Journalism and Development Communication – Looking for Connections
Raashied Galant Unpublished paper. University of Stellenbosch, Deparment of Journalism October 2008 Introduction This essay will explore the concept of Development Communication particularly with respect to the practice of journalism and the news media. I will attempt to locate my specific research interest within this paradigm by way of describing a particular project that will be the focus of my research. Scoping out the conceptual area of development communication Goals and Aspirations Communication for Development /or Development Communication [DC] is one of the means of intervention into the development project. This paradigm comprises of concepts such as participatory development communication, communication for social change, communication for empowerment, communication or IT [Internet computer technology] for social justice, development journalism, and media for democracy. The one thing that is common across this entire paradigm is that – whatever it is it should be to advance the project of development (Servaes, 2007:212, 214). In most of these instances, except perhaps in the most fervent support for modernization (Inagaki, 2007:5), DC remains a tool of intervention, and does not constitute development in and of itself. Hence DC is primarily about using communication as an intervention to advance the project of development either broadly or specifically (Boafo, 2006:4142). This advancement, or the outcomes that are desired in the DC project, can encompass variously (Inagaki, 2007:24): behaviour change either at individual or broad social level; a change in knowledge or attitude; empowerment and capacity building; coalition building and partnership; or resource development. A further consensus in the most recent polemics in the DC paradigm is the conflation of different communication strategies and frameworks (Inagaki, 2007:8), which in the praxis of DC is what Waisbord (2005) refers to as the “toolkit approach to communication” (2005:80). He further explains (Waisbord, 2005:80): “Practitioners have recognized the need for a multiplicity of communication strategies to improve the quality of life in communities. Different techniques in different contexts might be necessary to deal with specific problems.” This does not diminish the amount of debate in the paradigm though. It is at the level of the nature of development, where much of the differences lie in the paradigm, but which also shapes the nature of communication used. The differences in the articulation of the nature of development relates to the “different diagnoses and answers to the problem of underdevelopment” (Waisbord, 2001:2). These differences and the debates that have ensued, are highly politicised since development itself is a highly politicised aspect of society that requires – in order for it to be realised – financial and
material resources along with the political will at both policy and grassroots level to embrace its aspirations (Waisbord, 2005:7980). Very broadly, Waisbord (2001) outlines these differences and debates in the following schemata (2001:2): cultural vs environmental explanations for underdevelopment; psychological vs sociopolitical theories and interventions; individual vs communitycentred interventions; hierarchichal and senderorientated vs horizontal and participatory communication models; active vs passive conceptions of audiences and populations; and participation as a means vs participation as end approaches. Communication strategies The different communication strategies in the DC paradigm involves the different motivations for specific communication techniques, platforms or processes. These approaches, as pointed out above, have most recently in the DC praxis been implemented complimentarily as opposed to mutually exclusively. They require to be listed briefly in order to discern the location of journalism and news media. The Social Phenomenon of Media The traditional home of DC involves the articulation of the mass media as having significant impact on society with respect to information, education, reach and influence. Here is also where traditionally the much maligned [yet persistant] modernization approach is found. The premise is that problems of underdevelopment in the Third World can be addressed “...through information transmission in mass media ...