Cha-cha-cha-changes … for 2013

Me and Bill Gates yuck it up over a shared joke (actually, I don't think he knew I was following him).
Me and Bill Gates yuck it up over a shared joke (actually, I don’t think he knew I was following him).

Look out you rock and rollers!

With apologies to David Bowie, here’s an update on the changes underway at Humanosphere.

It is definitely a new year for this online news blog devoted to covering global health, the fight against poverty, aid and development. We’re still undergoing some changes, but news operation resumes this week with our new east coast correspondent Tom Murphy examining the ‘good news’ trend in aid and development.

If you’d like to learn more about what’s happening — or suggest what you’d like to see happen as we move forward into the new Humanosphere — read on and post a comment or email me privately at

First, a quick rundown of what’s new with more detailed explanations below:

  1. Humanosphere, as of Jan. 1, 2013, is an independent, non-profit news organization that will depend even more than it did before on public and community support for its journalistic mission. We’ll remain in partnership with Seattle NPR affiliate station KPLU but will operate independently.
  2. Website and social media changes are underway aimed at improving our ability to deliver news and commentary as well as to engage the broader community. Humanosphere’s goal has never been simply to cover the news for the news’ sake. Our goal is to foster constructive dialogue aimed at making the world a better place – which, by the way, sometimes means identifying those who are making it a worse place.
  3. Diversification of voice and viewpoints. Humanosphere was designed by NPR to function as a one-person news blog. While I will continue to do my best, as one journalist, to provide readers with daily news highlights from around the world combined with my own reporting focused largely on Seattle’s role, the goal is to expand the voices and news content. Some projects like the DNN, and ChangeMap which got shelved due to KPLU’s decision to discontinue its administrative role will be re-launched as we gain greater bandwidth, funding and volunteer capacity.
  4. Speaking of volunteers, Humanosphere, as its own non-profit organization, has a new board of directors. The directors have already contributed a great deal of time, energy and expertise to continuing the site’s journalistic and educational missions. I will have more information about each of them once the website re-design can handle it, but here’s who they are in brief:
  • Rashmir Balasubramaniam, a brilliant expert on social enterprise, ray of sunshine and CEO of the global strategies consulting firm
  • Bill Foege, the man who beat smallpox, former head of the CDC and one of the original architects of the Gates Foundation’s global health mission
  • Andrew Haring, Seattle attorney active in humanitarian causes and formerly general counsel for local ultrasound manufacturer Sonosite
  • Rita Hibbard, leading journalist & former Seattle PI colleague who I depend upon to keep me from doing stupid things, who now does executive consulting with non-profit organizations
  • King Holmes, world-renowned infectious disease expert and head of global health at the University of Washington
  • Jim Simon, assistant managing editor at the Seattle Times and one of the most thoughtful journalists I know
  • Mauricio Vivero, executive director at Seattle International Foundation, an equity activist focused especially on Latin America and Humanosphere’s new board chair

So, what exactly will change now that Humanosphere is independent of KPLU and NPR? Why should you pay more attention to this site than to any of the other thousands of people on the web screaming, pleading and begging for you to click, tweet or friend them?

Again, the primary driver of change is that Humanosphere needed to establish itself as an independent organization. KPLU and NPR launched Humanosphere more than two years ago as part of a nationwide project (also funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the Knight Foundation) aimed at expanding the news organization’s reach on the web. The NPR project had some success but, over time, it became clear that the goal of a targeted news site like Humanosphere did not serve KPLU’s primary desire to create a general news website.

There was a lot more to this story, some of it great fun and some of it not so much. One of the most interesting episodes (for me anyway) involved some confusion at NPR over how to balance the new media blogospheric demand for first-person, transparent journalism while trying to maintain the old-school journalistic goal of objectivity. It’s impossible, of course, but it highlights one of the core missions of Humanosphere. I, personally, don’t think the narrative around the global fight against poverty and inequity works very well or gets to the root of things very often. I want this website to help change that, which I guess makes me biased. So be it.

It’s worth emphasizing that Humanosphere remains in some kind of weird, evolving partnership with KPLU and so you may hear more from us on the radio, and on their website, as things develop. This not a divorce. It’s more like your children finally growing up, moving out … then showing up occasionally to flop in the spare bedroom.

Of more importance is what the changes at Humanosphere will mean to those interested in getting news, analysis and commentary on aid and development. Well, to some extent, that will depend upon you!

What would you like to see happen at the new and to-be-improved Humanosphere?

Post your thoughts here to get the conversation started, or send me an email. I’m actually kind of excited and, for a Norwegian, almost happy about all this. But then, as I’ve said before, I tend to like chaos and mystery.

Cheers and Happy New Humanosphere!



About Author

Tom Paulson

Tom Paulson is founder and lead journalist at Humanosphere. Prior to operating this online news site, he reported on science,  medicine, health policy, aid and development for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Contact him at tom[at] or follow him on Twitter @tompaulson.

  • Alex Stonehill

    Congrats! This sounds like a great move.

    Should we start calling it “Newmanosphere” or does that sound too much like a blog about Seinfeld?

    • Tom Paulson

      Ha! Yeah, let’s try to stay clear of that guy

    • Tom Paulson

      Ha! Yeah, let’s try to stay clear of that guy

  • bobbi nodell

    First I want a Humanosphere T-shirt and then I’d like to see Humanosphere become more like the Huffington Post and be a place for global health leaders and activists to blog. And I would love to see more student voices. The world needs DNN. Thanks for being such an important outlet. UW hearts you.

    • Tom Paulson

      Maybe not shirts. Nobody needs another T-shirt. But Humanosphere hats! I’m on it …

    • Tom Paulson

      Maybe not shirts. Nobody needs another T-shirt. But Humanosphere hats! I’m on it …

  • Tom Furtwangler

    Congratulations on this next step in your evolution.

    • Tom Paulson

      Thanks Tom, I appreciate you saying I’m evolving … as opposed to devolving or merely spinning in a circle in a small pond.

  • Tom Furtwangler

    Congratulations on this next step in your evolution.

  • Mark Justad

    Good to see things moving forward, Tom. Have enough to do? I hope the Board will jump in and start rowing. An impressive group.

    • Tom Paulson

      Hey there Justad! Yeah, I have my work cut out for me. Good thing I’m not obsessed with perfection. As they say, perfect is the enemy of the good little hoblins of consistency … or something like that

  • Joanne Silberner

    Go Tom! I’m very much looking forward to what you’re going to do this year.

    • Tom Paulson

      Thanks Joanne! I hope we can find more ways to collaborate so I can help folks keep track of your excellent work.

  • Terry Lawhead

    Incredible, Tom! Exciting beginning/evolution of your journey. I look forward to keeping up and hope I can be of use along the way.