PassBlue is an independent, women-led journalism site that is the go-to source on the US-UN relationship as well as women’s issues, human rights, peacekeeping and other urgent global matters playing out in the UN, reported from our base in the UN press corps and elsewhere. Founded in 2011, PassBlue is a project of the New School’s Graduate Program in International Affairs in New York and not tied financially or otherwise to the UN. PassBlue is a member of the Institute for Nonprofit News.
MISSION: PassBlue’s public-service journalism reports on the relationship of the US to the UN and how the UN works — its successes, failures and the gray matter in between — through dispatches from writers worldwide. We also cover important internal UN topics, like the status of its $64 million pension fund, one of our most popular reporting endeavors. 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.
PRAISE FOR PASSBLUE:
• 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 most-influential reporting in 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
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
- 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.
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.
Stringers have contributed from Washington, Los Angeles, Chicago, Berlin, London, Edinburgh and Paris; Afghanistan, Bosnia, Brazil, Burkina Faso, China, Cambodia, Georgia, Guinea-Bissau, India, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Mozambique, Peru, Poland, Turkey and Zimbabwe.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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 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 (email@example.com).
To write for PassBlue, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, 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.