Global Health Perspective

The changing practice of journalism is also
affecting how global health is covered.

When you read a story about a global health issue have you asked yourself, “Who’s the primary actor and who’s the recipient?” Reading Christine Gorman’s remarks to the Global Health Council on her blog, Global Health Report, caught me up short. Of course this is a logical question. It’s also one that gets submerged when stories are framed through cultural lenses. Christine didn’t write that last sentence, I did, and I write it sensitive to the point she makes that often the stories we tell are told from the perspective of those of us in the developed world acting on, if not on behalf of, people in the developing world.

We make the actors heroes and the acted-upon recipients. This doesn’t necessarily reflect what’s happening on the ground, it reflects who’s telling the story and from what perspective. When Peter Fonda was asked in the sixties how he could produce the counter-cultural movie “Easy Rider” by working with a studio, his response was, “Because they have the cameras.”

When journalists come from the developed world, have the cameras, access, and distribution the story gets framed for a particular audience. Christine makes the crucial point that we need more journalists who can tell the story from a different angle; namely, from ground level. We would get a much different perspective if this were happening.

Equally intriguing is Christine’s assessment of the practice of journalism today. With staff reductions and new technology, the craft of journalism is changing in its basics. She explains how this makes it easier to get attention, especially through effective use of search engines and keywords. Search technology cuts through the gatekeeping function that makes it hard to get through, exposing new ideas to a broader audience, among other advantages. Of course, the proliferation of stories makes it more difficult to cut through the clutter as well, but her point is that people with a good story have the opportunity to get it to the journalists who have an interest in it through a more direct line than ever before. And, we can tell our own stories, which is even better sometimes.

There’s much more here, and it’s brief. I know a lot of communicators read Perspectives and I’d suggest you hop over to Christine’s blog and read these remarks. She’s got me thinking about our work, and that’s a good thing.

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