[since]... mass media exposure allowed people to develop a sense of 'empathy', the ability to envision and accept new ideas beyond one's local conditions and traditions” (Inagaki, 2007:5). Theoretically, “the consensus among contemporary development specialists is that participatory approaches have rendered the modernization paradigm obsolete” (Inagaki, 2007:7). In practice though, it still persists as I point out below. Linked to and arising simultaneously with this approach to DC [but no longer confined to modernization] is the “diffusion of innovations” concept which is “the process by which an innovation is communicated through certain channels over time among members of a social system” (Rogers in Inagaki, 2007:6). The initial model portrayed the communication process “as one of messages going from senders to receivers” (Servaes, 2007:220), hence involved a oneway perspective in which development experts defined and created messages of “innovation” to be disseminated to the general population through the mass media (Inagaki, 2007:6). It is this oneway perspective which has been rendered obsolete by the dominant discourse of participatory development communication [PDC] in the DC paradigm. However, the diffusion concept remains a critical element of DC since whether through oneway or participatory processes, or through the mass media or alternative [including community and interpersonal] media, the imperative remains to disseminate critical information to influence or advance the development project in some way or the other. The persistant aspect of modernization is the view – still upheld in some development circles – of communication itself constituting development. Its implementing projects are couched mainly in the language of “media diversity and development” (see Milne & Taylor, 2006), and is encapsulated in the Windhoek Declaration of 1991, which states in its preamble that an “independent” and “pluralistic” media are “essential to the development and maintenance of democracy ... and economic development” (Windhoek Declaration 1991:1). The view here is linked primarily to the
idealised normative roles of the media in society with respect to democracy and the public interest such as1: Serving as a watchdog to prevent government excesses (the celebrated “fourth estate” status of the media); Serving as a platform for a diversity of voices and to communicate citizens’ needs, demands and concerns to government; and Facilitating the “social cohesion and harmony” (Mcquail, 2002:7) of a nation emerging from conflict. Over the years it has been shown that these normative ideals are hardly the natural inclination of the media. In other words, critical media theorists in the political economy and production research paradigms have shown that, short of regulation and control, privatecommercial media will skirt responsibility to all three these ideals. Moreover, this type of media – which is the dominant form of media around the world, except in Africa more naturally moves towards monopolization and a mainstream or unified voice [whatever this may be]. As a result privatecommercial media can effectively muscleout views, voices, identities and discourses that are contrary to the mainstream. In the case of Africa and in the context of globalisation, this is a particularly serious threat given the knowledge and financial gaps pertaining to equitable access and entry to the media. In general though, the critique of modernization is framed theoretically within the dependency theory, which shows that the adoption, whether gradual or rapid, of modern media technologies make developing countries “ever more dependent on the First World” (Srampickal, 2006: 3). Quite apart from modernization, the view of the mass media as having significant impact on society has also been the genesis of two of the most prized techniques in DC, viz edutainment and social marketing. In both instances, the reach and impact of the mass media are celebrated and as a consequence, development messages primarily aimed at behavioural change are couched or disguised within the content design typifications of popular mass media genres (Waisbord, 2001:13 15). Hence the development variously of soap operas, radio dramas, comic books, popular theatre, music, media advertising, and outdoor advertising all with the aim of facilitating one or more of the outcomes traditionally desired in a DC project. Similarly, quite apart from modernization and the normative critiques of the mass media, development journalism arose through viewing the media as a significant phenomenon in society. The assumption here is that the news media is both influential and pervasive in society, and hence journalists are ideal roleplayers in the development project. This aspect of DC is most pertinent to my research focus, hence I discuss it in more detail further down. The social nature of communication Stemming from the studies in the critical cultural and interpretive paradigms of media analysis, DC practitioners and theorists became more attuned to considerations around how particular communication was being used and employed, and how people differently encoded and decoded messages in society. Here is where DC practitioners have drawn from intercultural communication studies in order to determine what form or type of communication is most appropriate in culturally diverse societies or between people with few common cultural experiences (Bennet, 1998:1).
These aspirations were well articulated by media freedom organizations in the formative years of South Africa’s democracy 1993 – 2000. Many of these arguments can be found in the archives and public submissions of organizations such as the Freedom of Expression Institute (www.fxi.org.za) the Media Institute of Southern Africa (www.misa.org) and international organizations such as the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX – www.ifex.org).
