The term development journalism was first coined in the 1960s at the Press Foundation of Asia. Filipino journalists Alan Chalkley and 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.
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. (www.east4south.eu)
The term development journalism is used to refer to two different types of journalism. The first type of development journalism attempts to document the conditions within a country so that the larger world can understand them. Journalists are encouraged to travel to remote areas, interact with the citizens of the country, and report back.
This type of development journalism also looks at proposed government projects to improve conditions in the country, and analyzes whether or not they will be effective. Ultimately, the journalist may come up with proposed solutions and actions in the piece, suggesting ways in which they might be implemented. Often, this type of development journalism encourages a cooperative effort between citizens of the nation and the outside world.
The second type of development journalism can walk a thin line. On the one hand, government participation in mass media can help get important information spread throughout the nation. Governments can help to educate their citizens and enlist cooperation on major development projects.
However, a government can also use the idea of “development” to restrict freedom of speech for journalists. Journalists are told not to report on certain issues because it will impact the “development” of the nation in question, and therefore citizens are not actually being given access to the whole picture.
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….
…Looking at the strengths and weaknesses of a country may also help identify ways in which the nation can be helped. This style of development journalism is a tool for empowerment.
When development journalism is used as a propaganda tool, however, it can become very dangerous. Many citizens are taught that the news is a reliable and useful source of information. For example, within a developing nation which has a corrupt government, journalistic expose’ of the government are extremely important for reform.
The concept of development journalism in Africa is caught up in the historical evolution of the theory of development communication. This theory can be postulated in three historical moments, each with its own basic assumptions.
The first such moment was the ‘modernization’ paradigm. It dominated the period from about 1945 to 1965. It stressed the transfer of the technology and socio-political culture of modernity from the developed North to the Third World. It found its coherent articulation in Everett M Rogers’ ‘diffusion of innovations’ perspective.
The ‘modernization’ approach to development, described as the ‘dominant paradigm’ by Rogers, is represented by such scholars as Walt W Rostow, Everett M Rogers and Daniel Lerner, who posit development communication as an engine of change from the ‘traditional’ to the ‘modern’ society.
Here, the role of the mass media would be to create awareness of, and interest in, the innovations espoused by change agents. It is clear that this mechanism was influenced to a large extent by the two-step flow model of media influence, with the notion of ‘opinion leaders’ playing a key role in bringing about modernizing practices among their fellow citizens.
Secondly, the diffusion approach looks to the mass media as an ‘institutional’ nexus of modernizing practices and institutions in society, functioning as ‘watchdogs’, ‘policymakers’ and ‘teachers for change and modernization’.
The second historical moment is the dependency-dissociation paradigm. This approach to development communication (and therefore development journalism) is associated with the elevation of the aspirations of the newly independent nations of the Third World for political, economic and cultural self- determination and an ideological distancing from Western forms of modernization.
In the tradition of dependency- dissociation, Nkrumah of Ghana, Nyerere of Tanzania and Kaunda of Zambia espoused the ‘revolutionary theory’ of the press. This ‘theory’ entailed greater state control of the media, a departure from the private ownership of media evident in the colonial period.
Thus the idea of development journalism was in the early 1960s associated with independent journalism that provided constructive criticism of government and its agencies, informed readers how the development process was affecting them, and highlighted local self-help projects.
Subsequently, the third historical moment of development communication emerged, described as ‘emancipatory journalism.’ This third moment is variously referred to as the ‘multiplicity’ or ‘another development’ paradigm.
This development journalism model sets forth the importance of the cultural identity of local communities and stresses the value of democratization and participation at all levels. It points to a development strategy which is not merely inclusive of, but largely emanating from, the receivers or audience themselves.
The main strength of this kind of developmental journalism is that it may be seen as an extension of Paulo Freire’s dialogical pedagogy, which emphasizes participatory communication and ‘conscientisation’ of the people.
Emancipatory development journalism has the following tasks: (i) to motivate the audience to actively cooperate in development; and (ii) to defend the interests of those concerned. The evolution of development journalism could be summarized thus: from modernization paradigm to dependency- dissociation paradigm and most recently, the emancipatory or participatory paradigm.
Development Social Responsibility Education National Integration Human Interest
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