Making Sense of History in Real Time: How WPR Covered 2020

Making Sense of History in Real Time: How WPR Covered 2020
A man takes pictures at sunset in Sarajevo, Bosnia, May 6, 2020 (AP photo by Kemal Softic).

Perhaps no activity is more inherently human than the attempt to find meaning, whether in the circumstances of our lives or the broad sweep of history. As Viktor Frankl taught us in his seminal book, “Man’s Search for Meaning,” with meaning comes purpose; understanding the “why” often helps us find the “how.”

This seemingly hard-wired effort to discern the meaning of the events taking place around us begins with identifying important signposts and determining their significance. For us at WPR, the most obvious one we look for is crisis—whether political, economic or humanitarian; whether caused by social processes, natural phenomena or—as is usually the case—a combination of the two.

But in many ways, analyzing crises and the visible factors driving them is the easy part of covering international affairs. WPR also seeks to identify the developments and trends that precede and often predetermine crises, beneath the surface and in parts of the world where many mainstream outlets aren’t looking. This is why we cover countries that lack global clout, as well as issues that may at first glance seem to be of secondary importance. The degree to which WPR’s past coverage often helps to explain today’s front-page news is an indication of why these quieter stories do in fact matter.

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