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About Us

PassBlue is an independent, women-led nonprofit journalism site that closely covers the US-UN relationship, women’s issues, human rights, peacekeeping and other urgent global matters playing out in the world body. We report with a feminist perspective from our base in the UN press corps in New York City and are read in the US and overseas: London, Geneva, Paris, Berlin, Delhi, Nairobi, Johannesburg, Manila and Australia/New Zealand, with most readers located in New York, Washington and London, making us a local/regional/global source of news.

Mission

PassBlue’s highly regarded public-service journalism holds the powerful people and 193 member countries at the UN to account by providing original news reports, analyses, scoops and investigations each week to our tens of thousands of subscribers. The public needs in-depth reporting more than ever to engage in civil discourse and take civic action when needed: there is no greater mission in our world today.

Affiliation and financing

As a nonprofit news site, we are a project of the New School’s Graduate Program in International Affairs, supported by the Carnegie Corporation of New York and other foundations as well as by hundreds of individuals. In addition, we derive approximately 5 percent of our annual revenue from advertisers, primarily academic institutions. *For our editorial independence statement, see below. To donate to PassBlue, please go here.

UN-Scripted

UN-Scripted, a podcast series features our Security Council Presidency monthly column, has attracted new attention on PassBlue in social media and podcast circles by drawing an average of 1,000 listeners to each episode since August 2019.

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, and UN staff often work in the world’s worst danger zones, which invariably mires the UN in controversy and sometimes flawed operations. Covering the UN requires providing context for readers so they can better understand not only what happened but what it means.

Institutional influence

That is where our coverage stands out: by producing well-written articles and op-eds, professional videos and podcasts that have pushed the UN itself to increased transparency and accountability and exposed a wide range of its members to journalistic scrutiny. Our most important coverage has been on gender equality and the lack thereof inside the UN hierarchy as well as among UN member state delegations in New York and at home. We were the first media site based at the UN to report on something obvious that no one dared write about: the dearth of women in top UN posts. That coverage set in motion a network change and a new agenda: people inside the UN and those outside it working on gender equality now look to PassBlue for news and other information on the status of women’s global rights. Most important, the UN started a public effort, carried out extensively by Secretary-General António Guterres, to achieve gender parity in its top jobs.

Reach and engagement

Our subscribers include foreign affairs specialists, diplomats, academics, UN staffers, development experts, global-financial analysts, journalists and students, with the largest demographic being 18-34 years old and most of our readers based in the US: New York, Washington, Chicago, Houston, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Abroad, they are primarily in London, Delhi, Lahore, Geneva, Nairobi, Johannesburg, Lagos, 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 of 26% and average click rates of 1.5%, above industry averages. In 2019, the number of subscribers rose 47% over 2018, our biggest jump since we were founded in 2011. In 2020, subscriber rates jumped 63% over the previous year. PassBlue’s editor and publisher, Dulcie Leimbach, received a certificate in 2021 from the Google News Initiative’s Digital Growth Program Audience Development curriculum.

Media Amplification

Our articles have been reposted in such sites as Google Discovery, Ms. Magazine, Politico (Playbook), The Daily Beast, Inter-Press Service, Global Geneva, Fair Observer, Geneva Solutions, Consortium News, Global Policy Institute, Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs, Center on International Cooperation, International Politics and Society, International Press Syndicate Group, Igarapé Institute (Rio de Janeiro), Welt-Sichten (World Views, Frankfurt) and included on the UN’s daily internal news clipping service. In 2020, we began partnering with a Norwegian business daily, Dagens Naeringsliv, on investigations related to Norwegian diplomacy at the UN.

Our reporters and editors have been interviewed by PRI-Boston, BBC, NPR, NHK (English-language version), ARD German TV & Radio Network, Verdens Gang (Norway’s leading publication) and smaller media. Our podcast, UN-Scripted, which debuted in August 2019, was cited by Esquire magazine in its top-podcasts review.

PassBlue articles have been cited in news articles published by AFP, The New York Times, The Guardian, Foreign Policy, Daily Beast, Deutsche Welle, BBC World News and elsewhere. Our stories are distributed globally by email to our subscribers and through other channels via NewsBreak, NewsText and Smart News (Japan); we are also regularly featured in Google Alerts, Spotlight and Bing News Pub Hub. We partner with Patch to repost local stories and are part of the Covering Climate Now international media consortium focused on global warming.

Our most-influential reporting
2019
  • 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 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.
2018

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
  • Exclusives: US National Security Adviser John Bolton’s effort to end frozen conflict in Western Sahara; and how US is driving peace talks on the conflict

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.
2017
  • 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. Our top stories:

 

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 (penney.jsp@gmail.com).

To write for PassBlue, send an e-mail to passblue1@gmail.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.


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