- Yvonne T. ChuaYvonne T. ChuaDepartment of Journalism, University of the Philippines Diliman
The term “development journalism” is five decades old. But if the volume of academic research was the lone measure of its reach and impact, then one may erroneously conclude that this field of journalism has hardly had any reach and impact at all. There is a paucity of scholarly studies for a genre that has proliferated across three continents and was once touted as the new journalism for Third World countries.
Existing literature points to two main patterns. One sees scholars pitted against each other on what development journalism is and ought to be. The reason: diverse, even opposing, variations of this genre of journalism have emerged according to social, political, economic, and cultural variations in a country or region. The original ideals of development journalism, which requires independent, critical evaluation of the process of development, have been replaced by justifications for a state-controlled media in authoritarian states being passed off as development journalism. That explains the second pattern: studies tend to diverge rather than converge on the concept of development journalism.
Over the years, calls have been made to standardize the notion of development journalism or, failing that, to revamp the entire concept. Until that happens, scholars embarking on the study of development journalism need to bear in mind the different approaches and practices, and avoid cherry-picking components that will distort findings.
The approaches range from development journalists as willing partners of government (statist) to watchdogs (investigative) and from interventionist (participatory or emancipatory) to guardians of transparency. Within the range are more variants or combinations. The bright side is that there is agreement on some of the essentials for development journalism: emphasis on the process of development to bring about social change (communitarian).