The third meeting of the 2018-2019 SECWAC Speaker season was held at Connecticut College, New London, on November 14th, with some 70-odd members and guests hearing about the current status of “ground truth” in journalism. Charlie Sennott, Founder, CEO, and Editor of The GroundTruth Project, began by telling us of his early years as a “beat reporter” in New York, working for the New York Daily News and covering the first bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993. Being one of the first journalists on the scene, Charlie reported that what was initially thought to have been a generator explosion was, in fact, a bomb – the arrival of a Bomb Disposal Team vehicle convinced his initially disbelieving editor! Charlie then embarked on a series of visits to Middle Eastern countries to identify the sources of the bombers, culminating in his attendance at a large meeting in Khartoum, Sudan, at which he believes he identified Osama bin Laden standing with followers at the back of the room…
Charlie also told us of his “GroundTruth Project”, which attempts to bring more young people into the field of journalism, especially of the “ground truth” variety. He defined ground truth in a military context: the identification of detailed “on the ground” information pertaining to a military situation in order to ensure success. The GroundTruth Project supports the development of local and foreign news reporting that is not driven just by the number of “clicks” on websites. GroundTruth makes available a newsletter and a podcast – I have already signed up and listened to an excellent 25-minute story (in collaboration with WGBH Boston Public Radio) on life for children in the city of Mosul a year after it was liberated from ISIS, as seen through the eyes of a young female journalist, Alex Potter. Alex received a GroundTruth fellowship given in memory of the late journalist James Foley, abducted and murdered by ISIS in 2014.
“Report for America” is another initiative that he and veteran journalist Steven Waldman started after the 2016 election, and aims to install 1,000 journalists in understaffed newsrooms by 2022. He described the dramatic decline in local reporting, in part due to the gutting of newsrooms in recent times (see, for example, the case of The Denver Post and the “missing faces” in a recent staff photo), and the efforts to send enthusiastic young journalists to little-served poor areas of the US in search of the ground truth.
For our next meeting, Essex local Rob Hernandez will present on “Cuba, the Conflicted Isle: can it reconcile it’s past while creating a new future?” on December 11th at the Old Lyme Country Club.
Executive Director & Program Committee Chair, Southeast Connecticut World Affairs Council
The mission of the Southeast Connecticut World Affairs Council (SECWAC) is to foster an understanding of issues of foreign policy and international affairs by study, debate, and educational programming, primarily through a Speakers Series of 8 to 10 monthly meetings.