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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 3. “Good” Journalism and Moral Economies

Extract

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“GOOD” JOURNALISM AND MORAL ECONOMIES

Critical arguments about NGOs’ increased involvement in news production revolve around normative evaluations: that is, ideas about what is good or bad, just or just, appropriate or inappropriate. To recap: some argue that using NGO material can improve journalism (Beckett 2008; Frontline Club 2008, 2015), whilst others assert that this undermines its critical independence (Franks 2013; Lugo-Ocando and Malaoulu 2014). Similar arguments are made about the effects of journalistic production on NGO-work. One group of critics conceptualize it as enabling progressive, transnational dialogue and/or mediated advocacy (McLagan and McKee 2012; Reese 2015; Yanacopulos 2015). But others see the spread of media logic and related forms of news cloning as undermining NGOs’ alternative values, perspectives and working cultures (Cottle and Nolan 2007; Fenton 2010; Jones 2017).

These arguments are important because international news is widely regarded as having a significant potential to harm, through its transmission of content to millions (Couldry 2006). Most evaluations of NGOs’ engagement in news-making tend to rest on the assumption that international news about sub-Saharan Africa is pretty dreadful to start with: involving overly sporadic, negative and Othering representations of the continent and its people (Hawk 1992). Critical debates about NGOs’ engagement in the production of news←63 | 64→ about Africa therefore tend to be framed in terms of whether such interventions will improve the poor state of international news about Africa—or make it even worse. Yet scholarly assumptions about the dire state...

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