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1.3 : What is the value of development journalism when covering global issues such as migration?

Global development issues are more complex and urgent than ever before. What was considered ‘foreign news’ just a few years ago is now a regular topic in domestic public debates. ‘The global is the new local’, as the saying goes – and migration is a perfect example of this. Development journalism is a way to react to pressing issues like migration or climate change through a complex, imaginative approach that ‘domestic’ or ‘foreign’ journalism often fails to achieve.

Shot in Melilla, Spanish enclave at African continent, Spain 2019.
Author: Anna Mikulska

The world has grown ever more complex and interconnected in recent years, with global challenges now attracting more attention at a local level. Take, for example, the events of 2015 and 2016 in Europe – until then, migration was considered a ‘foreign’ issue, naturally confined to the international section of the news. But then something changed, and suddenly migration was a regular feature of domestic public debates in many countries – including those without any previous experience of immigration.

World events are now domestic issues – ‘The global has become local.’  Foreign journalism did not offer tools to commit act of journalism in a way it offered stories and information in their complexity.

One of the possible answers to this is development journalism. It is a way to react to these pressing issues and processes, helping to build a much needed global imagination among journalists and their audiences. It allows a complex take on global issues such as migration and climate change, in a way that neither ‘domestic’ or ‘foreign’ journalism can normally achieve.

As such, development journalism is:

  • Facilitative: it creates space to support the search for solutions to global challenges – if nothing else it presents global interconnections and relations in a way that traditional approaches to journalism, fragmenting the world into ‘domestic’ and ‘foreign’, cannot.
  • Informative: it allows a better understanding of the world’s structures and how they are interconnected, offering a big picture which allows for alternative approaches and outlooks. 
  • Empowering: by offering a more complex picture it makes the audience more resilient – it does not support hopeless expectations.
  • Reflexive: it allows the audience to better understand their own position in the world – and possibly to found decision based on this understanding – it can show us in social relation with the world, i.e. with wider global community.
  • Transformative: it enables social change.

The media plays a central role in constructing discourses and images of the world in their audience’s minds. Once these pictures are created and manifested, via public opinion and debate, they may become some of the building blocks of related public and/or governmental policies. Including foreign policy towards the world beyond our borders.

To contribute to well-informed policies based on human rights, giving a voice to those who are not heard, systematically looking for the hidden causes and power structures behind the stories – development journalism has an essential role to play in this. Hostile anti-migrant rhetoric, which has led to public debate of these issues taking place in an environment lacking in accurate, impartial, balanced and reliable information, is a very graphic example of this.

Coverage of global issues including migration is too often superficial, locked in debates between ‘domestic’ and ‘foreign’ framings while lacking a truly global outlook. And to cover global issues through a predominantly ‘domestic’ and/or ‘foreign’ lens, without global imagination, is insufficient by its very nature.

As journalists, we have the power to influence public perceptions, and a social responsibility to tell the truth in all its complexity and make sure people’s voices are heard.

There is a need to provide reporting that is based on in-depth, non-episodic, but thematic and contextual investigation, bringing the audience the understanding and reflection of their own position and role as Europeans and citizens of the Global North within a wider global context.

Such reporting will not only be more ethical and promote better understanding; it will also generate more interesting, original and engaging stories. And, what is also important, it will fulfil the role of journalism in its core – to reflect the reality as precisely and accurately as possible.

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1.1 : What is journalism as a profession?

Journalism is a process of collecting, analysing and disseminating information in the public interest. This means it is a profession with a strong element of social responsibility. That is why journalists are required to follow the highest ethical standards – accuracy, balance, impartiality and truthfulness, independent of any commercial or political interests.

1.2 : What is development journalism?

There is no single definition of development journalism. We have opted for those definitions which : 1) put the emphasis on global issues 2) use analysis to understand the role and responsibilities of a journalist 3) entail high ethical standards, and 4) adopt a global outlook when trying to understand and reflect the world. At the same time, while it certainly seeks to counter the tendency towards one-sided or Western-focused narratives, development journalism is not (as the name might suggest) only investigative reporting from developing countries.

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