PassBlue is an independent, women-led journalism site that is considered the most influential media source covering the US-UN relationship, women’s issues, human rights, peacekeeping and other urgent global matters playing out in the UN. We report with a feminist perspective from our base in the UN press corps and read from New York to Nairobi to New Zealand, with the bulk of readers in the US. We consider our work a public service by holding people and civic institutions — the UN — accountable. The public needs in-depth reporting more than ever to engage in civil discourse and take civic action: there is no greater mission in our world today.
And we are part of a growing trend of small digital upstarts thriving in democracy-serving oases amid growing news deserts, breaking news, doing major investigations and providing a clear window on global affairs through the lens of the UN.
As a nonprofit news site, we are affiliated with the New School’s Graduate Program in International Affairs, supported by the Carnegie Corporation of New York and individuals, and we are a member of the Institute for Nonprofit News. *For our editorial independence statement, see below.
Our articles have been reposted on such sites as Ms. Magazine, The Daily Beast, Inter-Press Service, NewsDeeply, Consortium News, Global Policy Institute, Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs, Center on International Cooperation, International Press Syndicate Group, Igarapé Institute and included on the UN’s daily internal news clipping service. We are partnering with WFUV, at Fordham University, to publish news on the UN, starting with its annual opening session of the General Assembly, September 2019.
Our stories and podcasts were featured in Politico’s UN General Assembly playbook, September 2019. And our reporters and editors have been interviewed by BBC, NPR, NHK (English-speaking Japanese media), Verdens Gang (Norway’s leading publication) and other US and international media.
Our articles have also been used as sources in articles or cited in The New York Times, The Guardian, Foreign Policy, The Daily Beast, Deutsche Welle, BBC World News and elsewhere. Our stories are also syndicated globally by NewsText and distributed in Japan via Smart News and regularly featured in Google Alerts and posted on Medium. We offer a Creative Commons sharing button for reposting our articles automatically.
To spread our work covering women’s rights, the US-UN dynamic (or what we call the “Trump effect” on the UN), human rights and other important issues of our time, in late 2018 and 2019, we expanded our digital platform to produce two new initiatives: a Facebook Live series on women peacemakers; and UN-Scripted, a podcast series based on our Security Council Presidency monthly column as well as highlighting our top monthly stories. Both new projects have been successful in attracting new attention on social media and drawn approximately 50-100 new subscribers each month.
MISSION: PassBlue’s highly regarded public-service journalism reports on the relationship of the US to the UN and the UN itself through dispatches from writers worldwide. We also cover important internal UN topics, including the continuing saga of sexual harassment and corruption. We are one of the few English-language media sites dedicated to providing broad coverage, analysis and investigations on the UN, writing objectively with nuance on the complicated role of the world body in geopolitics.
PassBlue runs a lean operation, so that most of our annual budget pays editors and reporters to cover travel, research and writing costs. Here is our list of donors: please contribute and make democracy function.
PRAISE FOR PASSBLUE:
• Helen Clark, the former top executive of the UN Development Program and ex-prime minister of New Zealand, praised PassBlue for its “herculean” reporting on women’s rights.
• Melanne Verveer, a US ambassador at large for global women’s issues under President Obama and executive director of the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security, said: “PassBlue provides essential coverage of the US-UN relationship, with a strong focus on women’s issues. Their timely reporting is an important resource for anyone working in global affairs.”
• A Japanese cabinet member based in Tokyo said he followed three publications that focus on the UN: PassBlue, the International Peace Institute’s newsletter and Security Council Report.
• A South American senior diplomat called PassBlue an “insightful niche publication” covering topics on the UN that mainstream media overlook.
•A professor at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs said of PassBlue: “I find this material so valuable in my work (teaching and writing about gender and development for undergrads and graduate students). I’ve recommended that my students all sign up. This is unique coverage that is available nowhere else.”
• Marissa Conway, a co-founder of a new blog, Feminist Foreign Policy, said of the writeup PassBlue published on her enterprise: “I credit much of the positive support we’ve received so early on to your article.”
COVERAGE: PassBlue clears the air by reporting on how the UN deals with the most urgent problems plaguing the world today. The UN was founded in 1945 to maintain international peace and security, and the United States is by far the biggest financial contributor to its operating and peacekeeping budgets. Yet at its core the UN is a political institution, now made up of 193 member nations, and UN staff often work in the world’s worst danger zones, which invariably mires the UN in controversy and sometimes flawed operations.
That is where our coverage steps in: our well-written articles, op-eds, short videos and podcasts have pushed the UN to increased transparency and accountability as the US has pushed, in varying degrees, for a more efficient and responsible UN.
Our subscribers include foreign affairs specialists, diplomats, academics, UN staffers, development experts, journalists and students, with the largest demographic 18-34 years old and a large chunk of our readers based in the US: New York, Washington, Chicago and Los Angeles. Abroad, they are primarily in London, Delhi, Lahore, Geneva, Nairobi, Paris, Berlin, Melbourne and Manila. Our stories are sent out via email three to four times a week to our subscribers, with an average open rate ranging from 24-31% and average click rates ranging from 1.5-2%.
