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ANYA SCHIFFRIN, JULY 2012
IPD work in journalism training
We began by doing seminars on economic topics and do two a year.We
go where we are invited and have done short events in Lagos, Johannesburg Mongolia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Jakarta. Have also underwritten teaching in one news room over several months in Vietnam. Sierra Leone in Feb 2008 at an event on budget reporting and the stock market, Bhutan 2012 on macropolicy and unemployment. Trying to fill a gap that was not covered by the other organizations doing journalism training and also to provide teaching materials. www.journalismtraining.net Many can be downloaded free of charge. Backgrounders on economic topics Books: Covering Globalization, basic business econ manual, Covering Oil, Covering Labor, a business reporting textbook in China Covering oil is available on www.revenuewatch.org I am also the director of the media program at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs.
Media Has a Critical Role to Play
Extractive sector can be transformative Government and citizens have key decisions to make Media role is essential because countries can not make
sound decisions unless the public is informed and involved Media contributes to marketplace of ideas, frames discussion and serves as a watchdog In Africa historic tradition of an advocacy/development role for the media But the media can not educate the public unless the media is informed Extra responsibility for the media to be informed and careful. Need to verify facts, develop sources, Act ethically
Responsibility even bigger in developing countries Less information density. One of the ways in which developed countries are
different from developing countries is the ―information density‖: in developed countries there are a large number of channels through which information flows between government and the citizens, between markets and consumers, between individuals in one part of the country and those in another. With so many channels underdeveloped or blocked in developing countries, it is all the more important that those channels which work well; that they disseminate information which is accurate and unbiased. The absence of think tanks puts additional burdens on reporters to interpret the information. Thus, reporters need to get the information that will help them become more informed and think critically about this information. There are by now a large number of studies that show the critical importance of the media in both corporate and public governance.  reference Sen’s work shows, for instance, that countries with a free press are less likely to have famines; other work shows that a free press helps to limit corruption and ensure individual rights are not abused. Tim Besley at LSE has also done work on the media and governance.
Challenges of ―Resource Curse‖
Political and Economic problems can result: --Economic-(Dutch Disease, inflated asset prices,
low job creation, deskilling of labor force, lack of investment in innovation). Economic volatility resulting from instability of resource prices. --Political—factionalism increases as people try to grab the wealth rather than create it. Easier to fight than to create wealth. Rent-seeking --corruption—undermines democracy.
What are we to do?
As a journalist you have a huge responsibility to help
serve as a watchdog But also to write the kind of stories that will add value to the discussion. Job of media is always to filter and explain That means you need to understand what you are talking about. Can be done but takes work and time and care. No one will do it for you. You have to do it. There are people who will help you.
Basics of oil market, energy systems Environmental impact Contracts Royalties Budget reporting Transparency Mechanisms for accountability Investigating corruption Development and alternatives to extractives Corporate reporting Job creation CSR initiatives Fiscal and macro policy (Dutch disease, stabilization funds, tax regimes) Larger climate for commodity prices and global macro trends
Job creation—don’t expect miracles --budgetary transparency IBP Learning from other countries
Stabilization funds, norway, alaska
Ok to renegotiate Find foreign sources
Inform Explain Accuracy Balanced Well Sourced Biases explained openly Provide background and context Getting out of the office Make sure you understand what you are writing about Provide definitions Understand use of numbers: check and recheck Long haul commitment and so need to lay groundwork now. Take the ―Swiss cheese‖ approach Plan ahead for what you will cover. This week, next week, next months, six months. Own your beat.
Challenges: Building expertise
No one said it would be easy To cover extractives well is hard work and takes a big commitment Developing sources Learning from other countries Develop beats Specialized training Keep going back to the same topics, ideas, places Constantly check on your beat and the latest developments.
Composition of Stories
We observed that there was a lack of trained beat reporters covering
the sector. In many cases we found a variety of bylines attached to articles, suggesting a lack of in house expertise that could be drawn upon. This can be related to the problem of high turnover in reporting/editing staff and lack of funding so that newspapers are unable to retain reporters who are knowledgeable about the technical aspects of extractive coverage. When journalists don’t understand what they are being told they may quote extensively from experts without paraphrasing or summarizing what they say. Or they ―write around‖ the subject, that is they leave out critical information because they are unsure of what it means. In the case of extractive coverage in Ghana and Uganda the oil findings are relatively recent and so reporters may not have had time to build up the expertise needed to effectively cover the beat. In any case we noted: Use of ―big language‖ and jargon
Mean Sources Per Article
Use of Sources
(Sourcing is an interesting subject. Getting multiple sources
in order to present a diversity of views is one of the tenets of Western journalism Studies of newspapers in the US in 2005 and 2006 found that national newspapers had three or more sources 90% of the time (2006) and four or more sources 48% of the time (PEJ 2005 and 2006 reports). We have not studied sourcing in African newspapers but in our report Watchdog or Lapdog: Limits of African Media Coverage of the Extractive Sector (Canonge, Purcell 2010) we noted that the mean number of sources used in the newspapers from Nigeria that we looked at ranged from O-2 depending on which newspaper we coded. Certainly sourcing was emphasized in the Thomson Reuters training).
