Alternative journalism. Public journalism. Counter-journalism.Whatever one calls it, there is just good and bad journalism. But what makes good, critical journalism that digs out the ‘other’ story in a media world that is skewed toward the big, powerful and famous?
Likewise, how does one make space for diverse views in an increasingly commercial media? What skills does the relevant journalist need amid today’s information overload, the Internet and round-the-clock connectivity?
These questions were discussed at a panel discussion to mark the launch of the 2nd edition of the book ‘Dateline Earth: Dateline as if the Planet Mattered’ on Mar. 2, 2011, at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand.
Author Kunda Dixit, publisher of Himalmedia (including ‘Nepali Times’) and former director of IPS Asia-Pacific, spoke about how to cover stories on the environment and development, poverty and injustice, with professionalism, depth, authority – and passion.
“What passes for the ‘alternative’ is often mediocre journalism,” he says. “If the cause is great enough, it seems, you don’t really have to be professional, or strive for credibility.”
“But there is a way to do both: be committed and passionate while still upholding the accepted core values of journalism. In fact, being deeply involved in a story about the global environmental crisis or the social injustices that keep people poor, actually helps enhance a reporter’s credibility and professionalism,” he adds.
Dixit also makes a case for how reporting in a “non-Western” fashion, from within the developing world, including Asia, is different from how mainstream international media often report. The lens, the viewpoint, and genuine grounding, do matter.
Also on hand to share his views about reporting the ‘other side’ was ‘The Nation’ newspaper senior journalist Pravit Rojanaphruk, who talked about the difficulties of reporting on divisive issues in Thai society and those that deviate from the common, predictable mainstream political lines.
In her introduction, IPS Asia-Pacific Director Johanna Son said the book discusses critically the issues that so-called ‘alternative journalism’ media purport to do – and which many of them would find useful to revisit. The book is also welcome given that many journalism books are written by Western authors.
Of the regional organisation’s decision to publish a second edition of ‘Dateline Earth’ after the first one came out in 1997, Son said: “I look at this book – and the fact of publishing it – as a way of giving back to our profession and reminding ourselves why we joined this deadline-driven world in the first place.”
Producing the book was a cooperative project by Dixit, IPS Asia-Pacific and some old friends. It includes recent examples of IPS environmental coverage, produced in the framework of an EU funded project on sustainable development of the South. The EU financed part of the production costs of the book, which is distributed among journalists all over Europe.
For information about getting copies of the book, including for training and educational use, please write: ipsasia [at]gmail.com
More about: Asia & Pacific, Projects, Sustainable development