In July last year, at the Global Voices Summit in Nairobi, Aparna Ray and Nwachukwu Egbunike stood at the front of the long, narrow room in the building we'd christened The Giraffe House and posed the question: what if we expanded the writing on Global Voices to include “original” content?
In true Global Voices fashion, from their respective homes in Kolkata, India and Ibadan, Nigeria, Aparna and Nwach had been co-leading a virtual pre-Summit working group exploring the idea of going beyond our traditional style of “neutral” reporting. To a roomful of Global Voices contributors from 60 countries their question was a provocation.
In the nearly nine years that Global Voices has existed, we’ve prided ourselves on being curators and facilitators of global citizen media, taking pains to report as faithfully as possible on what others are doing online. Our commitment to neutrality has won us respect from journalists and researchers, along with a reputation as a trustworthy source. Surely this should be protected?
“Neutrality—what's that?” quipped some of the more wry individuals in the room. Others felt that introducing a more personal element into our stories could enhance our reporting. In their presentation Nwach and Aparna had raised the issue of how difficult it was to construct stories around citizen or social media buzz when events were developing at dizzying speeds. Perhaps this new style of writing could help us react more quickly to events. Others worried about the world's bloggers: by making a shift like this, were we leaving them in the lurch?
By the end of a long debate the outlines of a decision had begun to emerge, to be confirmed some weeks later by a survey circulated among the entire Global Voices community. We would create a new species of Global Voices article, clearly labelled and distinguishable from the other kinds of content, and corralled into its own section.
Why “The Bridge”? As anyone who’s ever created something—a new gadget, a startup, a Kardashian baby—knows, finding a good name is tough, though sometimes the best one is sitting right under your nose. When “The Bridge” appeared among the torrent of names suggested during our community brainstorm, those of us who've been with Global Voices for some time slapped ourselves on the forehead and said: “Well—duh.”
Bridges connect places, of course, enabling communication and the passage of people and ideas, but the word “bridge” also has a deep resonance in the history of Global Voices. At the very first Global Voices meeting in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 2004 the Iranian blogger Hossein “Hoder” Derakhshan coined the term “bridge blogger” to describe a type of person emerging within the nascent international blogosphere. The bridge blogger writes for a global audience, helping readers understand her place of origin in all its messy complexity.
There’s no shortage of personal essays, opinion and commentary on the web, and we wouldn't add to the supply unless we felt we could offer something of value. One of the unique features of Global Voices is the astounding array of countries represented in our community—countries where most of our contributors were born and continue to live and work. We believe there’s as great a need as ever for well-told stories about localities and communities not adequately or accurately represented by mainstream media. Through “The Bridge”, we aim to bring you ideas and conversations from people who have a genuine stake in the stories they’re telling—stories we hope will surprise and delight.
With that, we welcome you to Global Voices’ “The Bridge.”