What: CJMD connects with Dr. Martin Scott and Dr. Kate Wright to present topics on how news coverage influences humanitarian aid

When: 9:00 a.m. on Thursday, February 23, 2023

Where: Zoom

Register at: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/cjmd-spotlight-how-news-coverage-influences-humanitarian-aid-tickets-523691855437

We examine if and how news coverage influences governments’ humanitarian aid allocations, from the perspective of the senior bureaucrats involved in such decision-making. Using rare in-depth interviews with 30 directors and senior policymakers in 16 of the world’s largest donor countries, we found that the majority of these bureaucrats believed that sudden-onset, national news coverage can increase levels of emergency humanitarian aid allocated to a crisis. They said that this influence operated by triggering other accountability institutions (the public, civil society, and elected officials) who put pressure on aid bureaucracies to announce additional funding. However, these practitioners claim that annual humanitarian aid allocations—which are much larger—are unaffected by news pressure. Intriguingly, we also find that many respondents interpret a lack of news coverage as grounds for increasing their annual aid allocations to what they call “forgotten crises”. We argue that “bureaucratic mediatization”, rather than the “CNN Effect” or the “Cockroach Effect”, provides the most appropriate theoretical perspective to understand these multiple, concurrent and indirect forms of media influence. These findings have important implications for government donors, news organizations, and aid agencies, and for our wider understanding of how news coverage may influence foreign policy.

  • Dr. Kate Wright (Kate.Wright@ed.ac.uk) is an Associate Professor in Media and Communication-based in the Politics and International Relations Department at the University of Edinburgh. She’s also the Academic Lead of the 50-strong university-wide Media and Communications Research Cluster. She has published extensively on international news, focusing on the relationship between political economy and journalistic practice. These research interests arise from her background as a BBC journalist, working on flagship national and international news programmes as well as investigative documentaries.