Journalism Lecturer provides expert advice to Disasters Emergency Committee on NGOs’ use of multimedia

Senior Lecturer in Journalism and News Media, Dr Kate Wright, presented the findings of her recent research into journalists' use of the multimedia provided by Non-Governmental Organisations in mainstream news.

Posted: 14 April 2015

Dr Wright was invited to present to the biannual meeting of the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), in order to explain to major British aid agencies why and how journalists use the photos, video and audio they provide in the coverage of Africa. Her research focused on the use of NGO-provided multimedia during quiet periods, outside of DEC joint fundraising appeals: so providing a counter-balance to previous research which has tended to focus on major disasters.

The meeting, which was attended by heads of communications from organisations like the British Red Cross, Oxfam and Christian Aid, heard several recommendations from Dr Wright, who urged them to “do less, but do it better”.

She suggested that NGOs could make better use of their time and resources by focusing on photography, not video, which was far more frequently used outside of appeal periods. She also strongly recommended that DEC members revisit the ways in which consent is sought from vulnerable participants. In particular, Dr Wright stressed the dangers of skimping on briefing interpreters properly: highlighting a worrying occasion when a former child soldier was not made aware they were speaking to a journalist until a month after a photo slideshow about them had been published on one of the world’s most popular news websites. 

As a result of Dr Wright’s address and other meetings which she has been invited to with individual aid agencies, several NGOs are considering changing their policies. Save the Children is currently reexamining its policy on informed consent and interpretation, and Action Aid and Concern are considering using more photography than video outside of appeal periods, so they can redistribute resources internally.   

Dr Wright teaches on the BA Journalism course at Roehampton. Her research interests include the role of multimedia in online journalism and international news, as well as media ownership and funding. She worked as a BBC journalist for many years and has won awards from the Foreign Press Association, the World Wildlife Fund and the Paul Foot Award for Investigative Journalism.

The DEC is an umbrella organisation of 13 humanitarian aid agencies including Christian Aid, Save the Children and World Vision, which coordinates joint appeals and aid responses during major disasters in poorer countries The DEC have run 64 high profile appeals raising more £1.1 billion since their launch in 1963. Their appeals include the Pakistan floods, the 2004 Tsunami in Thailand, and the Haiti earthquake.

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