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Work Shop – (Field)Work in Congolese Media Communities: Challenges and Choices

Wednesday February 16 2011, 5PM-7PM, Danford Room, Centre of West African Studies, U. of Birmingham,http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/Documents/university/edgbaston-map.pdf, R16, Arts Building – in the red zone)

Speakers:

Dr Long, Nick (independent scholar), The media in a fragile state. Demonstrating effects, and protecting sources.

Dr Pype, Katrien (U. of Birmingham), Reciprocity and Risk in the Lives and Work of Kinshasa’s Television Journalists

Dr Udo, Jacob (U. of Leeds), Ethical and Methodological Dilemmas of ‘Participatory’ Media Impacts Research in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Abstracts:

Dr Long, Nick, niclong65@hotmail.com

The media in a fragile state. Demonstrating effects, and protecting sources.                           

This presentation looks at methodological and ethical problems involved in researching media impacts on good governance, particularly in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  Little has been written about how these putative impacts can, and should, be demonstrated. Donors funding media support programmes tend to rely on simple definitions of impact, such as attendance at workshops, and media penetration figures, or on evaluations by media professionals, (often ‘auto-evaluations’).

Statistical data might provide evidence of media impacts. For instance cross-sectional election results could be regressed against the presence of independent media, although the results would be hard to interpret given the likelihood of autocorrelation and other statistical problems. A simpler approach would be to widen the range of opinions surveyed on the question of media impacts. It should not be too difficult to collect a wider and more balanced range of opinion on this question than any collected hitherto in the Congo. The presentation suggests ways of achieving this.

The principal ethical problem confronting researchers in this area is the need to protect sources. This leaves the researcher open to accusations of having fabricated interviews or data. Journalists are open to the same accusation and are able to defend themselves by the simple expedient of recording interviews or keeping good notes, which can be checked where a dispute arises. Interviewees can also be contacted to verify quotes. Academic referees are probably less stringent in this regard than they should be.

However, this ethical difficulty raises more serious questions about the role of the media in the DRC, and the usefulness of government funded media support programmes in that environment. