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Development and Rural Reporting

Archana Kumari |

We have discussed how vast the arena of development is. So it is not easy for a journalist to handle all the areas of development. Also if a reporter wants to be established as a good journalist, he should try to specialize in a particular area of his beat. There is a wide spectrum of development journalism from agriculture, health, social, industrial, environment, women’s and child welfare to education, culture, customs etc. one can specialize in any stream of these or more than one stream. It will help him to grow as a journalist

The concept of development journalism emerged after Second World War in the post colonial era. At that time the recently independent countries felt the lack of interest of the global media in the development programmes of these countries. The western media was more engaged in portraying the negative side of life. Out of this situation these countries initiated development reporting to highlight the development programmes in their countries.

It is said to be the positive journalism because it focuses on the development scene of a country. It creates awareness among the people about various development programmes and issues. It informs the readers about developmental issues & schemes in order to get their active participation and involvement in it. Generally the development projects, schemes, programmes are initiated by the government or government agencies. But you should not be confused it with government publicity. To inform the readers in unbiased, unflaunted manner is the greatest responsibility of a development journalist. He shouldn’t do a story just to please the rulers.

In general, the meaning of development is taken into economic sense. But it is not so simple. The periphery of the word ‘development’ is far larger. It involves the total social development, cultural development, economic development and also moral development of a country. Development is measured by the improvement in the ‘quality of life’ of people. There are many other parameters also to gauge the development of a country. The strength of a country among the comity of nations , the infrastructure, the growth of agriculture, harmony among different religious and regional groups, stability of families, lesser mortal rate, lesser number of people below poverty line, modernization of the thought of society, lesser corruption etc are few in list of such parameters.

The development journalism was well known and well practiced in western countries, but it came into existence in India only few years before. Now, since India is a fast growing country, so development journalism is gaining strength here also. For example, the magazine ‘Yozana’ published by Publication Department is well known for its authentic developmental articles.

Purpose of the development reporting

 The sole purpose of development reporting is to aware people not only towards the development projects but also towards their many repercussions. So, development reports can be positive as well as negative. As we have already discussed that development is a multifaceted phenomenon, so such stories should take into consideration every aspect of it. There can be stories about the improvement of infrastructure, establishment of industries, use of new technique of agriculture or any scientific achievement. But simultaneously it is the duty of development reporter to write about the increasing population, hazardous environmental conditions due to the industry waste, excessive use of pesticides causing diseases, improper drainage system for irrigation and many other such issues. He should always present such positive and negative facts before the public and authorities.

A development story may be negative but it should always be a good story. It is the duty of the development reporter to present the balanced views with facts. A healthy criticism is always welcomed by the authorities also. So in a way development is also associated with politics, because the planning of development process is done by the legislative body who are our politicians. So a development reporter cannot and shouldn’t ignore the ideology behind any development programme. It always helps in understanding the purpose of the programme.

 

How to go about a developmental story:

 

  • Idea – Generally the development stories are idea centered. This ‘idea’ has to be meaningful and relevant. If the idea of the story is not related to the readers, the purpose to aware them and involve them goes in vain. So the story idea should be in the interest of the common readers or it should show some link to them.
  • Research – Proper research on the topic is essential for development stories, because the facts related to development are very sensitive and sacred. Sometimes these figures show some irregularities in the programme and it becomes a good story. It is duty of the reporter to check every data carefully. Also the reporter should always gather the proper background informations on the given topic, so that he can understand the subject and prepare himself to work on it. It also involves talking to every single person associated with the project.

 

A good reporter should always keep the clippings of the development   stories published in various newspapers for reference and for future uses. Even      their follow up stories are many times very important. So, he should try to develop his own consult library and keep even smallest relevant clippings, posters,   stories in collection. Such tiny things prove very fruitful at times.

  • Read – Read a lot to keep you informed and up-to-date. It will crystallize your writing skill, knowledge and presentation. Read books on development issues, new researches and any other relevant publication. This way you can gain ideas and improve your interpretations. Reading gives you a good perspective of each issue and enriches your writing.
  • Develop contacts – Like any other beat, developing and maintaining contacts are important here also. Since there are many facets of development – social, cultural, economic, political etc, so a reporter must know who’s who in these related fields. He should try to make contact with senior officials of the ministry of social welfare, environment, women and child care, rural, agriculture, science and development, education and other development related ministries. So, in a way it’s a very vast beat to handle and developing contacts in each of these development department is a tedious job, but not impossible.

          

You should know the cabinet ministers of these departments and it is      always good to get acquainted with their personal assistants who are the key persons to provide informations. You should not only make only good relation        with them but also try to strengthen these relations. Your sources are like your   assets, so nurture them.

 

Except knowing the development issues and development departments on      national level, you should also keep a track of international organisations involved        in development work like United Nation’s Development Programme (UNDP),        Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), UNICEF, World Health Organisation   etc. Some international NGOs are also active in development work, so they     should also be taken into consideration.

