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Who's Reporting Africa Now?

Non-Governmental Organizations, Journalists, and Multimedia

Kate Wright

As news organizations cut correspondent posts and foreign bureaux, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have begun to expand into news reporting. Why and how do journalists use the photographs, video, and audio that NGOs produce? What effects does this have on the kinds of stories told about Africa? And how have these developments changed the nature of journalism and NGO-work?

Who’s Reporting Africa Now?: Non-Governmental Organizations, Journalists, and Multimedia is the first book to address these questions—using frank interviews and internal documents to shed light on the workings of major news organizations and NGOs, collaborating with one another in specific news production processes. These contrasting case studies are used to illuminate the complex moral and political economies underpinning such journalism, involving not only NGO press officers and journalists but also field workers, freelancers, private foundations, social media participants, businesspeople, and advertising executives.

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Chapter 1. Introduction

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INTRODUCTION

Are Non-Governmental Organizations the new reporters of news about Africa? Many of the largest and wealthiest are regularly involved in the production of international news about poor, sub-Saharan countries. This involves NGO-workers checking facts and conducting extensive, on-the ground interviewing in locations where correspondents and news bureaux have been cut (Powers 2015, 2016). NGO-workers may also write news stories and features for placement in mainstream newspapers or websites (Cooper 2007, 2016). But most frequently of all, NGO-workers produce, commission and verify multimedia—including audio, but more often, video or photography (Abbott 2015; Frontline Club 2008, 2011, 2015; Hallas 2012).1

NGO-workers regularly offer this multimedia, free of charge to major news organizations—most of which are still based in Europe and North America (Cottle and Nolan 2007; Fenton 2010a). But this book shows that NGO multimedia also arrives at news outlets via more indirect routes. These include freelancers pitching material originally commissioned by NGOs to news outlets, and interns picking up material circulated through social media. These indirect routes make it less likely that journalists will attribute material to an NGO. Indeed, I found that half of the news items which contained NGO-provided material in my sample did not indicate this clearly to audiences.←1 | 2→

The lack of any clear distinction between the production and dissemination of non-governmental and mainstream news reporting means that some critics have stopped discussing the relationship between NGO-work and journalism—and started talking about...

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