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By Ngoc Nguyen

Ngoc Nguyen, together with Anthony Novaro-Boni,  represented the MRIS course at the Development Day 2016 as a rapporteur.  Here’s her personal reflection on the session on Media and Development  – “Breaking the Bubbles”, on the multi-stakeholder roundtable discussion amongst the following participants: Anna-Liina Kauhanen (Jounalist, Helsingin Sanomat), Ullamaija Kivikuru (Professor, University of Helsinki), Kirsi Pere (Communication Officer, Ministry of Foreign Affairs), Pekka Reinikainen (Advocacy and Communication, Finnish Redcross), Anni Valtonen (Editor-in-chief, Maailman Kuvalehti), and Iikka Vehkalahti (Documentary maker and film producer, IV Films Ltd).

Each professional has his or her own unique way of thinking and approach towards development.

From Valtonen’s perspective, journalists and media development–oriented people tend to lie problems. The voice of governmental sector Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Pere states that the government aims to create Finnish policies to understand the development in a broad picture, for example where public money goes and how non-government organizations (NGOs) work towards the development. Kauhanen sees development from the perspective of a journalist; the development is about bringing all news to the public and creating a bridge between the government and the public. Her daily responsibility is to catch up with news, not only within Finland but also all over Europe. On the other hand, Reinikainen from Finnish Redcross is more about connecting the development with disasters. How does the development support situation of disasters if they suddenly happen? Besides immediate actions, plans need to be carefully prepared and in the end be reflected on what to improve in the future. Vehkalahti from IV Films Ltd perceives development from the visual perspective, how to shape a simple view for the audience about certain things. From the academic point of view, Kivikuru emphasizes the importance of stories. There are not only written stories on the media but also an uncountable number of unwritten stories that should have been explored and taken into consideration.

The roundtable discussion brings up an issue between development and distance.

Development is considered as a tool to solve conflict or crisis. It is more important to invest in developing than fixing problems when they unexpectedly happen. Nevertheless, distance issue causes difficulties in making the development. In fact, while stories come closer, it is easier to have them to be heard. People cannot be expected to be interested in something that happens very far away. Importantly, crisis is often seen in a short period of time. Long-term crisis should be foreseen and published on media more often.

What is media responsible for development?

Media is only a platform and everybody is a media of themselves and the society. Therefore, the responsibility is not for individual journalists or media experts. It’s everybody’s responsibility. Media nowadays becomes more objective, which reflects more on the reality and the audience’s perspectives. Instead of bringing up, media criticism should be back.

To conclude, “Let’s break the bubbles”, it is the responsibility of journalists, researchers, stakeholders, and everybody. For example, journalists expect to have coherent content from researchers. Researchers should be proactive in terms of what the audience expects and looks forward, when it comes to issues to be discussed. Without the corporation amongst parties, the development could not have successfully and transparently made.