Mainstream media coverage of humanitarian crises is “selective, sporadic, simplistic and partial”, according to this new UEA survey. Respondents indicated widespread dissatisfaction with the quantity and quality of mainstream news coverage and highlighted a desire for more investigative reporting and scrutiny of the aid sector itself.
The in-depth survey was conducted before the widely reported Oxfam UK sexual misconduct scandal by Dr Martin Scott, a senior lecturer in media and international development at the University of East Anglia (UEA), and humanitarian news agency IRIN News.
It investigated how people working or interested in the humanitarian aid sector view global media coverage of humanitarian issues. Does the coverage do justice to critical issues? Does it include sufficient field reporting and reflect subject expertise? What are the main news sources? What impact, if any, does news coverage have on the respondents’ professional work?
Many of the 1,626* respondents, who included aid workers, researchers and government officials, said mainstream news coverage concentrates on a small number of crises, thus relegating most crises as ‘neglected’ or ‘forgotten’. More than 70 per cent of respondents said the mainstream news media does not offer enough coverage of humanitarian issues. A common complaint was that mainstream news coverage was “sensationalist” and “lacked in-depth analysis”. Reporting of humanitarian issues and crises was frequently referred to as “reductive”, “cursory”, “simplistic” and “shallow”.
Overall, the most sought after aspect of reporting on humanitarian issues is expert analysis. “Respondents want more and bolder investigative reporting and more consistent expert analysis of humanitarian issues and crises, including analysis of the aid sector as a whole,” said Dr Scott. However, many think there is insufficient investigative reporting on the sector.
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