In this webinar, NPQ’s Senior Correspondent and Investigations Editor, Amy Costello, takes viewers on a behind-the-scenes exploration regarding ethical storytelling and effective nonprofit communications. In a conversational format, Amy and her long-time producer, Freddie Boswell, discuss the ethical challenges they have confronted while covering nonprofits, philanthropy and international aid in their podcast, Tiny Spark.

Communications staff and nonprofit leaders will be challenged to wrestle with myriad ethical considerations when portraying the lives of those their organizations seek to help, whether these individuals live in the US or abroad; many of whom are in crisis or have experienced trauma, including sexual assault. Using examples from their own journalistic work, this webinar includes practical discussions on topics such as:

  • How to meaningfully interview and portray people who have experienced trauma
  • Questions to ask yourself before writing about vulnerable communities
  • The importance of conducting prior research before engaging in interviews
  • How to think about “expertise” and the need to balance academic expertise with the expertise that comes from lived experience in community
  • The need to continually interrogate one’s own prejudices in the course of journalistic work
  • The importance of pushing back against funder demands that undermine the communities on which you are reporting
  • Why good intentions are never enough

Additional Resources

Amy Costello and Frederica Boswell, “The Black Women Making Birth Better,” NPQ, November 19, 2020.

Amy Costello and Frederica Boswell, “Tania Culver Humphrey: The Woman Who “Saved Mercy Corps,” NPQ, September 30, 2020.

Amy Costello and Frederica Boswell, “Rebuilding at Thunder Valley: A Story of the Lakota Nation Rising,” NPQ, December 5, 2019.

Amy Costello and Frederica Boswell, “The Guilty Project: ‘How Do You Defend Those People?’” NPQ, November 7, 2019.

Amy Costello and Frederica Boswell, “The Ethics of Nonprofit Storytelling: Survivor Porn and Parading Trauma,” NPQ, April 5, 2019


Amy Costello, Senior Correspondent and Investigations Editor, Tiny Spark Podcast

For four years, Amy was the Africa Correspondent for Public Radio International’s The World. She has also reported for National Public Radio (NPR), PBS television, the BBC World Service, and The Guardian. Amy’s television investigation Sudan: The Quick and the Terrible was nominated for an Emmy Award. In 2011, she launched Tiny Spark, which investigates nonprofits, philanthropy and international aid. It joined NPQ in 2018.

Frederica Boswell, Senior Producer, Tiny Spark Podcast

Freddie began her career working on African News, Arts and Current Affairs at the BBC World Service in London. After a two-year stint reporting from Zanzibar, Freddie moved to Washington, D.C. in 2010, and joined NPR’s Morning Edition and later Tell Me More. She then spent a year traveling around the US with NPR host Michel Martin to produce the live events series Going There. Freddie has produced Tiny Spark from her base in the Middle East since 2016.