Inter Press Service (IPS) is the world’s leading news agency on issues such as development, environment, human rights and civil society. However, at its outset, IPS had a more focused goal: to fill the information gap between Europe and Latin America through a snail mail-borne feature news service. It was to this end that a non-profit international cooperative of journalists by the name of IPS was founded in 1964 by Italian-Argentinean economist Roberto Savio and Argentinean political scientist Pablo Piacentini, both of them still involved in IPS.
As it grew, IPS acquired a new mission: bear the hopes of Third World countries and peoples for a new international economic order and, as a consequence, a new information and communication order within the framework of the United Nations; in other words, make the voice of the voiceless heard. This broadened objective presided over the rapid worldwide expansion of IPS in the 1970s and 1980s with a daily news service in English and Spanish.
Such rapid growth brought with it the need for decentralization, which led to the creation of a regional structure. The first step was the establishment of a Latin American centre then in San Jose, Costa Rica, in 1982, soon to be followed by the African regional office then in Harare, Zimbabwe and the Asian centre then in Manila, Philippines. The agency¹s headquarters remained in Rome, where it remains today. A few years later, new regional centres where established in Europe and North America.
The dramatic events of 1989-91 – the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union – prompted new goals and definitions: IPS was the first news outlet to identify itself as “global” and define the new concept of neoliberal globalization as contributing to the marginalising of developing countries from wealth, trade and policy-making. It was also a very early adopter of an Internet-based platform for its operations.
In 1994 IPS changed its global organizational structure and legal status to become a “a non-profit, international non-governmental organisation”, open to journalists, professional communicators and organisations active in the fields of information and communication. Starting in 2000, each regional centre was incorporated and became a separate, locally-owned legal entity, coordinating its effort and activities with the others through the IPS international association. In 2005 IPS re-established its co-operative status, with the regional centres and the IPS Columnist Service establishing the IPS International News Agency as a co-operative consortium registered in Rome, Italy.
Many things have changed since the times of snail mail and telex communications, but not the inequalities and imbalances that gave birth to IPS. New media, new ways of communication, bring not just new dangers of alienation and discrimination, but also new opportunities for making the process of communication a truly horizontal exchange between peoples and nations, a tool to overcome the perils threatening the very existence of humankind. IPS continues to adapt its journalism and embrace new technologies for this continuing purpose.