Humanitarian journalism can be defined, very broadly, as the production of factual accounts about crises and issues that affect human welfare. This can be broken down into two broad approaches: “traditional” reporting about humanitarian crises and issues, and advocacy journalism that aims to improve humanitarian outcomes. In practice, there is overlap between the two approaches. Mainstream journalists have long helped to raise awareness and funds for humanitarian crises, as well as provide early emergency warnings and monitor the treatment of citizens. Meanwhile, aid agencies and humanitarian campaigners frequently subsidize or directly provide journalistic content. There is a large research literature on humanitarian journalism. The most common focus of this research is the content of international reporting about humanitarian crises. These studies show that a small number of “high-profile” crises take up the vast majority of news coverage, leaving others marginalized and hidden. The quantity of coverage is not strongly correlated to the severity of a crisis or the number of people affected but, rather, its geopolitical significance and cultural proximity to the audience. Humanitarian journalism also tends to highlight international rescue efforts, fails to provide context about the causes of a crisis, and operates to erase the agency of local response teams and victims. Communication theorists have argued that this reporting prevents an empathetic and equal encounter between the audience and those affected by distant suffering. However, there are few empirical studies of the mechanisms through which news content influences audiences or policymakers. There are also very few production studies of the news organizations and journalists who produce humanitarian journalism. The research that does exist focuses heavily on news organizations based in the Global North/West.
Mel Bunce, Martin Scott, and Kate Wright
Marilyn S. Greenwald
For women in international journalism, it is the best and worst of times. Their numbers have grown dramatically in the last 100 years, and more women are being recognized for their journalistic accomplishments and bravery. In the last few decades, women journalists have banded together to form regional and international organizations to monitor coverage by and about women and to study the employment of women in newsrooms. In addition, some women journalists find that their gender allows them to speak to some people that men cannot – women subjects and sources in restrictive nations often feel more comfortable talking to women journalists. Yet their numbers as journalists in most countries are low when compared to those of men, and few women have been named to management positions within media organizations. Global changes, including political upheaval, technological changes, and economic cutbacks, have led to their diminished status in global media. Technological advancements within media organizations may make the dissemination of news easier, but it means reduced access to some poor and rural areas that often cannot afford expensive technology. Also, media concentration worldwide has reduced the number of small and independent media organizations that often employ women. And the elimination of international bureaus by many news outlets translates into many journalists—men and women—losing their jobs.
Shayna Plaut and Peter W. Klein
Sociologists and media scholars have offered a robust body of literature regarding the daily workings of global journalism—both in newsrooms and in the field. Although fixers are sometimes mentioned in this literature, the role they play in the production of global reporting is rarely analyzed. Such work often focuses on logistical assistance provided by fixers and discusses some tensions in the field regarding credit and security. Although this literature starts to paint an accurate picture of current trends in global journalism, it fails to critically examine how institutional and on-the-ground power dynamics impact a fixer’s work, let alone how global, systemic, and institutional dynamics shape which stories are reported and how the reporting itself is done. This is a glaring gap in knowledge as it ignores the impact that fixers can have on global journalism. To rectify this gap, all aspects of global journalism must be explored, including the economic forces that allow global journalism to operate within a context of uneven power and resources. Recognizing that journalism functions in and as a field of uneven power offers a strong introduction to this discussion, but one must also situate journalism, journalists, and fixers themselves within the larger geopolitical realities of unequal economic and political power. These forces shape the process of fixing, which is why any thorough analysis of the role of fixing and fixers in global journalism must situate the conversation within a larger body of critical theory. In this context, mapping current trends and highlighting nuanced dynamics and tensions within the practice of fixing is essential to understanding how global journalism functions—and the role that fixers play in shaping its stories.
Levi Obijiofor and Folker Hanusch
Two dominant approaches underline the theory, practice, and methodology of global journalism. The first approach captures the various ways that journalism is practiced in different countries. This is reflected in the burgeoning field of comparative journalism studies. The second approach examines the underlying notion of globalization of the interconnected nature of the world and of global journalistic practices that not only relativize the significance of the nation state but also highlight the forces that shape the global village. Each of these perspectives has implications for journalism practice and how the world is understood. Each is influenced by complexities of the existing environment in which journalism is practiced, such as sociocultural practices and barriers, as well as economic, institutional, structural, legal, and political forces that inform journalism at national and international levels. Regardless of the differences, the two approaches are interrelated in various ways. They examine the interlocking relationship between journalism and globalization; factors that influence global news flows and foreign reporting; diverse journalistic practices and modes of education; and global journalism ethics. Altogether these perspectives provide rich analytical insights and background into the past, current, and emerging issues that inform global journalism.