Development Journalism

The term development journalism was first coined in 1960s at the Press Foundation of Asia. Filipino journalists Alan Chalkleyand Juan Mercado were concerned that news organizations were covering socio-economic developments in a superficial way, with journalists reporting government press releases and quotes but leaving little space for analysis or evaluation of development projects. Today development journalism looks at conditions in developing states and how to improve them. It exposes poverty worldwide and helps to research the causes, consequences and how to address poverty in developing nations. Development journalists bring attention to issues that are overlooked or under-represented by other media and by the international political community. As investigative reporters, they uncover the stories within the stories, revealing the multi-faceted nature of poverty. So a feature on development journalism may cover the following issues: economic development, agriculture and food security, health, sanitation and medicine, employment, education and literacy, informational technologies development, housing conditions, environmental sustainability, urban and rural development, gender equality, etc. Its main actors are ordinary people rather than official figures; its emphasis is on stability, partnership, harmony, and consensus. As a tool for social justice, development journalism can be very valuable. By speaking for those who cannot, a development journalist can inform the rest of the world about important issues within developing nations….

It is the fact that media in Asian Countries play a very important role in transforming and developing civil society. To inculcate tolerance, positive thinking and a sense of responsibility amongst masses, journalists and media men play an important role. Unfortunately, media in many of Asian States has not yet been able to communicate well enough with citizens to help them understand the true meaning and sense of the word “development”. Compared to other fields of journalism like politics and entertainment, development journalism is less attractive, less glamorous and has less opportunity for travel and training. This is one of the reasons that even though development journalism is a specialized field there are not enough suitably qualified journalists available.

Communication experts Daniel Lerner and Wilbur Schramm identify mass media as a prime tool of social change. As social institutions, mass media observe their surroundings. They play watchdog role and scrutinize different matters of society. They have the power to show the picture of wealthy life and can persuade people to come out of traditional life and to go ahead for prosperous and modern life. Media can present new thinking, issues, personalities and experiences before their audience. Thus people can pick up necessary information from media and use it in their daily activities. Community persons alter their mentality, attitudes and can introduce with new value. Under the line of development journalism, journalists work to support underprivileged people, give voice to the voiceless and to empower the powerless. Media plays a vital role to make government responsible and to establish accountability. They monitor different projects and activities taken by government or non-government organizations.

Many countries in Asia are facing many challenges such as unemployment, corruption, social disparity, gender inequality, adverse effect of climate change, militancy, earthquake, etc. Problems like acid terrorism, early marriage, dowry system, suicide tendency, human trafficking, eve-teasing, drug addiction, etc. stand as great hinders to social development. For achieving development, covering only hard news like seminar-symposium, murder, accidents, politics, parliament, court, routine activities of ministers, etc. is not enough. Providing only instant pictures and videos of an event is not also sufficient for development. Development journalism does not focus merely on day-to- day news. It is an extensive research process. Journalists can dig deep into the issues and find out the causes and probable solution to the problems. Likewise, media can build awareness on certain issues among the mass people.

Asia Journalism Network has specially focused on Development Journalism which can play its active role for the development of Asian people. In Asian media context, AJN’s prime focus on media development as well as the development of the people because it has been observed that, with the exception of dedicated social, scientific or environmental publications, mainstream media, through general news and programs, there is no sufficient coverage to the environment and sustainable development issues compared to economic, political and social activities. Although in some countries and general media outlets more emphasis is placed on global issues including development. But others should maintain balance in approach and significance should be given to developmental issues.

AJN OBSERVATION IN DEVELOPMENT JOURNALISM IN ASIA

  • Lack of understanding of editors about the merits stories related development.
  • Difficulty of aligning development topics to editor and audience interests;
  • Lack of knowledge and understanding of relevant development issues by most journalists;
  • Information coming from NGOs, and other bodies and agencies working for development, perceived as not being frequently usable by journalists in their day-to-day publications;
  • Story leads and the presentation of data and information packages from some environmental and social welfare organisations and NGOs being poorly constructed, making it difficult to develop stories that are relevant and interesting to audiences;
  • Information from NGOs and environmental and social welfare organisations not offering the same level of content or quality of information as commercial, political and sport agencies.

AJN FOCUS


  • Journalists need to have a better understanding of developmental principles and be able to investigate independently to ensure they can separate fact from opinion and differentiate between vested interest pushing their own agenda from real issues that impact on communities and the environment.
  • Business models in media seek popular content. Editors and managers do not see popularity in the stories related development.
  • In the environment of increasingly tough, lean and efficient media business models, journalists seem to have less editorial independence to do the stories that matter to people in their daily lives.
  • It is very often that environmental and social impacts are only reported on after a disaster has struck, rather than building resilience into communities by proactive reporting of important social and environmental vulnerability issues.
  • The economy is often discussed in isolation, without any reference to its interdependence with social and environment issues. As a consequence, there is little social discourse about poverty reduction and improving human well being.
  • There is a tendency to frame development stories in terms of economic issues and then relate them to technological progress. For example, a story about the social consequences of overpopulation and the consequent inability to produce sufficient food for all people around the world may be expressed in terms of the economic cost of increasing global food production. This might then be addressed by reporting on the ongoing commercial development of genetically modified products.
  • Media organisations could explore crowd funding opportunities for raising funds to cover high-interest topics within communities. Using this method, with tiny individual contributions, communities could have some financial stake in ensuring that they have coverage of topics that they rate as having high importance;
  • Business profit is important to publishers and media organisations. Therefore journalists need to demonstrate to their editors and owners how sustainable development stories relate to audiences in a compelling way. Journalists can, in this way, relate business success to powerful storytelling;
  • Advocate triple bottom line or Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) reporting from all media organisations. CSR reporting includes environmental and social impact and reviews all business practices, including content development, distribution and impact on audiences.