By contrast we found that only 21.45% of the African newspaper articles we looked
at had three or more unique sources (See chart below). Furthermore, nearly 50% of articles had one unique source or less (see Table 2). By far the most prevalent types of sources were those from government or business outlets. This characteristic was true for reporting across all of papers surveyed. Other types of sources recorded included sources from nongovernmental organizations, sources from academia, man-on-the-street sources, anonymous sources and sources from trade associations. Articles with low ―source diversity‖ scores tended to fall more or less evenly on either side of the neutrality line, where extractive industry bias equals zero (0), exhibiting pro or anti-industry bias irrespective of the number of unique source types used to support it. The same was true for articles with medium to high ―source diversity‖ scores. It was, therefore, determined that the number of unique source types used was not a determinant of an article’s perceived bias. In other words, it’s not the number of sources in each article but the ratio of one type of sources to another, for example how many anti-oil activists are quoted compared to an oil executive in the same story or across several stories on the same subject. Pro business sources correlated with pro-business angle to the story
Challenges to African Media
Our study uncovered three other critical problems. (a) Lack of
funding means that they are often unable to go on reporting trips and rely on corporate sponsorship to cover travel costs. They often feel compelled to accept payment from their sources, with the obvious risk of slanting of stories. (b) Lack of access to information hampers the work of journalists in Africa (and elsewhere). The lack of adequate access to what in advanced industrial countries is viewed as information that should be publicly available is not the only way that the legal environment affects coverage. (c) Libel laws and physical intimidation may discourage press coverage of key stories, such as those relating to corruption and environmental disasters. Our research suggests that unless these problems are addressed, the effects of journalism training will continue to be piecemeal.
You know as well as I do what the constraints are to good coverage of
complex topics like the extractive sector….. The lack of government spending in developing countries on education means that reporters are vulnerable. All business journalists tend to imbue the biases of their sources But where there is a lack of alternatives, journalists have fewer options This lack of knowledge hurts coverage. For one thing, reporters will turn to the nearest available source and sometimes report their views uncritically. Too easy to take the IMF or government WB press release and repeat it verbatim. NGOS offering alternative views are not as well financed or as well equipped as big businesses/international organizations.
The fact that many journalists are either not paid or receive
very low wages means they take money from their sources. This inevitably compromises coverage. Newsrooms in Africa often lack basic facilities and equipment—telephones, internet. Although in some places there have been changes to the press laws, making them more favorable to the media, there is still pressure not to rock the boat or write articles that are too critical of the government. Ownership. Many of the newspapers do not even have the pretense of objectivity. They are there to further the interests of their owners. These are problems in many countries around the world.
Solutions 1: finding info
Paradox that where there is a lively media environment
(Nigeria) press coverage of corruption and misdoing has less resonance Amplification and echo effect Make use of foreign papers and wires to form alliances. Get info from those who have to reveal it. Arbitrage sources of information, ngos, Blockages of info, Oxfam and other organizations working on extractives. Name and shame of multinationals Look outside the local community for information EU/Sweden/Norway Learn from other countries
Other places to get information
World Bank Bank Information Center www.bicusa.org African Development Bank Local universities and think tanks
International Budget Project Human Rights Watch Oxfam Other journalists Academics who are overseas (Columbia and other places) Go to the right person. Find the experts.
Solutions 2: Good journalism practices
Training Reuters, bbc, african development bank, world bank
institute, programs at wits, rhodes Fact checking, verification Multiple sources Explainer stories—as you write these you educate yourself
If you get the info and don’t understand it you won’t be able to explain it so training is important. Improved Writing Skills – Participants learned how to better structure their writing, be more concise, use less jargon and use numbers more effectively to make their writing more accessible to readers. In fact, our before and after article analysis revealed that eight of nine grading criteria improved for articles written after the training. Better Sourcing – Participants learned to use a greater balance of sources that provides more viewpoints, to not merely reprint all quotes and press releases verbatim, and to include their own independent analysis. More Practical Experience – Writing exercises and feedback from instructors, as well as field trips, provided much needed practice and learning by example. Understanding of Economic Concepts – Participants' writing seemed to improve more than their understanding of economic concepts. However, trainees from all locations said they learned a lot from the sessions on covering the stock market. Increased Confidence and Heightened Professional Status – Participants were more confident as journalists and more sought out by colleagues as experts. Over 30% of participants also reported receiving a promotion at some point after the training. Expanded Networking – Participants said that expanding their network to share ideas and learn from others’ experiences was an important benefit from this training, with all survey respondents reporting that they have had at least some contact with fellow participants after training, and 61% saying they have done so regularly. Training Reach – The training also benefited journalists that did not attend the training, with 72% of participants reporting in the survey that they shared skills and techniques with colleagues.
ThompsonReuters Foundation IIJ in Berlin World Bank Institute
African Development Bank
Revenue Watch Institute Business journalism courses: Wits, Rhodes, City University in London, new
university in Nairobi (must be lots in Portugal too)
Can get experts to come every couple of weeks for lunch
meetings, work with ngo experts and companies without being compromised, write stories as you go along Explainer stories too Practical and hands on always best. Write a story after you hear a speaker and get multiple sources. There are many journalism associations that can work on this. They often lack funding and so are run pro bono by a few dedicated members. The commitment is tremendous as is the need and enthusiasm.
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