Our most-influential reporting in 2019 so far:
• Our preview coverage of the UN’s annual opening of the General Assembly reached new heights: reporting exclusively in early August on which global leaders were coming to speak in September, revealing a “strongmen” theme at the UN debate; and an exclusive revealing only about 10 percent of the total global leaders speaking were women.
• Kelly Knight Craft, the new US ambassador to the UN: an exclusive story by Irwin Arieff, a former Reuters correspondent, on her possible conflict of interest in this role while having millions invested in the coal industry; her Senate hearing revealing strong bipartisan opposition and favoritism for her ambassadorship; and an analysis asking why Knight Craft had not showed up for her job at the UN a month after her nomination was approved.
• Barbara Crossette, formerly The New York Times foreign correspondent in South Asia, tackling the sudden move by India to wipe out Kashmir’s sovereignty, through three stories: human-rights abuses by India in Kashmir; why the world became riveted to the boiling-over Kashmir crisis; and the initial response by Kashmiri Muslims to President Modi’s swift action in August.
• How the US threatened to veto a UN Security Council resolution to help end sexual violence in conflict, starting with an exclusive op-ed on the issue and followed up with covering the Security Council vote days later on the resolution, which essentially diminished the rights of women globally to abortions.
• An investigation into 1000s of harassing and bullying text messages sent to a Kenyan diplomat at the UN while leading the annual negotiations on the summary document for the Commission on the Status of Women, with questions left unanswered as to how the UN would handle such future abuse and whether the US would pursue its own investigation of the matter, since the Kenyan reported to the US mission to the UN about the case.
Top stories revolved around the actions of the US in the UN, especially our reporting for the Nikki Haley Watch column. In addition, we published these top stories:
• Investigation on the health and political status of President Hadi of Yemen
• Investigation on US reversing policy on use of cluster bombs and testing new models with an Israeli company
• Investigation into the finances of Ambassador Nikki Haley of the US
• Exclusive: Michelle Bachelet named the UN high commissioner for human rights
Our Worldview op-ed standouts:
• The French-led G5 Sahel force is failing
• When is an attack on UN peacekeepers a war crime?
• Using sanctions to end rape in war
• Our first Facebook Live event, with Mariam Jalabi, a female Syrian activist and political party leader, was held in partnership with Council on Foreign Relations and UN Women; October 2018.
- In mid-2017, we introduced a regular new column, called Nikki Haley Watch, to cover the US ambassador. It has proven to be a much-needed resource, as no one covers her role at the UN as closely as we do. This coverage includes speeches by Haley in various venues; steps by the Trump administration and Congress on US budgets to the UN; US budget actions on UN peacekeeping; Haley’s work in the UN Security Council; and how UN Secretary-General António Guterres relates to the US administration.
- We were the only media site covering the UN to begin writing about the lack of gender parity in the uppermost levels of the UN Secretariat. Our concerted coverage on gender equality began in 2011 by looking at the rate of women being hired for top jobs at the UN. Our reporting has resulted in more public awareness of the problem and it became a main topic posed to candidates who were running for the Secretary-General post in 2016. In Guterres’s first year in office, he achieved his pledge of parity in the upper ranks of the UN.
- An article by Rico Carisch, a UN sanctions expert, questioned why circumstantial evidence from a UN report was being used by the US to accuse Iran of supplying weapons to rebels in Yemen that were fired into Saudi Arabia. Carisch pointed out that The Washington Post and The New York Times repeated the US claims and ignored the lack of substantiated evidence to do so. After our article was published, Agence France-Presse began to question the evidence as well. Russia and China, on the Security Council, also questioned the methodology in the report, leading to Russia later vetoing a resolution tying Iran to the missiles shot into Saudi territory.
- An op-ed by two New York City College of Technology math professors proposed that the UN partner with them and their students to promote the Sustainable Development Goal on education. The essay resulted in promising steps: Unesco sent a representative from Geneva to the college for a presentation on the agency’s work on education.
Top stories in 2017 revolved primarily around the relationship of the Trump White House and the UN, peacekeeping problems and reforms and women’s rights. Some of our top stories:
• PassBlue extensively covered the new UN process to select the next secretary-general, with particular attention paid to the female candidates. The reporting included a scoop on a new candidate, Kristalina Georgieva of Bulgaria and a European Union executive, throwing her hat in the ring. The article caused an immediate stir in the UN and in Europe, where it was cited by government officials in Bulgaria’s capital and led to Russia publicly chastising Germany for its role in promoting Georgieva;
• an exclusive report on the new UN Syria Women’s Advisory Board and its participation in UN-led peace talks in Geneva. The article included an interview with Staffan de Mistura, the UN envoy for Syria, and is the only long-form article on the board;
• first to report on Twitter, followed by a thorough article, on a UN-led petition to remove the UN’s designation of Wonder Women as an empowerment symbol of women and girls. The cartoon figure was soon dropped by the UN.
