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As GroundReport grows, the site aims to diversify global coverage

Erin Roberts

A year ago, Katie Donnelly examined the ways in which the global news site Ground Report was partnering with media organizations in order to provide on-the-ground news coverage world-wide. This year, we're honing in on the question of how GroundReport assesses its impact as its readership and network of over 5,000 contributors continues to expand.

First and foremost, GroundReport is a platform that, according to founder and CEO Rachel Stern, aims to “help other people tell their stories.” But the site is not just about serving up news. Ideally, Sterne says, GroundReport would “[create] more of a conversation and a discussion around news rather than just putting it out there.” To measure success in this area, the site tracks and publishes the traffic to each article, encouraging contributors to promote their work. Staffers also use Google News to note which media outlets are picking up GroundReport articles, Google Alerts ( to track online mentions of GroundReport, a combination of Google Blogs and Technorati Search to search for blog posts that mention the site, and HootSuite to manage and track Twitter accounts.

An unusual combination of open access and editorial oversight has allowed GroundReport to provide, as their website states, “local perspectives on world events that you won't find anywhere else – faster and with more depth than the mainstream media.” This has increased its ability to affect the way that global stories are reported. For example, GroundReport was the only media outlet to report on the protests for Tibetan freedom at the Beijing Olympics and contributors provided a unique local perspective during the Mumbai terrorism attacks.

GroundReport staffers work to recruit a mix of citizen reporters from around the globe. The site logs where each contributor is from, as well where each news item is posted. As Sterne observes, “Usually [the media narrative] skews very heavily towards Western Europe and North America – and then South America and Africa always have the same narrative. So for us it’s about having people from all these different places who are contributing, and making sure we have a nice balanced mix of views from around the world.” However, she cautions, “You want to be inclusive, but you want to reward and incentivize the most capable people in your network.” She says that GroundReport’s strength as a platform is revealed by how it has helped contributors launch their careers. “Some of [our reporters] have gone on to get fellowships, to get accepted into journalism schools, and I think in large part that’s because they helped to create an imprint online thanks to their work with GroundReport.” As GroundReport continues to grow, its producers hope it will serve as a model for other news organizations. “Allowing for a more diverse scope of voices could probably help to make our public media a lot more relevant to the people it’s supposed to serve,” says Sterne.