Poverty & Economic Development

November 8th, 2013  |  By Mary Stucky

Gold Mining in Ghana: Playing with Mercury


Photo: Maddy Crowell

NESTLED in a former cocoa-farming region in southwestern Ghana, the town of Prestea boasts more than 150 small-scale gold mines in the backyards of abandoned farms. The town, with a population of about 35,000, also sits covered in permanent smog—a red dust that stains white goats crimson. It is the result of lethal mercury, on which miners all over Ghana rely to refine their gold. In Prestea, where gravediggers are in greater supply than doctors, death from mercury poisoning is routine.

Thus begins Maddy Crowell’s powerful story in the Economist Magazine.  Maddy is an alum of our Morocco journalism program.  A senior at Carleton College, she was reporting in Ghana over her summer break.  Maddy and her Ghanaian partner, Jamila Okertchiri, approached Round Earth for mentoring on this shocking and important story.


June 4th, 2013  |  By Mary Stucky

Morocco Slow on Women’s Rights: More from Round Earth’s NextGen Journalists

The offices of the women’s advocacy group Al Amane in Marrakesh. Observers say that any changes will not mean much as long as there is not an independent judiciary to apply the law. Photo: Alice Urban

The girl at the police station in Marrakesh said she was not sure how old she was, 13 or maybe 14. Sitting on a chair in the unit that processes youth cases, she told a chilling account of being gang raped, and said she had no relatives willing to shelter her.

That’s the reality for many women in Morocco, according to a story in The New York Times produced in collaboration with Round Earth Media.  Grad student and Round Earth Media NextGen American reporter, Alice Urban, contributed reporting to this important untold story, written and reported by Moroccan reporter Aida Alami, another NextGen journalist affiliated with Round Earth.

It’s partnerships like that between Alice and Aida – mentored by Round Earth’s veteran reporters — that define our mission and our work.

”I think that true partnership adds a great integrity, understanding, and cooperation to producing a quality piece of journalism,” said Urban.

Here’s another story of special interest to our Minnesota friends, written by Alice with mentoring from Round Earth’s veteran journalists.

February 22nd, 2013  |  By Mary Stucky

Soultana: ‘The Voice of Women’ Raps in Morocco

Soultana in concert. PHOTO: Shalea Harris

This week marks the two-year anniversary of Morocco’s version of the so-called Arab Spring. It didn’t unseat a dictator. But, tens of thousands of Moroccans took to the streets demanding democracy. Morocco’s powerful King diffused the protest by offering a few reforms. But little has changed for most Moroccans – especially the country’s young people. Many have found their voice in rap music.  From Morocco on The World, with stunning photos by student photojournalist Shalea Harris.  The latest from Round Earth Media’s groundbreaking collaboration with SIT Study Abroad.   Click HERE to listen and view the photos.

January 8th, 2013  |  By Mary Stucky

Mexico Aims To Save Babies And Moms With Modern Midwifery

The United States and Mexico share deep personal, economic, geographic and cultural connections, but understanding – on both sides of the border – is often limited by stereotype and media exaggeration. Round Earth Media is out to change that.  We launched in 2005, with a bounty of stories from Mexico, supported by a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.  Now, in a groundbreaking new collaboration, Round Earth Media is pairing young American and Mexican journalists, to produce powerful, untold stories from Mexico, stories rich in place and humanity.  These stories, broadcast and published in top-tier media, are reaching huge audiences in both countries.

American journalist Monica Ortiz Uribe (in photo with mic) and Lillian Lopez Camberos, a Mexican journalist, interviewing in Mexico for the story they produced in partnership.

Round Earth Media’s new Mexico Reporting Project is supported by a grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.  The focus of these stories: important but little known or commonly misunderstood aspects of life in Mexico.

Click HERE to listen to Monica Ortiz Uribe’s story about midwives in Mexico, broadcast on NPR’s Weekend Edition. Good maternal health care is a challenge in many parts of rural Mexico. Maternity hospital wards are often overcrowded and caesarian sections are routinely scheduled, rather than allowing time for the natural birth process to take place. But this August, in the rural state of Guerrero, the Mexican government opened its first maternity hospital with trained, professional midwives to help alleviate these problems. We pay a visit to Guerrero and see how these new developments are making giving birth easier for women.

November 28th, 2012  |  By Mary Stucky

Mexico’s Drug War Is Changing Childhood

Mexico’s violent drug war has gotten a lot of sensational attention in U.S. media but there’s been very little attention paid to the effect of this unrelenting violence on Mexico’s children.  Round Earth Media’s Mexico Reporting Project is dedicated to reporting important, untold stories from Mexico, like this one from Annie Murphy which was broadcast on NPR’s  All Things Considered. CLICK HERE to listen to Annie’s powerful story about the ways in which violence is dramatically changing what it’s like to be a kid in Mexico. At Round Earth Media we pair early-career American reporters with early-career reporters in the countries where where we’re working to publish and broadcast in top-tier media in both countries.  Here’s Annie Murphy on the partnership and Round Earth’s ground-breaking model.

Mexican reporter Isabella Cota & and American reporter Annie Murphy interviewing together in Mexico.

Like most freelancers, I’m used to flying solo, which often means making many decisions on my own, at all stages of reporting. While there are things I really enjoy about that system, working with Round Earth was refreshing precisely because of the collaborative model the organization uses. I was paired to work in the field with reporter Isabella Cota, a top-notch Mexican journalist, as well as on the production side with veteran reporters and editors Mary Stucky and Leda Hartman. In working with Isabella I found both a colleague and a friend, a fellow reporter I will doubtless turn to for advice and feedback in the future, and someone whose career I’ll support in any way I’m able; that same spirit of camaraderie applies to the editorial side of the project as well. I think that the sum of all our experiences and resources as reporters and editors allowed us to tackle this pair of stories in Mexico in a way that was efficient, in-depth, and fun–and much more comprehensive than what I’d have been able to do on my own in the same amount of time. (more…)

November 8th, 2012  |  By Mary Stucky

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Round Earth’s Mexico Reporting Project: Isabella Cota and Annie Murphy reporting in Mexico

The U.S. and Mexico share deep personal, economic, geographic and cultural connections, but our understanding of Mexico is often limited by stereotype and media exaggeration. This fall, Round Earth Media is pairing young American and Mexican journalists, in a groundbreaking collaboration, to produce untold stories from Mexico, stories rich in place and humanity. These stories will reach huge audiences in the United States and in Mexico.

An indigenous village in Mexico got fed up with gangs and illegal loggers acting with impunity. So they kicked them out, kicked    out their local authorities and set up their own government. And some other villages are looking at it too.  “Josephina,” pictured above, was one of the first to get organized.  For security she doesn’t want to be identified. Photo: Isabella Cota

Click HERE to listen to this story which ran nationwide on The World.

September 26th, 2012  |  By Mary Stucky

The Latest from MOROCCO

Journalism Partners Sara Ait Khorsa and Veronica Jean Seltzer

Journalism partners Sara Ait Khorsa and Veronica Jean Seltzer

Veronica Jean Seltzer, a Classics major at Tufts University in Boston, and Sara Ait Khorsa, a journalism student at the Institut Supérieur de l’Information et de la Communication in Rabat, teamed up to produce In Morocco Some Dream of a Kingly Gift, just broadcast nationwide on the public radio program, Marketplace.

CLICK HERE for this surprising story,  which helps explain why the “Arab Spring” did not topple Morocco’s king.

Our program comes as U.S. newsrooms are contracting and closing and as the desire for stories outside U.S. borders is greater than ever before.  Democracy in our interconnected world depends on independent journalism!

Look for more stories soon and, please,  tell any aspiring journalist to sign up NOW for our Spring 2013 program, unique among journalism programs world-wide!

August 5th, 2012  |  By Mary Stucky

Imagine: Worrying that your child could be kidnapped into a gang

A child in El Salvador believed to have been kidnapped into a gang. | Photo: Ambar Espinoza

El Salvador has the world’s second highest murder rate – more than 4,300 murders last year alone. That’s just behind Honduras, its neighbor in Central America. The United States bears some responsibility for this.  Many of these young men (or their parents) fled to the U.S. to escape the war in El Salvador in the 1980s, a war that was financed, in part, by the United States. Some of those young immigrants grew up to be gang members and were deported from the U.S. by the courts, ending up back in El Salvador where they continued their gang activities.

The U.S. has poured hundreds of millions into anti-gang efforts in Central America but nothing much seemed to change until just a few months ago, when the Catholic Church stepped in to broker a truce between two gangs in El Salvador.  But the culture of violence there remains.

We sent Ambar Espinoza to El Salvador to report one mother’s story and what the U.S. and El Salvador are doing to try bring justice and safety to the country.  Ambar herself was born in El Salvador and fled the country when she was just a child, grew up in Los Angeles and went on to become an award-winning public radio reporter.   Here’s her story.

July 10th, 2012  |  By Round Earth Media

What Makes Countries Rich or Poor?

A little girl in the doorway of her house in the Bolivian Subtropics. Bolivia is the poorest country in South America. | Photo by Katherine McDonald

Here’s Round Earth Media intern Emma Foehringer Merchant with more about why some nations fail and others succeed.

It is blatantly obvious that certain states have had some sort of leg up in becoming world powers. Just what offered these countries their advantage? Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson explain in their book Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty, reviewed by Jared Diamond (author of the best-selling Guns, Germs and Steel) in last month’s New York Review of Books. Here’s their take.

What do successful nations have in common?

Good political and economic institutions that form a stable state (in constrast to states with deep tribal divisions) are the main common denominator between rich countries, according to economists Acemoglu and Robinson. These institutions allow for a centralized and well-regulated government. Political and economic institutions the two authors define as “good” are those that encourage citizen participation in the economic system.  Good institutions protect peoples’ rights and livelihoods and disallow corruption and insecurity.  As Diamond explains, “people are motivated to work hard if they have opportunities to invest their earnings profitably, but not if they have few such opportunities or if their earnings or profits are likely to be confiscated.”

What makes a country poor?

Acemoglu and Robinson provide some reasons for economic deficiencies in certain states including:


June 19th, 2012  |  By Round Earth Media

In Kenya, U.S. aid groups focus their efforts

"Give Us Wings" co-founder Mary Steiner meeting with the Young Victoria Womens's Group in Nyaoga Village in, Kenya, East Africa. | Photo courtesy of Give Us Wings

Tess Vigeland: Drought and war in the Horn of Africa have left a wide swath of the population there homeless and hungry. The United Nations says some 11 million people need aid to survive. Many of those displaced have headed to Kenya, which itself has deep economic problems. But for all the international aid Kenya has received over the last 30 years, life expectancy there has actually shortened and poverty rates are unchanged.

Mary Stucky reports. (more…)

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