Two-thirds of the world’s poor live in Asia. But a random check on mainstream media contents shows the poor are starkly invisible.
For the past week, I’ve been chatting online with a group of Asian journalists on reporting about poverty. What would it take to return ‘poverty issues’ to the front-page, I asked. All ten of them, enrolled in the MA program at the Asian Center for Journalism, Ateneo de Manila University in the Philippines, recognise there’s no easy answer.
One says her ‘finance’ beat often isolates her from ‘poverty’ issues. Another cites space limitation. An agency reporter blames his bureaucratic editors who are more concerned with serving the government than reporting for the poor.
Such is the sad state of journalism in parts of South-east Asia.
Commercial media, structurally more attuned to the fancies of the rich and famous, are breeding the socially insignificant contents we see today.
It’s not for the lack of journalistic spirit that the poor are rendered invisible in our media. It’s the editorial system, driven by profits or beholden to governments, that’s prostituting the traditions of a once noble craft. I’m reminded of a story in the New Internationalist of how a Burmese journalist tries daily to make the best of her situation despite the odds.
“I love to write news stories but I hate the censor board. The censor board vets our stories and they always tell us to publish government policy and propaganda articles, week after week. My boss has two faces. One face is all smiles for the censor board, the other grimaces at us. I think many journal publishers must be similar to him. They all want to hold on to their business and so are self-interested, always ready to compromise, to give in so as to survive.”