• PassBlue broke news by reporting on the UN’s contentious decision not to use the word “prostitution” in its work on women’s rights, leading the UN Women entity to reconsider such language;
• on no-shows by US Ambassador Samantha Power at UN-based media briefings resulted in her appearance before the media at the UN within days;
• on the record number of deaths of peacekeepers in the UN mission in Mali, leading major publications to begin citing the problem;
• on how Buffalo, N.Y., offered comprehensive programs to refugees arriving in its city, a story that spurred the US State Department to head up a visit by an international reporting contingent to the city.
STAFF AND REGULAR CONTRIBUTORS:
PassBlue’s editor, Dulcie Leimbach, worked for more than 20 years as an editor and writer for The New York Times, including editing for numerous news desks, the Sunday Magazine and the editorial/op-ed page. Her journalism career began at The Rocky Mountain News in Denver; from there she moved east to New York, soon working for The Times. She founded PassBlue in 2011 with Barbara Crossette (see below); and together they have grown the nonprofit media site through social media and thousands of subscribers. Leimbach has reported from the UN, Europe and West Africa on primarily women’s issues for PassBlue. She also taught journalism at Hofstra University.
Barbara Crossette, PassBlue’s senior correspondent, was UN bureau chief for The New York Times from 1994-2001 and a chief correspondent in Southeast Asia and South Asia in a career spanning decades for the newspaper.
Laura Kirkpatrick, a graduate of the Columbia University School of Journalism, is a senior editor responsible for social media and audience development and a writer.
Kacie Candela, an award-winning reporter for WFUV Radio at Fordham University, is an assistant editor who writes articles and produces original podcasts.
Deborah Baldwin is a part-time editor with decades of experience working at The New York Times and This Old House, among other publications. She has a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Oregon and a B.S.in American civilization from the University of Pennsylvania.
John Penney is the IT editor and a commercial photographer with a B.F.A. from Boston University.
FINANCING: As philanthropic journalism, PassBlue is financed primarily through the Carnegie Corporation of New York, with additional grants from the Samuel Rubin Foundation, the Feminist Majority Foundation, the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation and donations from individual readers, who we count on to help cover our expenses. We also generate revenue through advertising from publishers, think tanks and academic-based programs. To make a tax-deductible donation, visit our donate page. All contributions go to pay such expenses as writers’ fees. We have no overhead and the New School does not assess a fee on individual donations. To mail a check, send it to PassBlue, P.O. Box 23166, Brooklyn, N.Y. 11202.
* EDITORIAL INDEPENDENCE: PassBlue follows the standards of editorial independence adopted by the Institute for Nonprofit News:
Our organization retains full authority over editorial content to protect the best journalistic and business interests of our organization. We maintain a firewall between news coverage decisions and sources of all revenue. Acceptance of financial support does not constitute implied or actual endorsement of donors or their products, services or opinions.
We accept gifts, grants and sponsorships from individuals and organizations for the general support of our activities, but our news judgments are made independently and not on the basis of donor support.
Our organization may consider donations to support the coverage of particular topics, but our organization maintains editorial control of the coverage. We will cede no right of review or influence of editorial content, nor of unauthorized distribution of editorial content.
Our organization makes public all donors, listed on our donor page. We will accept anonymous donations for general support only if it is clear that sufficient safeguards have been put into place that spending that donation is made independently by our organization and in compliance with INN’s membership standards.
BOARD AND SPEAKERS’ BUREAU: Our advisory board consists of journalists and other experts on the topics we cover: Irwin Arieff, Alison Gardy, Jeff Laurenti, Nina Lahoud, Susan Manuel, Joanne Myers and Anne Marie Riccitelli. Our board members are available as part of our speakers’ bureau on women’s rights, the UN and foreign affairs. (To inquire, please send an email to email@example.com.)
MENTORING: We offer an active mentoring program for journalism students to write on the UN and foreign affairs from such academic institutions as Columbia, Muhlenberg, the New School and the City University of New York.
OUR NAME: PassBlue is a play on the diplomatic passport known as “laissez-passer” (“let pass”), a blue travel document used by UN officials on missions and issued by national governments and world institutions during wartime and other periods to allow officers to travel to specific areas. The UN grounds passes are also blue; in addition, the UN issues passport-size IDs for travel on contract business.
PassBlue was designed by John Penney (firstname.lastname@example.org).
To write for PassBlue, send an e-mail to email@example.com, including a resume and pithy but researched story ideas.
We thank all our donors for their generous support of PassBlue.
If you are interested in an internship at PassBlue, find out more on our Interns page.
PassBlue is dedicated to Janet Leimbach, Aug. 26, 1925-May 23, 2011.