 

Style of reporting

 

Generally the development stories are soft, but sometimes they are sensational also. Most of the time these are mainly socio-economic reporting. Especially the main pink newspapers like Economic Times, Financial Express etc. publish such stories.

 

The style of writing a development story is similar to that of a simple report by using simple language and words. Here also we follow the rules of five Ws and one H, but generally in different order – Why, When, Where, Which, What and How. Quotations are also important here. Whenever you have talked to any concern person, quote him. Then you will be making the person directly addressing to the readers. It also gives authenticity to the report. You should also identify the person in the report if he had said something on the record.

 

Since the issue of development is very sensitive so always try to get correct data and facts and build up your story logically. It is very important to prove every point with logic because development is much diversified field and it has many aspects. You should always try to write with clarity in simple language in order to avoid any confusion in the report.

 

It is again important for development reporter to remain unbiased and fair. He should be neutral in writing beyond his ideology, likes and dislikes.

 

What separates development beat from others is its purposive nature of writing. Whatever you are reporting or writing, it is with the purpose to encourage the readers towards development and involve them in the process. It is not only to inform but also to involve, which is a great responsibility in nation building. So the style of writing should be accordingly. Most of the time it is a feature, not a news oriented story. So, one must know the feature writing to become a good development journalist.

 

Sources of the development stories

 

  • Journals – Development journals are good source of development stories. A reporter should regularly read these journals. He can get many story ideas and informations from these journals. Most of the Indian states have their own information gadgets, which show the facts and figures of development work in the state. These informations are very authentic and valuable. But a good reporter should always cross check even these figures. If there is any irregularity in the numbers or facts, then it is the duty of development reporter to dig out the truth.
  • Press releases of various ministries – Many ministries of government are associated with development work like ministry of Rural Development, Environment, Social Welfare, Education, Agriculture and even Science and Technology. So the press releases, hand outs, newsletters and annual reports of these ministries both on central and state level are good source of information for a development journalist. A sensible journalist takes the idea from these materials and by investigating, cross checking and talking to the concerned person brings out good development stories.
  • National and International NGOs – There are numerous national and international NGOs working in development fields like local self government, education, women empowerment, environment, safe drinking water and thousand more. A development journalist can always get very good stories by talking to these national and international NGOs. Even some development issues can be raised with the help of these NGOs. There is no problem in searching these NGOs. One can get the names and addresses of registered NGOs from the office of                                                     or can search them on internet also. Many of these NGOs have their own websites, so they are easily contacted.
  • Seminars, Conferences – Many voluntary organisations and sometimes the government organisations many times organise workshops, seminars, conferences etc. these are very valuable for a development journalist. The research paper on any particular issue is a good source of information and the journalist can get new story ideas from the debate and discussions there.

 

Specialisation:

 

We have discussed how vast the arena of development is. So it is not easy for a journalist to handle all the areas of development. Also if a reporter wants to be established as a good journalist, he should try to specialize in a particular area of his beat. There is a wide spectrum of development journalism from agriculture, health, social, industrial, environment, women’s and child welfare to education, culture, customs etc. one can specialize in any stream of these or more than one stream. It will help him to grow as a journalist.

 

This does not mean that the specialist reporter wouldn’t cover other streams. He may have to cover the other streams as well. So, he needs to have basic knowledge of all the developmental issues but should have mastery over at least one.

 

Specialisation on any particular subject of development requires thorough knowledge of that particular stream. Suppose you are doing specialisation in rural and agricultural field, then you should not only aware of the recent developments in this field, like the experiments of genetic crop but also be knowing the various plans and schemes launched by central or state government and how successful these are. For example, National Rural Employment Programme (NREP), Integrated Rural Development Programme (IRDP), Training of Rural Youth for Self Employment (TRYSEM) and many other such schemes. Whoever is specializing in Poverty and Unemployment, should not only remember the no. of people below poverty line or no. of people unemployed, but also be knowing about the various schemes launched by the government to improve their condition.

 

Rural Reporting

Dr. Archana Kumari

——————————————————————Why poverty and problems in rural area do not make news for the urban population? It can if presented professionally with rich social content, it can make itself relevant for urban audience and they can relate themselves to rural India. The media division into Urban and rural is a creation of corporate controlled media but if people’s participation is ensured, it can initiate a meaningful interaction that can help in bridging the gap. It cannot be argued that urban and rural populations are not interested to know and understand each other. It can rationally be presume that urban and rural audiences want to see entire political, social, economic and cultural pictures of the entire country and not a fractured image. –Editor’s Note

 

One very important facet of development reporting is rural reporting. As Gandhijee said that soul of India lives in the villages, today also 60 percent of Indian population is either rural or semi-urban. They directly or indirectly depend upon agriculture.

