Published on January 22nd, 2013 | by EJC1
Funding Media to Fill the Humanitarian-Development, North-South Gaps
Whenever we are exposed to severe weather conditions or encounter protests that result in a number of casualties, mainstream as well as social media quickly capture the scenes on the ground and report about it. But do media in general cover the post-disaster/conflict in the most appropriate manner?
It is true that there is a tendency for newsrooms to focus on topics that immediately catches the public’s attention, such as the negative effects of acute crises and disasters that result in a large number of deaths, high financial loss, and damages on urban structures, which will elicit economic deprivation.
A Google Trends study carried out by the Altantic on the search terms indicates that financial crisis, mass destruction, and scandals generated more interests than the severe famine in Somalia that was formally addressed by the U.N. in 2011. According to the Lexis Nexis’ research as stated in the Atlantic‘s article, the major newspapers’ search trend also showed the same result: much less attention on the longstanding issues in Africa. Whether it is about policy or media, it is undeniable that there is the existence of a major glitch in connecting humanitarian response as well as long-term aid assistance and development.
“Western reporting on Africa is often fraught with factual errors, incomplete analysis, and stereotyping that would not pass editorial muster in coverage of China, Pakistan, France, or Mexico.” – Laura Seay, Morehouse College.
While there is an issue with media jumping on ‘eye-catching’ topics and less attention on long-lasting issues, we have seen the media coverage gap in the recent Hurricane Sandy event, which reflects the North-South divide. Garry Pierre-Pierre from the Guardian calls attention on the fact that there had been much less coverage about the affects of Hurricane Sandy in the Caribbean while the devastation was equally tremendous. “Part of the definition of news is proximity and western media companies rarely go out of their way to bring thoughtful vivid human stories of places far away“, states the journalist.
In her article on Foreign Policy, Laura Seay, an assistant professor at Morehouse College points out that part of the problem with negative coverage on global south, particularly in Africa, lies in the limited number of Western media journalists who are assigned to cover the entire continent. While many media outlets are confronted with the rapid changes that are enforced by the rise of new media, more media outlets struggle to find a new business model, resulting in immediate cut-backs in, for instance, shrinking the number of foreign correspondents. Ironically, big media houses like CNN opted to invest in holograms instead of actual investigative journalists who go on the ground to find out the truth, as seen in the following video from the Daily Show.
Investigative journalism is needed to bring human stories alive as it gives the public better understanding about the critical situations whether it is related to humanitarian or development issues. In addition, better understanding would potentially affect how the public makes decisions for donation to end prevailing international issues.
Based on this background information, the European Journalism Centre recently launched a new grant programme, in cooperation with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, to help encourage media outlets in Europe to cover international development issues. The grant aims to raise awareness about these issues by having a strong impact on media audiences in eight countries with the highest net official development assistance namely, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.
Innovative reporting projects will be awarded considerable funding (average of about EUR 20,000 per grant will be given), with an aim to support journalists, editors, and development stakeholders to perform thorough research and to develop new, exciting, and even experimental reporting, employing state of the art presentation methods, and techniques of journalistic storytelling. At a time when many media organisations face financial constraints, the grant programme aims to better enable media houses to go beyond their usual reporting approaches and thus set a new and distinctive agenda for development coverage.
For more information about this programme, visit journalismgrants.org