Top tips on using the media to aid developmentBy Anna Scott
Source: The Guardian
How can development issues best be covered in the media, and by who?
Tess Newton Cain, principal, Devpacific, Port Vila, Vanuatu.@CainTess
Be strategic about which outlets you target: As with all media, in development media it's important to identify strategic insertion points for information and knowledge rather than simply broadcasting everything to everyone in the hope that some of it 'sticks'. There are many media platforms available to NGOs, academics and other development groups, and there is much to learn about how to make optimal use of each – not just in terms of reaching a lot of people but reaching the right people.
James Deane, director of policy and learning, BBC Media Action, London, England. @jamesmdeane
Development media should not alienate those who aren't experts: Subsidy to public interest content, such as development media, is becoming more important. The danger comes when the debate is limited to people who share similar assumptions and language, and becomes alien to the public at large. One of the key things media can do is crystallise and refresh development issues in ways that challenge assumptions and existing language.
Media training is only useful in a healthy media environment: Often people who take media courses in developing countries can't apply the skills they learn because the media environment doesn't exist for them to do so. At BBC Media Action we have since changed our approach to focus more on co-productions to help address this, but we need more support programmes for independent media.
Resources: The political effects and the prospects for state building are profound. I looked at this in a recent report on media in fragile states.
Ricardo Corredor Cure, executive director, Gabriel García Márquez Journalism Foundation, Cartagena, Colombia. @ricorredor
Let developing communities speak for themselves: Addressing who actually does the talking in communication for development should be at the core of this debate. More often than not what you see is that voices of people directly affected by development issues in local communities get reduced to testimonies or sources, and are lost in reports from foreign groups.
Martin Scott, lecturer in media and international development,University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK. @martinscott2010
Media's potential to convey development issues well depends on a discerning audience: In discussing the role of the media in development there's a danger of assuming the media is always very important, when perhaps its not. Sometimes it's necessary to start with the audience. I work with a regional development education centre in the UK called Norfolk Education for Action on Development. These groups are chronically underfunded but do important work to prepare audiences to better understand development news.
Journalists should address and overcome the limits to their reporting: Of course there are a bunch of things to try to avoid in development coverage in the media, like dehumanising, over-simplifying and so on. But a far more interesting and important question is "what are the factors which shape what I am able to report in the first place, and what can I do about them (if anything)?". There is no point being aware of the pitfalls if you work in a context that doesn't allow you to avoid them.
Resources: Winners of the rusty and golden radiator awards (best and worst NGO videos) were announced recently and can be found here.
I think what we've learnt from the reporting of Ethiopia in 1984 is that we should stop using it to frame debates. Instead, let's talk about videos like this lipdub of Jessie J's song 'Pricetag' by 500 female entrepreneurs Uganda.
Suzanne Franks, professor of journalism, City University, London, UK. @suzannehfranks
Journalists should treat NGOs like any other news source: Journalists rarely show the same degree of scepticism when using NGO sources as they would from other large institutions. More specifically, journalists are often likely to report favourably on NGOs that house them, feed them and drive them around on trips. This skews the coverage NGOs tend to have in the media in their favour, but doesn't necessarily help in holding them to account for the work they do.
Media sponsorship works well so long as it doesn't influence content: The more awareness of development issues the better, so sponsorship support to media platforms can be really valuable. But it's crucial that debates about aid are not hijacked by powerful institutions that have a particular agenda. Journalists must not suspend their critical faculties, and should continue to ask the right questions irrespective of sponsorship ties.
Javier Farje, journalist, Latin America Bureau, London, UK. @farje
NGOs could do a lot more to create media output than they do: Many NGOs produce their own material but they only reflect on side of the story: their side. They must understand the potential of creating their own media output to promote their work, the work of others and tell the stories that rarely appear in the mainstream media. It's up to them, really, and there are many journalists who would be willing to help.
Resources: For some interesting resources about media organisations in the Pacific and critical media issues, check out the website for the Pacific Media Assistance Scheme, funded by the Australian government.
Nadene Ghouri, reporter, author and global media development consultant, St Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex. @nadeneghouri
Both media groups and NGOs should question their assumptions more: Media exists to question not to serve any interest, even if that interest is on the side of good. NGOs could do more to encourage the media to support more challenging and nuanced stories about their work, even at the risk of looking less than perfect. Before criticising the aid industry, journalists could do well to look at the pressures NGOs face from major donors and ask some hard questions about how and why the aid industry is increasingly politicised by governments.
Support local journalists to cater for local audiences: Local journalists in developing countries often can't or won't report on things like aid distribution, because it's often tied up with local corrupt politics and puts them at risk. NGOs could do more to engage with and help local reporters get to the bottom of some good stories in their own patch, but they don't because they want global not local coverage. In short, they want donors to be aware of their work above and beyond local audiences.
Camila Nobrega, editor, Canal Ibase, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.@Camila_nobrega
Media platforms should make complex development issues accessible to the public: An important role of the media is to simplify development information but also to handle academic research without underplaying its complexity. A good example of this being done well is this Guardian network, which unites people from different parts of the world from multiple development perspectives, and stimulates discussions.
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