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Three new Journalist Fellows' papers now available online

RISJ Admin

Contributing Author

Three recent Reuters journalist fellows have published their research findings online:Cherelle Jackson, an environment journalist from Samoa, has written the first ever study of how the media in her country have covered climate change, entitled 'Staying afloat in Paradise: Reporting climate change in the Pacific'. Her homeland is one of the most exposed to present and future climatic changes, and particularly the threat of sea level rises heightened by storm surges and heavier rainfall.  Despite Samoa's vulnerability, the media's coverage of the issue has been negligible. Jackson discovered that between May 2008 and May 2009 only 16 of the 1,394 articles published by three Samoan newspapers covered climate change. The media in four other Pacific islands fared little better, while the mainstream broadsheet papers in the UK rarely examined the vulnerabilities of this part of the world to climate change.  Jackson argues that the major obstacles to more coverage in the Samoan media are the complexity of the issue, under-resourced newsrooms and accessibility to sources and information on the islands.
Michelle Henery, a King Edward VII Foundation fellow who has worked for the Times and Al Jazeera English, has written a detailed comparison of what drives editorial content on CNN International, BBC World News and Al Jazeera English, called 'Why do we see what we see?'. Henery interviewed top executives from all three channels and then compared their rhetoric with the reality of the output. She examined the various drivers of editorial content such as institutional culture, audience, funding models and corporate philosophies. She concludes that it is institutional culture which is the main driver for all three of the channels, but there are secondary drivers which determine the differences between them. Amongst the many observations she quotes are that 'CNNI is typified by its "American, can-do culture"; BBCWN carries the "burden of its history" and inhibiting pride, with much of its culture reliant on its high performance in the past; whereas AJE's "underdog mentality" and "culture of inferiority…spurs it towards extremes of…creativity and risk-taking".
Giang Nguyen, a BBC fellow and head of the Vietnamese Service at the BBC World Service, examined how a Catholic news website is having a big impact in and outside Vietnam, despite, or because of, its partisan editorial policies. In his paper called 'When lack of impartiality makes an impact: a comparative study of VietCatholic and the BBC', Giang Nguyen examines how VietCatholic used its newsgathering network of over 200 Catholic volunteers in Vietnam and abroad to attract over eight million page impressions in just three months during Catholic demonstrations in Hanoi in 2008. By carrying out extensive content analysis of the BBC and VietCatholic websites, he shows how the VietCatholic website is characterised by a high degree of editorial engagement on the part of their reporting team in the events bordering on explicit agitation, a lack of impartiality and a minimum of effort to represent the government's viewpoint. Giang Nguyen also draws a comparison with the position of the churches and dissident samizdat press in Eastern Europe in the 1980s.  He ends with a discussion of whether the ascendance of VietCatholic is just a phenomenon specific to the media landscape in Vietnam, or if it fits a pattern of faith-based media on the rise in East Asia.