 

It is an irony that India’s villages are not getting adequate coverage in newspapers. There could be one reason that the poverty and problems in rural area do not make news for the urban population. One of the main reasons for this negligence can be that most of the newspapers of India are city based and their readers are also in cities. Especially the English dailies are urban centered and they rarely publish rural development news.

 

But the local newspapers or vernacular newspapers do pay attention to the rural issues because a large number of readers of such newspapers are either from villages or semi-urban areas.

 

It is only poverty, flood and other natural calamities in rural areas which get space on the front page. But there are many other stories which need to be brought into limelight like poor civic amenities, lack of basic infrastructure, lack of any support for agriculture and other employment, poor education facilities, electricity, water supply and every basic need of the people in rural areas. Lack of such facilities in rural areas actually retards the pace of growth in our country.

 

So the job of rural reporter is far more than just reporting. It is a very sensible, responsible and careful job for a rural reporter. He should not only search for the stories but should also be able to handle them intelligently. He should be able to recognize the problems but also present it in such a way that everyone would like to read it and authorities are compelled to take any action. A rural reporter should be passionate enough to raise the issues and struggle for them. He should be brave, fearless and committed.

 

His writing should appeal to the readers with its substance, depth and style. He should compare the conditions of rural areas to the urban areas, so that people can ponder upon the disparity. To show the poverty in rural areas, he does not need to present the numbers and figures. He can do this by simply reporting the number of meals consumed by a person in rural areas, the nutrition level in it and comparing it with urban the meal of a urban person.

 

How to cover a rural story

 

  • Writing style – Poor writing style devours your story and it happens with many rural reports. In spite of being good stories, the poor writing style actually marginalize the reports. A rural reporter needs to present his copy in simple clear language and inverted pyramid form. He needs to simplify the complex issues in order to make it more reader friendly. He must present the story with clarity and balanced views. The quality of writing is the strength of the reporter. The simple formula for writing a good copy is applicable here also – short, simple, clear and correct. Don’t use flowery and ornamental language and express the story without any bias.
  • Geographical knowledge – Know your area very well. It is very important for a rural reporter to know the geographical area of his assigned village or district. Not only that, he should be well acquainted with the culture and dialect of that particular area. It will help him in investigating good stories and make good sources.

 

You may be filing your report from any remote area about which your readers     may not know. So always give its exact geographical location in your story so that    the common readers can relate themselves with the story and many of them would       be interested in reading it. Many times reporters file their story about any village      or district without identifying where it is. He should not only give the location of       the place, but also try to give its background, which will make his story more        interesting. Now-a-days a very good system of indicating a particular area in the map has been followed by the newspapers, which is very nice way of actually      demonstrating where is it situated.

  • Inquisition and investigation – There can not be a sudden problem. A good reporter goes to the roots of the problems. A superficial report wouldn’t serve the purpose of rural reporting. So always try to investigate the root cause of any sudden disease or agricultural problems or frequent disasters. Do not hesitate in asking questions. Keep asking until you get a satisfactory answer. Try to take everyone’s point of view. You may find something very important.
  • Develop contacts – Like any other beat reporting, rural reporting also requires reliable sources. You need to make good contacts in every department of your area and also need to nurture them. Your sources at local hospital can give you information about health hazards due to unhygienic conditions there. Sources at agricultural society can provide you much information about problems and solutions in agriculture field. Except these sources, there are many NGOs working in rural areas, cooperatives, self help groups, government organisations, which can be very good sources of informations. So a good reporter should always maintain good contacts with these sources.
  • Beware of the biases – A rural reporter should always present a clean copy without any prejudices and biases. An anti-town or urban bias is generally visible in rural reporters. Also sometimes he does not keep himself detach from the issue while reporting which is good if it is on mental level, but it should not be reflected in his copy.
  • Angle to the story – It is seen that if the rural reports are presented with humanitarian angle, it has attracted the attention of the people and authorities. So, by emphasizing on the humane element instead of facts and figures, about flood, drought or deforestation, the report can earn more attention. The sorrow of farmers came into limelight only when they started committing suicide. The poverty of Kalahandi flashed only when people started selling their kids. It is very inhumane and that’s why getting space in news.

          

Also do not miss the political angles in rural reporting. Many times, many decisions are politically influenced, which cannot be neglected. So always      consider the political aspect of the story. It would provide a depth to the rural        reporting. Similarly, gender issues, the problems of children and elderly people      can also be considered as an angle to the story.

Reference:

  1. ‘Dimensions of Modern Journalism’ by N. C. Pant and Jitender Kumar.
  2. ‘The Reporter’ by Arindam Basu and Sujoy Dhar.

Dr. Archana Kumari, an alumni of Indian Institute of Mass Communication, is working as Assistant Professor at Central University of Jammu. She has been on the faculty of IIMC, Central University of Kashmir and Central university of Bihar.

 

 

 

 

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