A Philippine Case Study of Conflicting Models in Mass Communication Education

Article excerpt

Development journalism is one international media model that has been touted as an alternative and perhaps reaction to the traditional Western model that most often assumes private or corporate ownership and is primarily supported by advertising. Reporters, editors and broadcasters adhering to the Western journalism model can be expected to endorse some degree of objectivity that assumes their job is to present the facts and to let the reader, listener or viewer reach his or her own conclusions and interpretations of the news and information they are providing. News is thus viewed as a commodity and beyond the idealism of working journalists. A primary goal of news production and dissemination is marketing and profits.

'A field of development communication as a field of study and practice is development journalism. This new genre of journalism is about reporting and interpreting the news from a development perspective. It refers to both the contents of journalism (development) and the process of reporting, which is different from traditional, or conventional, journalism.'

That the Western model continues to dominate worldwide and to be recognised by the United Nations as the primary journalism model to be propagated in developing countries is evidenced by the 2007 UNESCO model journalism curricula, which fails to mention development journalism or any other alternative journalism models in defending and advocating for the new Western-based model they propose. By this omission of a discussion of alternative and interventionist press models, it is apparent that UNESCO is an unreserved advocate for the Western model, although developing nations such as the Philippines are determined, as this study suggests, to explore and support alternative models such as development journalism as a tool for nation building and mobilising the population to achieve development and economic well-being.

Despite high idealism and intensive promotion by its designers and advocates, the development communication model has yet to prove successful at winning widespread endorsement by working journalists in either developed or underdeveloped nations that usually command the largest audiences. Development communication has in some cases been imposed on professional journalists with backgrounds in relatively independent commercial media. Once they become accustomed and proficient regarding Western news conventions and newsroom culture, they are likely to resent conceding the kind of professional empowerment, independence and sense of control of the news and information they gather. In the past, initiatives for the promotion of development journalism have tended to be top-down and often clumsy in implementation. The model suffers from the fact that its origins are in universities or foundations, rather than in newsrooms or professional journalistic organisations.

Perhaps because of the intransigence of Philippine journalists to adopt development journalism, supporters of the model in Philippine development communication programmes are moving away from promoting it as a substitute for the Western model. Rather they are focusing on training development communicators for careers outside of professional and commercial journalism, and concentrate on the model's roots in agricultural extension and other forms of non-profit communication. Still contemporary development communication students show a propensity to see their development communication training as a path to launch communication careers that pay better than non-profit organisation and government jobs do. Thus, they may be less idealistic regarding national development than their instructors are.

As might be observed, the definition of Development Communication has remained in flux and problematic since its inception and is notably abstract with regard to its application to professional journalism. Is development journalism actually "journalism" as most professional practitioners know it, or is it an interventionist arm of government or other forces for "development" that may or may not have the best interest of the society in mind? …