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Centre of African Studies: Research


Humanitarian Journalism Project

This AHRC project is an interdisciplinary, multi-institutional collaboration that aims to map the global field of humanitarian journalism. Together with Mel Bunce at City University and Martin Scott at UEA, Kate Wright draws on newsroom ethnography, semi-structured interviews and content analysis in order to examine some of the world’s biggest news organizations. So far these have included Al Jazeera English, BBC World Service, CCTV, The Guardian, The Washington Post and Sky. But we also study smaller niche outlets, like Devex, IRIN, ReliefWeb, Humanosphere, Just Earth News and The World Post.

We want to know:

  1. Which media actors make humanitarian journalism
  2. How journalists define humanitarian journalism and its role/s in the world
  3. How such journalism is shaped by political, economic and technological factors
  4. The impact of humanitarian journalism on the humanitarian sector

Why this project?

A combination of climate change, economic globalization and military conflict mean that two thirds of the world’s population are expected to be living in fragile situations by 2030 (UN Secretary General, 2016).  But the poorest countries in the world still receive the least international aid, and far too little attention is still paid to other forms of long-term development, including addressing gross disparities in wealth (UN High Level Panel on Humanitarian Financing, 2016: OECD, 2016).

Now more than ever there is a need for clear, well-researched and thoroughly contextualized humanitarian journalism to inform donors, diplomats, aid-workers and other media audiences. But who is doing this work? How do they conceptualize which actors and activities are “humanitarian”? What values, principles and understandings shape their own humanitarian approaches to media-making? How are they funded? What kinds of texts do they produce? What role do new technologies play? And what (if any) impact do such forms of journalism have on the decision-making of international donors and policy-makers?

You can find more information on the project website.