For Release Sunday, October 13, 2013
© 2013 Washington Post Writers Group
For years, I’ve been writing about the mutuality of cities in America and across the world. I’ve been intrigued – not just by the sweep of challenges cities face, but by the exciting promise of sharing experience, learning from each other.
Now it’s time for me to do something about it. With this writing, I’m stopping the weekly column, syndicated by the Washington Post Writers Group, that I launched 38 years – some 1,900 weekly dispatches – ago. Last week’s column summarized and bid adieu to that undertaking. To all the readers who sent heartwarming messages of farewell, my deepest thanks.
But I’m going on to an exciting new chapter. With colleagues Farley Peters and Curtis Johnson and others, I’m launching a new global news service – we’re calling it Citiscope Global News – dedicated to reporting on innovations already underway, proving their mettle in cities around the world.
Why this mission? We learned about the need the hard way. The Rockefeller Foundation asked us to attend, then write the report on a month long “Global Urban Summit” it held in 2007 with attendees from across the world. Repeatedly, participants mentioned interesting new experiments in their communities. But when we checked for press reports on those efforts, we found sparse pickings. Most news media coverage of cities remained focused on political maneuvering, crime, conflict and corruption. So as we finished our book reflecting on the summit – we titled it Century of the City – we started thinking of ways to help fill the gap.
Citiscope Global News is our answer. It isn’t about our own writing. Rather, we’ve designed it as a window of opportunity for journalists who share our curiosity in how cities overcome barriers and function more efficiently and responsively. Each week we’ll select a local journalist in one city around the world to write a story – a “report to the world” – on a significant new effort in his or her city.
Some stories will come from megacities such as New York, London and Singapore. Others will originate from creative, smaller cities such as Curitiba and Balboa. Some are likely to pop up from cities so small or newly founded that their names are scarcely known.
We’ll aim to fuse the power of good story-telling with a strong “get-the-facts-right” culture. And we’ll cover a broad palette of topics – from “green” energy grids to slum upgrading to assimilating immigrants to disaster preparedness to efforts to build more humane, neighborhood-friendly housing complexes. We’ll give due notice to significant new, high-tech “apps” that an imaginative city (or its citizens) may have invented to advance the quality and scope of public services.
We’ve selected a prime target audience – people in positions to adapt innovations if they determine they’re a promising fit for their cities. So our list starts with the folks in charge, so to speak: mayors, city councils, department staffs. We’re especially pleased that United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG), the 100-year-old lead umbrella organization of cities and city organizations worldwide, will feature a range of our stories in communications to its 5,000 city members.
But we also hope to reach well beyond city halls, to leaders of cities’ business and civic sectors, activists in social service and neighborhood associations, academics and students. That’s because in a deep sense, the progress of cities in this century is in everyone’s interest.
Foundation support has been critical in getting Citiscope ready for launch. The Ford Foundation helped us craft a business and fund-raising plan and is contributing significantly to our start-up operations.
Meanwhile, the Rockefeller Foundation has stepped in as a significant co-funder of our operations and is sponsoring a major new feature we’ve just launched – “CitiSignals” – a companion service to the reports from worldwide journalists.
The idea for CitiSignals is straightforward. The global scene is bubbling with new urban initiatives, major conferences, reports on cities’ conditions and international positioning. But it’s difficult to keep up with the flow. CitiSignals will select and concisely describe (in 50 words or less) the thrust or import of some 15 top stories or developments a week – plus provide links to original news articles and reports.
For the busy policymaker – or anyone interested in tracking cities’ worldwide progress in these times – CitiSignals should become a highly convenient, easy-to-use resource.
Citiscope Global News’ scope will likely expand over time. For example, we’re working on the idea of “evergreen” pages or Internet links to keep track of how individual innovations we’ve covered in our main stories are working out in practice. For both policymakers and advocates, we believe that feature will be a key resource.
Citiscope has formed a global network of urbanists who share our direction. Many distinguished urbanists working internationally are on our board. We know the communication tools of the 21st century are expanding rapidly – from newspapers (still dominant and growing in some countries) to broadcast to the multiple (and fast-growing) forms of social media. We’ll seek ways to tap all.
But our central goal, our North Star, will remain constant: to spur innovation, to help cities work better for all their people through the power of independent journalism. Our mission is to generate light for cities, humankind’s prime home for this century and likely long into the future.
How we’ll keep in touch:
Our readers are cordially invited to check the Citiscope web page at www.citiscope.org. You’ll find the first set of CitiSignals reports on the right column. A talented journalist with experience in global urban coverage, David Hatch, will be scanning all manner of world news outlets for the world’s most significant city news stories and releases each week, then synthesizing the import of each for your review. Check here to see this week’s premier installment – and be sure to click through for the topics that most catch your attention.
We’re waiting until January to introduce Citiscope’s major feature article each week, exploring an important innovation from a selected city, commissioned from a professional journalist. Revisions of some of our early exploratory stories are now on the site.
As a subscriber to Citiwire.net’s email newsletter, you’ll automatically be sent the CitiSignals each week – and starting in January, the newsletter will add links to each weekly Citiscope feature story.
As for this Citiwire release, which you’ve received weekly, it will become a commentary/analysis feature of the Citiscope.org site.
We very much hope to stay in touch with you! We’ll welcome any ideas you may have – feature story or Signals ideas, or other suggestions, addressed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Of course there’ll always be a way to unsubscribe, but we surely hope you’ll stay with us).
Neal Peirce’s e-mail is email@example.com.