Fragile States

Fragile States


Kira Kay and Jason Maloney visit Milwaukee to share their recent reports

By Erin Vander Weele of Media Milwaukee

Posted: May 6, 2010


A factory owner in Haiti walked through his abandoned garment factory where gangs once shot bullets through his windows, forcing him to close his doors.

It was 2006, and troubles with gang violence shut down factories in Haiti.  A few years later, peace keepers patrolled the country to control the violence. The struggling country is now working to create jobs by reopening the industrial sites.  

Journalists and news producers Kira Kay and Jason Maloney produced this story about Haiti along with three other countries for their new series called, “Fragile States.” They came to Milwaukee to share the developments they found in each country. 

About 25 people came to the event called “Countries in Crisis.” It took place at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee on May 5, and was held in the Golda Meir library at 2311 East Hartford Avenue. UWM’s Institute of World Affairs and The Stanley Foundation sponsored the event.

“We were really looking for countries that haven’t been covered in the U.S. press for a long period of time,” said Kay. “Our role as a non-profit is to cover the countries that are not getting covered on the nightly news.”

Kay and Maloney said there was little news coverage in Haiti before the earthquake. In fact, the segment about Haiti aired on PBS a day before the earthquake occurred.

“Haiti was only ever getting covered as a disaster zone, but had a lot of interesting developments going on that Americans need to be informed about,” said Kay.

Kay and Maloney have been founders of a non-profit organization called The Bureau for International Reporting since 2006. The Bureau has won two awards according to their website.

The journalists noticed that International reporting was slowly disappearing and wanted to inform people about other countries.

“We still feel like there’s a need for foreign news,” said Maloney.

The series aired for PBS Newshour on Jan. 11, 2010.  It has been recognized by the National Headliner Awards according the BIR website.  The series included four countries:

·         Haiti

·         Congo

·         Bosnia

·         East Timor

Larry Kress is a member of the IWA and frequently attends their events. He said he went to this event because he has some concern for the countries.   

 “It’s essential to be familiar with the situation,” said Kress. “There’s no better way than to hear from someone who has been there”

The Bureau for International Reporting and The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting joined to create the series.  Jon Sawyer, director of the Pulitzer center, reached out to Kay and Maloney for the project.

“There’s less and less of old media coverage on big global issues,” said Sawyer. “The positive trends are the rise of non-profit organizations.”

Audience Awareness

Susan Yelich Biniecki, Assistant Director of the IWA, said they brought Kay and Maloney to UWM so students and locals could hear their stories.

“Our programs are to help increase global awareness in general,” Yelich Biniecki said. “We hope overall that people are asking more complex questions after they leave and be able to see the inter-connectiveness better.”

Kress said he knows about some issues in other countries.  He said he is concerned about other governments interfering with non-government organizations.

“The NGO’s around the world try to come up with solutions sometimes, but often it’s short term because of the lack of interest on the part of the governments to actually solve the situation,” said Kress. “They want to keep their own power, and that’s what holds back a lot of countries.”

Audience member Tim Mckeehan, age 44, came to the event because his wife works for the IWA. He said the reporters made him think about global issues.

“I thought getting first person exposure from reporters sharing their experiences made it easier for me to kind of empathize and be more enthusiastic in engaging with international affairs,” said Mckeehan.

Kay’s and Maloney’s goal with the series is to show Americans the developments countries are going through and help make changes.

“I think we really do want there to be ultimately some action taken from what we show but we try not to suggest what that is,” said Maloney.

The “Fragile States” Series

Kay and Maloney showed portions of the four-part series, and explained the developments they noticed. The series showed the struggling countries making improvements.

Haiti’s industrial park still stood after the earthquake, and projects to use agricultural products for stimulus have started. Maloney said a government was able to come in and play a role.

“We saw the greatest success in building a police force in Haiti,” said Maloney.

Infrastructures have been built since Bosnia’s war, and the country appears to be recovering. However, they are still working to build a stable political structure.

East Timor’s violence has decreased, and the U.S. government has provided programs for young people.

The series showed the UN working to protect people from the ethnic war between Congo’s army and a rebel group. They have built housing to help people who are being discriminated against.

 “It’s not all bad news, we can actually make these changes or help locals make these choices,” said Kay.









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