This approach has also contributed greatly to the single most important paradigm shift in DC, namely participatory development communication [PDC]. While PDC cuts across the entire DC paradigm and is infused with critical notions of social empowerment; where the consideration is only about the social nature of communication, then PDC relates to the sensitivities within DC praxis to employ culturally appropriate communication strategies for development messages (Waisbord, 2001:18). Here the participatory process is viewed as a means to an end. So in other words, culturally appropriate communication or participatory processes would be employed merely to facilitate the more efficient “diffusion” of the development message. The social power of media Following the development of PDC concepts, and within the context of both the dependency theory and the paradigm of another development, which stresses “not only material development but also the development of values and cultures” (Bessette, 1996: 4; Srampickal, 2006:4), we find the emergence of communication for empowerment, communication for social change and IT for social justice. Here PDC becomes an end in itself. The aspiration within the DC project in any of these three schools goes beyond individual behavioural changes and is more readily concerned with the empowerment of social change agents or the influencing of political agendas to facilitate public policy changes around specific developmental aspirations. The Rockefeller Foundation defines communication for social change as “a process of public and private dialogue through which people define who they are, what they want and how they can get it... [it] empowers individuals and communities, it engages people in making decisions that enhance their lives...” (quoted in Morris, 2005:139). It is within this social power approach to communication that development journalism took on its First Worldnuanced variations of advocacy journalism, public journalism and civic journalism. I discuss these below. Defining Journalism Very broadly, journalism involves the practice of gathering, writing, reporting, editing or presenting news on a mass media platform, but naturally such a neutral definition has long since been re evaluated. Most central to this reevaluation is the contentious topic of “news”, since it is recognised to be a valueladen concept that varies considerably through different professional, cultural and political contexts. In removing the concept of news from the definition of journalism, Medsger (in Berger 2000:81) offers a definition that describes journalism as “a form of realist communication, via text, images and/or sound”. Berger (2000) further expands on this definition by explaining (2000:81): “It is less the appearance or material form of communication that is relevant, than the principles brought to bear – thus elements of journalism can be found in entertainment, education and even public relations, and these elements may also be lacking within informational formats.” The overriding criterion and characteristic of journalism and the news, is the truth. As a professional practice, this is invariably the first and basic ethical practice that journalists have to uphold. Even though in some instances this might not be so, i.e. on occasion when media publish or broadcast an untruth [as opposed to fiction]; a general truth in the realm of journalism in the mass
media, is that what journalists write and report on is in fact the truth, and that the reader and/or audience can expect to find and believe truthful reports in the news media about real and true events in the world (Peterson, 2001:201202). A general expectation too is that journalists should act truthfully. Development Journalism Whereas mass media platforms that carry journalism and news – newspapers, radio and television – have been vehicles for DC projects since the paradigm emerged in the 1950s, the actual interventions they entailed [such as facilitating behavioural change or providing empowering/helpful public information for development] inevitably stood apart from journalism and the news room. It's always been traditionally, and in many ways this is still the case, an addon to the news platform. Of the most prominent DC projects in South Africa to date – Love Life and Soul City – which uses mass media communication as development interventions in the HIV/AIDS pandemic, their actual interventions are outside news and involve page advertising; public service announcements; booklet inserts and/or edutainment. It does not involve journalism per se. Concepts of journalism as intervention in development The role of journalism in the DC project is no doubt tied up to the normative functionalist articulation of the performance of the media with respect to informing people and serving the public interest. This articulation has evolved with the rise of the “mediated” concept to encompass the performance of the media in “mediating democratic debate in the public sphere” (Jacobs & Johnson, 2007:2). Within the DC paradigm, the terms meant to encompass journalism have included: development journalism, emancipatory journalism, development support journalism, media for democracy, media for social change, and media advocacy. At the outset, in the very early days of its articulation, development journalism was seen as efforts to cover news “that reflected social relevance” and with a commitment to “economic development in the broadest sense” (Ogan, 1980: 7). Hence in general it was viewed as “journalistic writing about any topic that may contribute to social and economic progress at an individual or global level – or any level in between” (Shah, 1988:4). At its most basic level, it involved simply reporting news about development (Ogan, 1980:7). Described as a “new form of investigative journalism” (Ogan, 1980: 8), journalists, particularly in the Third World were exhorted to “critically examine, evaluate and report the relevance of a development project to national and local needs, the difference between a planned scheme and its actual implementation, and the differences between its impact on people as claimed by government officials as it actually is” (Aggarwala quoted in Ogan, 1980: 8). Following criticism of media in the First World's coverage of the Third World, and amid the vocal [but now quite silent] articulations of a New World Information Order [NWIO] in the early 1980s, development journalism in the First World meant – and this view still remains – journalists visiting and reporting in greater detail about conditions in Third World countries so that people in their own country can understand these conditions better and perhaps also dispel cultural myths about the respective Third World country (Banda, 2006:3; Wimmer & Wolf, 2005:3; Guardian 2008). A misleading, but quite debilitating debate raged in the 80s in which arch liberal media freedom proponents decried the concept of development journalism, claiming it was an attempt impose greater government control over press freedom and journalistic inquiry and creativity (Ogan,
1980:46). The debate in part was fueled by UNESCO's vision of “developmentsupport communication” that encouraged the media to “mobilize the public to support the government's national development goals and act as links between the government and the public” (Shah, 1988:4 5). In my opinion, the debate was clouded by the machinations of the cold war and amounted to the effective muzzling of the radical discourse emerging from the NWIO at the time. The result has been the virtual retreat of the NWIO discourse to date. Nevertheless, Hemant Shah has taken the debate forward considerably through the concept of “emancipatory journalism” (Shah, 2008:2). This is journalism that is people centred, that raises fundamental questions about power, social justice, and culture and “makes explicit efforts to promote reform and encourage social action” (Shah, 2008:3). According to Shah (2008:3): “In the emancipatory model, the emphasis is on understanding how apparently discrete events fit into ongoing processes. Journalists interpret the meaning and significance of the 'facts of the case' rather than letting the facts speak for themselves. To understand the subject upon which they are reporting, the journalists rely not only on officials and experts but also on ordinary local people and their grounded knowledge about the situation. The purpose of their work is to provide an explanation of why the news is relevant and a cognitive 'map' that attempts to illuminate the significance of the current historical moment.” Although this term is now seldom used, a closely linked concept, and more the operative term these days, is media for social change. This falls within the broad field of “communication for social change”, which is hardly confined to journalism practice only. Broadly, the idea here is that “social change is the ultimate goal of development communication” (Waisbord, 2005:85). In the specific context of journalism practice, the concept encompasses a journalism that goes beyond the normative parameters of informing; providing appropriate context or depth; acting as a watchdog by critically scrutinizing and; serving as a platform for a diversity of voices and opinions. It encompasses a journalism that additionally involves the “promotion of social change and collective action” (Stein, 2002:5). Development journalism vs media for democracy vs public journalism That media and communication generally have been used to facilitate social change successfully in numerous diverse contexts around the world, has been documented extensively (see Servaes, 2007; Inagaki, 2007; Morris, 2005; GumucioDagron, 2001). However, journalism and news media – and not least of all commercial media feature poorly [with respect to mention or focus] in this DC “impact assessment” literature. Technically one can say that in the DC paradigm, the news media are out of the loop and effectively marginalised. Naturally, this is not the case. Much has been written about the news media's actual and desired performances with respect to development issues such as poverty, gender, xenophobia, and HIV/AIDS (see Wood & Barnes, 2007; Genderlinks & MISA, 2006; Mtwana & Bird, 2006; Stein, 2001); while at the same time numerous development projects throughout SubSaharan Africa have been undertaken in the past 25 years focussing on journalists, journalism education and the news media (see Milne & Taylor, 2006). Moreover, there remains a persistant confidence and a deep seated ideological conviction that the commercial news media, media practitioners, and the news products they disseminate are – or at least can be – essential role players in the development project.
