(The Humanitarian Social Network)
I recently heard through the informal network of gossiping aid workers that Stephanie Strom recently had her job description changed at NYT. Previously she'd been the last (or only?) full-time professional journalist with a major outlet whose sole focus was the world of international aid, relief and development assistance. Now, while she still covers our world (according to the person who told me all of this), she also covers other things. She's no longer an exclusive humanitarian journalist.
So, my questions:
No, you're probably right. I never read her title, either.
Invite her to join AidSource and we can ask her directly! :)
There really isn't a solid definition of aid or humanitarian journalism. I think the aid/dev community should help define it before it gets defined largely as what Kristof does. Stephanie Strom, as Tom says, was mostly assigned to cover philanthropy rather than aid and development issues.
Everyone should be aware that the ranks of journalists have been devastated by the implosion of the commercial media's business model so coverage in general has shrunk. Many news organizations no longer (or only sporadically) cover aid/dev issues because they see these topics as of lower news value than, say, politics, crime or celebrities in rehab.
That said, the rising influence of philanthropy in political and social issues, the popularity of humanitarian entrepreneurs like Bill Gates and the poorly defined trends known as 'social enterprise' or CSR or whatever will, I think, make this an area of coverage the media will have to cover if it wishes to stay relevant and of interest to news consumers. Hasn't quite happened yet, but I think it will.
Part of the reason the 'humanitarian industry' is neglected by the media, in my opinion, is due to the standard narrative -- of charity, of please-help-the-poor-bastards. If the aid/dev community can help change this narrative -- to show that these are also stories of politics, of money, power, turf, cultural clashes, structural inequities and whenever possible sex, drugs or rock and roll -- they will become stories that interest everyone.
There are moves afoot by the few of us journalists still out there trying to cover these. We are trying to organize -- herding cats -- which requires at the outset that we define what it is we are covering. It's surprisingly vague and without consensus. Though, like pornography, you know it when you see it.
I hope members of AidSource participate in creating a new narrative, a new kind of journalism and better coverage of these critically important issues.