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About Us

PassBlue is an independent, women-led nonprofit multimedia news company 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 from our base in the UN press corps in New York City and are read throughout the US and Canada 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.

We are a project of the New School’s Julien J. Studley Graduate Program in International Affairs.

Mission

PassBlue’s award-winning 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 and social media followers. Citizens need in-depth reporting on public institutions to ensure transparency and strong, stable democracies: there is no greater mission in our world today.

Affiliation and financing

As a US-based nonprofit news site, we are financially supported by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, Open Society Foundations, Pinkerton Foundation and other charitable institutions as well as by thousands of individuals, who contribute through US tax-deductible donations. In addition, we derive a percentage of our annual revenue from advertisers. We are a longstanding member of the Institute for Nonprofit News. *For our editorial independence statement, see below. To donate to PassBlue, please go here.

UN-Scripted

UN-Scripted, an award-winning podcast series, features our Security Council Presidency column, which focuses on the top diplomats presiding over the rotating monthly seat in the UN’s most important body. The series has drawn an average of 1,100 listeners to each episode since it originated in August 2019.

Coverage

PassBlue clears the air by reporting on how the UN deals with the most urgent problems plaguing the world today as well as reporting on the UN itself. The institution 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 body, 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 how the UN and its member states react to and deal with global crises and what their actions or inactions mean.

Institutional influence

That is where our coverage stands out: producing well-written articles and op-eds, professional videos and podcasts that have pushed the UN 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 abroad. We were the first independent media site based at the UN to report on the dearth of women in top UN posts. That coverage set in motion an institutional 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, enshrined in international law. As a result of our initial coverage of women’s rights at the UN, the organization started a public effort, carried out by Secretary-General António Guterres, to achieve gender parity in its top jobs. It still has a long way to go to providing equality both in its internal operations but also as a model for all member states.

Reach and engagement

Our subscribers include foreign affairs specialists, diplomats, heads of state and government, academics, UN staffers, development experts, global-financial analysts, journalists and students, with the largest demographic traffic being 18-34 years old and most readers based in the US: New York, Washington, Chicago, Houston, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Abroad, they are primarily located in London, Geneva, Delhi, Lahore, Nairobi, Johannesburg, Lagos, Paris, Berlin, Melbourne and Manila. Our stories are sent out by email to our tens of thousand of subscribers, with the average year open rate of 28% and average click rates of 1%, above industry averages. (Our top subscribers by location are based in the US, Netherlands, Geneva, Britain and France.) In 2021, subscriber rates rose 28% 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 or aggregated in such sites as Google Discovery, Ms. Magazine, Politico (Playbook), The Daily Beast, Premium Times (Lagos), Afrique XXI, 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), This Week in Africa, 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 diplomats at the UN. (In 2021, our No. 10 story of the year was produced with DN, “A Now-Retired UN Force Commander From Norway Double-Billed for Expenses.“)

Our freelance reporters and editors have been interviewed by PRI-Boston, BBC, NPR, NHK (English-language version),  Ian Masters’s Background Briefing (KPFK-FM 90.7, Los Angeles backgroundbriefing.org), ARD German TV & Radio Network, Verdens Gang (Norway’s leading publication), Bern-based Radio SRF (Swiss Radio and TV) and other media. We have participated as media experts for events at the Canadian Forces College in Toronto, UN Women, the Foreign Press Association and UNA-USA (San Francisco chapter) and Konrad Adenauer Institute, among other organizations. Our podcast, UN-Scripted, which debuted in August 2019, was cited by Esquire magazine among 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 such other channels as 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 reporting on global warming.

In 2022, at the start of Russia’s war in Ukraine, PassBlue’s journalism and original photos were cited in a Medium essay as an example of an “independent news source” that could help readers “understand the implications of the war.”

Our most-influential reporting:

2021
The year was marked by the continued pandemic crisis; an intensifying standoff among the big powers in the UN Security Council; selecting the next UN secretary-general and the respective heads of UN Women, the UN humanitarian agency and Unicef; as well as an array of UN-related scandals:
2020

Throughout the pandemic, we produced hundreds of original stories, op-eds, scoops, investigations, breaking news and podcast episodes, some of which were reposted by Ms. Magazine, the Daily Beast and other media and academic and think tank sites. Our top pieces, grouped by theme:

The US-UN relationship/UN Security Council/Trump-Putin

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
      • Scoop/breaking news: 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. The coverage included speeches by Haley in various venues; steps by the Trump administration and Congress regarding US budgets to the UN, including UN peacekeeping; Haley’s work in the UN Security Council; and how UN Secretary-General António Guterres related 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 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 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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