In the context of Africa, this has taken on a particularly deepseated common sense where liberal democracy involving universal suffrage, multiparty politics, freedom of expression, and market capitalism – has been positioned as the essential framework for development to happen, and where the commercial “independent” news media [whether committed to do DC or not] is a necessary component of this framework. More specifically, the news media is seen as an essential component for a healthy public sphere, which is the space in which members of mass society engage in “communicative action” (Compton 2000: 456) – i.e. pragmatic debate and discussion to ensure awareness about and prompt responses to needs or concerns of the general public (Compton 2000: 457). In this context, the greater discourse in the articulation of the news media/journalism with respect to development, has been around its impact or potential to advance deliberative democracy as opposed to development per se (Berger, 2000:8283) and the general outcomes sought for in DC projects which I mentioned earlier in this essay (see page 1). This perhaps explains the poor mention in the scope of DC impact evaluation studies. Nevertheless, in America, a nuanced variation on “journalism for social change” is found in the whole new movement around public journalism, civic journalism and advocacy journalism. The common motivation behind these instances of journalism practice, is on the one hand to rescue a dying public sphere (Compton 2000: 454455), and on the hand to shift journalism from being “only an independent, factual chronicler for a democratic society [to] a cultivator of democratic process” (Voakes 2004:30). In my opinion, the articulation of public journalism in America holds great merit with respect to lessons learned and strategies employed, for commercial news media in South Africa and the articulation of a developmental agenda for them. Very briefly, Joyce Y.M. Nip (2006) outlines three broad goals of public journalism in helping democracy (2006:214): 1. to connect to the community; 2. to engage individuals as citizens; and 3. to help public deliberation in search for solutions. These goals are consistent with ones used in a study by Indiana University School of Journalism into the perceptions of public journalism amongst American journalists, and quoted by the Poynter Institute (Nip, 2006:214): 1. giving ordinary people a chance to express their views on public affairs; 2. motivating ordinary people to get involved in public discussions of important issues; and 3. pointing people toward possible solutions to society's problems. Discussion – a description of a project The application of the concept of “media for social change” to the field of journalism is fraught with problems and controversy. At the outset, it goes against the grain of the dominant occupational culture of the news media which constructs itself around notions of impartiality, balance and objectivity (Stein 2001:4; Hall et al, 2000:648). Media for social change within the DC paradigm involves a “subjective journalistic engagement” (Banda, 2006:5) around developmental issues and hence comes into direct conflict with the dominant norms of journalistic practice. I do not wish to resurrect these debates, and I find it more constructive to focus on what has actually been said and
done in my specific areas of research interest: HIV/AIDS, gender and local government2. The role of the news media in the HIV/AIDS pandemic has been the focus of many research studies, and has also informed and shaped many projects in the development sector in South Africa (see Jacobs & Johnson, 2007; Genderlinks & MISA, 2006; Berger, 2004; De Wet, 2004; PANOS, 2004; Wasserman & De Beer, 2004). At the same time, gender and the media has been a critical area of study and has informed much activism [re: gender advocacy] and training in the professional journalism sector in Southern Africa (CITE) over recent years. Separately and together, HIV/AIDS and gender have been articulated in and implemented as DC projects across the length and breadth of the DC paradigm and with respect to all the outcomes (see page 1) variously desired: in edutainment; cultural communication; PDC projects; media for democracy; IT for social justice/change; media diversity projects and; media training. 3 It goes without saying that the desired and idealised roles of the news media with respect to gender and HIV/AIDS has been well articulated in the advocacy, academic and development sectors. Gender and media has also been the primary focus of my work over the past five years at the Gender Advocacy Programme (GAP), based in Cape Town, and which informs my current research interest. This interest revolves around rural commercial news media in the Western Cape and (1) their performance with respect to gender, HIV/AIDS, and local government; and (2) as the central focus of a practical genderandmedia communication for development project implemented over three years. The broad outcomes desired in this project included: to generate greater community responses to genderbased violence and HIV/AIDS; and to contribute to the general empowerment of women. The more immediate practical objectives can be correlated with the traditionally desired outcomes in DC project (see page 1) and involved: influencing the willingness and capacity of rural and periurban based