Monday, January 23

'Foreign news stories published prominently in newspapers in the United Kingdom fell by 80 percent from 1979 to 2009.

Whose News?: The Changing Media Landscape and NGOs

By Carroll Bogert for Human Right Watch - World Report 2012

These are tough times for foreign correspondents. A combination of rapid technological change and economic recession has caused deep cuts in the budget for foreign reporting at many Western news organizations. Plenty of exforeign correspondents have lost their jobs, and many others fear for their jobs and their futures. Consumers of news, meanwhile, are watching international coverage shrink in the pages of major papers. One recent study estimated that the number of foreign news stories published prominently in newspapers in the United Kingdom fell by 80 percent from 1979 to 2009.1 The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development estimates that 20 out of its 31 member states face declining newspaper readerships;2 since foreign reporting is expensive, it is often the first to be cut.

While changes in the media world may be hard on journalists and unsettling for news consumers, they also have very significant implications for international NGOs such as Human Rights Watch. Foreign correspondents have always been an important channel for international NGOs to get the word out, and a decline in global news coverage constitutes a threat to their effectiveness. At the same time, not all the implications of this change are bad. These are also days of opportunity for those in the business of spreading the word. This essay attempts to examine the perils and possibilities for international NGOs3 in these tectonic shifts in media.

Of course NGOs of all kinds accomplish a great deal without any recourse to the media at all. Human rights activists pursue much of their mission outside the public eye: private meetings with diplomats; closed-door policy discussions with government officials; strategy sessions with other NGOs; and, of course, interviews with victims and eyewitnesses whose identity and safety must be protected from the glare of publicity. NGOs that do research in the field may share a close bond with journalists, but research is only part of their overall mission of effecting social change.

The full article by Carroll Bogert pages 23/33 - Human Rights Watch Word Report 2012

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