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Making Poverty the Story

Ignacio Hernandez's picture


A new report by Panos London, Making Poverty the Story: Time to Involve the Media in Poverty Reduction, argues that the time has come to recognize and support the potential crucial contribution of the mass media to efforts to reduce poverty in low-income countries. Policy change often follows changes in public opinion; the reach of mass media makes them a vital force in raising public awareness and debate.


Based on findings from six countries in Africa and South Asia, Making poverty the story analyses the serious political, commercial and professional obstacles to stronger media coverage, highlights where the media have played a part in raising debate, and identifies what civil society and other policy actors could do to support more effective reporting.


For more information and courses on Media and Development, check WBI's governance site.


(via Povertynet)


As someone who was in a journalistic job for a few years right out of college--albeit primarily a university staff/faculty newsletter and a couple of outreach magazines--I found this blog post interesting. Even at "just" a university in an industrialized country, people look to "their" regular news publication to help them understand whatever issues are most topical in their locale. If the information isn't flowing to, and through, the print media, then for some people that means it might not reach them at all--or at least, not in a format they feel they can trust.

I have initiated a new blog on disability and development; although I define the role of the We Can Do blog ( more broadly than strictly a news media outlet, it does serve some closely related functions in terms of information sharing. So I'll be trying to put aside some time to look at this report to see if it gives me ideas that might be helpful in strengthening the quality of my blog.

A few random thoughts/comments:

1. Seems to me that blogs can sometimes serve the same function as more traditional media outlets, but also offers a completely different set of dynamics. For example, it allows for more interaction in the comments area. I haven't had a chance yet to look closely at the report to see what it says, but I wonder if a follow-up devoted to the role of blogs in developing countries might be warranted. In some countries, where internet penetration remains extremely low to near non-existent, blogs obviously won't matter as much--but this is not universally true for all developing countries.

2. From what I gather, this report essentially challenges reporters to ensure that poor people are not excluded from national dialogue--or from news coverage. But poor people are not the only excluded populations. People who belong to various ethnic minorities; indigenous people; women; people with disabilities; children; youth; elderly people; gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender people are all frequently ignored or "invisible" in one fashion or another in a great many contexts--including in the media. And most or all of these factors can interact with poverty in ways that compounds their marginalization.

And, with disabilities, you have an extra set of dynamics in that certain forms of media inherently exclude entire populations of people: the radio excludes all deaf people; print media excludes blind people and people with dyslexia, or people who simply never learned to read because they never had the chance to attend school (and most disabled people in developing countries don't). Or, media reporters (and governments, for that matter) may skip over interviewing people with certain communication-related disabilities--even at the cost of losing their voices and participation--because they may assume it will be "too difficult" to even try. Or they may skip over communicating directly with people with intellectual disabilities, even on issues that directly concern them, on the very mistaken assumption that they are unable to accurately represent their own interests.

Pro-actively including poor people is only one small, albeit essential, part of the picture. You haven't finished until you push yourself to seek out the people who are so invisible they're left off the list even when we're supposedly trying to talk about, and include, marginalized populations.

Andrea Shettle, MSW

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