media to embrace and implement principles and practices of gender sensitive reporting [a change in the professional behaviour of media practitioners, change in attitude]; developing the capacity of media to effectively cover and report on local government issues with a gender perspective [empowerment and capacity building]; and empowering rural gender activists and workers to better interact with their media and to hold their local media accountable to gender sensitive practices [empowerment and capacity building, partnerships, resource development]. While the beneficiaries in this project were considered to be the broader society, those who were specifically targeted in the activities were mainly media practitioners [journalists and editors] and, to a lesser extent, rural gender activists and workers. In the realm of development journalism the
I will forgo detailed definitions of these important concepts for the purposes of this discussion. 3 The references here are way too many to cite, but the extent can be gleaned through searchengine keywords such as: gender media journalism training gender HIV/AIDS participatory communication gender media IT ICT social change gender HIV/AIDS edutainment; etc. See also: http://www.wigsat.org/node/21 (Bibliography on gender and ICT); http://www.icad cisd.com/pdf/publications/Final_English_AnnoBiblio_GenderHIVAIDS_Dev%E2%80%A6.pdf (Bibliography of gender and HIV/AIDS).
project straddled (a) PDC approaches; (b) media for social change; (c) media advocacy; and (d) civic/public journalism. (a) PDC approaches One of the components of the project involved organising several roundtable events at which community activists, gender practitioners and local government officials were brought together to speak to each other and directly raise concerns that each sector had with each other. So for example, community activists were invited to raise concerns with the media about perceived coverage of local communities or issues most pertinent to local communities. At the same time, the media was given an opportunity to outline the challenges they faced in covering certain issues, as well as the problems they faced in effectively accessing local government information. The local government officials on the other hand were invited to express their concerns around perceived coverage of local government issues and engage in dialogue with the media around the development of effective systems that will facilitate better media coverage of local government issues. At least three such gatherings were organised over three years. (b) Media for social change The project was inherently about social change since it aimed broadly to change attitudes about the perceptions of women's role in society, while at the same time influencing the content of rural media in a way that will inspire greater community responses to both genderbased violence and HIV/AIDS. These community responses involve variously: public mobilisation and support for violence against women and HIV/AIDS initiatives or programmes; the development of support structures and help for survivors of violence against women and people living with HIV/AIDS; and less tolerance for the occurrence of violence against women in local communities on the one hand, and the perpetuation of various social stigmas towards people living with HIV/AIDS on the other hand. In this context, media practitioners would be exposed to progressive guidelines on reporting on genderbased violence and HIV/AIDS, while at the same time being exposed to community initiatives and programmes around these issues. (c) Media Advocacy Media Advocacy involves the “strategic use of mass media to advance social or public policy initiatives” (Waisbord, 2001:24). This approach “rejects the idea that the media can be a source of only antisocial messages, and instead, proposes to include socially relevant themes” (Waisbord, 2001:24). Media advocacy was a critical component of this project where the focus was on rural gender activists and workers. The activities in this regard involved media capacity building workshops in which community activists were, on the one hand, empowered to critically read their local media from a gender perspective, and on the other hand, basic media liaison skills in order to generate greater publicity and coverage around their various programmes and activities. The gender and media literacy skills was an essential part of ensuring that community activists would be able to hold their own media account for gendersensitive practices and in this way foster greater vigilance on the part of journalists to embrace gender sensitive practices. The aim of the media liaison skills training involved basic training in preparing media releases and letters to the editor, so as to facilitate greater content in rural newspapers around socially relevant themes. (d) Civic Journalism Among the constant feedback received from media practitioners, was the problem of human resource capacity constraints preventing coverage of many community issues. In most instances, the media entities were oneperson operations, where the editor was also the reporter, photographer, designer etc. In response to this, the project ran a 5month journalism training course for community activists to empower them to become community correspondents for their local
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