Development issues receive little coverage in mainstream media

By Lebogang Molefe

Development stories can be used to address inequalities existing among communities. They are also a way to find justice, public debate and social awareness, according to Oluwatoyosi Ogunseye who was speaking at Friday’s discussion on ‘Digging into Development Issues’.

Ogunseye, who is editor of Punch newspaper in Nigeria, also said it was important for journalists to pay attention to what people were talking about on social media, and to develop their stories from that. She said public officials were seldom found accountable if people didn’t know about the stories affecting them.

Development stories force the governments to change their own policies and bring out the issues of corruption within the government, Ogunseye said.

In telling stories, she said journalists could use statistics to make sure that people are aware of issues that are affecting them, because, with statistics, officials are forced to come up with action plans and the public is also in the know about what is happening in their communities.

Raúl Sánchez González, a Spanish journalist who specialises in data journalism and visualisation, said without division and diversification of labour, a modern economy could not function as expected. He said that was the reason why countries with small populations may had trouble developing and gaining access to markets.

Drawing on an investigation he had conducted into plantation products and European agricultural grants, González said the international coffee trade flow talked to the plantations of vegetables in poor countries to feed the richer countries, which showed inequalities.

Another speaker, Mark Schapiro, a journalist with the Environment Reporting Network said there were too many people in the world and agriculture was unable to cater for all those people

Turning to the presentation of development stories, Ogunseye said, the way a story is written and published is very important because with the human element in the story, the reader is able to relate to the story and is able to reach a bigger audience.

“Pictures are able to effectively tell a development story because they contain a human element,” she said.

However, Ogunseye cautioned that digging into development issues often takes a lot of time, financial and human resources, and covering these topics is more difficult when countries are affected by conflicts, crisis and epidemics.

PHOTO: Raúl Sánchez González (left), Maren Saebo (centre) and Oluwatoyosi Ogunseye (right) listen to a presentation called Digging into Development Issues. Photo: Ntaoleng Lechela