I just spent a couple of days in Haiti, and I have to say, it’s hard to talk about Haiti without focusing on its post-disaster qualities. Things are still pretty bad there – at least in Port-au-Prince – a year after the earthquake that rattled Haiti’s infrastructure for 35 brutal seconds. Life goes on, people make do, and in some ways, a Haiti first-timer like me might almost expect the on-the-ground reality to be worse than it actually is, after all the stories. But when you see all the rubble, destroyed buildings and tent camps that occupy anywhere with flat ground unoccupied by rubble and destroyed buildings, it’s hard to turn your attention to Haiti’s more uplifting qualities. You wonder what all that international aid has been doing the past year.
Of the things that I found upsetting, one may have surprised me the most: NGOs are ravaging Haitian news media, extracting the most talented journalists by offering pay that is significantly higher than what the news media can afford. That’s what I heard again and again from the journalists, media owners and journalism trainers with which I spoke. [click to continue…]
Recently, we published a new study on Initiative for Policy Dialogue‘s site called “There Will be Ink: A Study of Journalism Training and the Extractive Industries in Nigeria, Ghana, and Uganda“.
The backstory is this. I spent the last year at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs researching extractive industry journalism (oil, gas, mining) in Nigeria, working closely with Acting Director of International Media, Advocacy, and Communications Specialization, Anya Schiffrin. As part of this research, I spoke with Nigerian journalists and experts on media and development in Nigeria. These interviews focused on the challenges journalists face in covering oil and monitoring government revenues from this industry, and what is needed to overcome these challenges. Of course, this is an extremely important issue in Nigeria, given that oil revenues comprise the lion’s share of government income, and therefore play an important role in paying for government expenditure on infrastructure and services. And, Nigerian oil is rife with corruption, secrecy, and violence. The effect is that the money from this resource often goes into the pockets of the privileged and the powerful, rather than funding development that could overcome rampant poverty in Africa’s most populous. When people talk about countries experiencing a resource curse, Nigeria is very much drinking martinis at that party. [click to continue…]