ARTICLE: Journalists in the Global South prioritize different roles than Westerners

A Mogadishu offiicial tastes the water at a new well donated by the African Union Mission in Somalia in front of local journalists in the country's capital on June 6. AMISOM Photo / Tobin Jones

Journalists in developing African and Asian countries have different role conceptions from Western journalists, a multi-national team of researchers has discovered. The team surveyed 2598 journalists in Bangladesh, Botswana, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Malawi, Malaysia, Sierra Leone, and Tanzania. These results were then compared to results from 19 West European and North American countries.

The researchers conducted their survey as part of the much broader Worlds of Journalism study. As part of it, the respondents were asked to what extent they identified with 21 different occupational roles. This study was particularly interested in three roles associated with so-called “developmental journalism”: advocating for social change, supporting national development, and educating the audience.

As expected, the surveyed African and Asian journalists ranked the developmental journalism roles more important than their Western peers. Only the weight put on educating the audience was similar in both Western countries and the Global South. There were differences between the eight African and Asian countries, but overall they stood out from the 19 Western countries, the researchers point out.

The study also measured how detached and neutral the journalists aspire to be. Western journalists in particular emphasized objectivity, but even African and Asian journalists valued detached neutrality more than providing support for the government or politicians. Contrary to common belief, Global South journalists reject the role of “opportunist facilitators”, the authors note.

The study was authored by Yusuf Kalyango Jr., of Ohio University, Folker Hanusch, of University of Vienna, Jyotika Ramaprasad, of University of Miami, Terje Skjerdal, of NLA University College, Mohd Safar Hasim, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Nurhaya Muchtar, of University of Pennsylvania, Mohammad Sahid Ullah, University of Chittagong, Levi Zeleza Manda, of Blantyre International University, and Sarah Bomkapre Kamara, of Ludwig Maximilians University.

The article “Journalists’ Development Journalism Role Perceptions” was published by the journal Journalism Studies. It is available online (abstract free).

Picture: Untitled by Tobin Jones / AMISOM Public Information, licence CC0 1.0.

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