Just as the loss of local newspapers has created news deserts in the U.S., budget constraints have led larger news organizations to reduce their coverage of global humanitarian crises. Media outlets are overlooking key topics such as global health, child labor, human trafficking, environmental degradation, hunger and violent conflict in many areas of the world.
This not only hurts journalists and news consumers, but can harm the very people suffering from these crises. That’s because media coverage plays a direct role in drawing attention to these issues, and thereby encourages policymakers and foundations to provide humanitarian assistance. So, when coverage dries up, so can aid.
It’s not a secret that many international crisis issues are under-covered by large media outlets, and independent journalists play a large part in filling the gap.
My colleague, photojournalist David Rochkind, and I experienced this directly when we set out to do a reporting project on global funding for tuberculosis with a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. Two years earlier, we had done a similar reporting project on HIV, also with a Pulitzer Center grant, and it had been relatively easy to place articles in top media outlets like National Public Radio and TIME. But this time, we couldn’t place the story. Emails to editors weren’t returned, or turned into endless threads that didn’t seem to go anywhere. Yet we were taking the same steps we had two years earlier.
Maybe freelance budgets had declined more. And perhaps it was that some editors I knew had left those publications. But more likely, it was the subject matter. Tuberculosis just wasn’t a topic that many readers or news organizations were very interested in exploring.
This piece in Slate tells the story. Read it here.
JENS ERIK GOULD
Jens Erik Gould is a political, business and entertainment writer and editor who has reported from a dozen countries for media outlets including The New York Times, National Public Radio and Bloomberg News.