to support reporting across borders.

Contributions are welcome if not tax-deductible. Click the Donate button below if you are interested. If you would prefer to send a check, please email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . Questions or comments can also be directed to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .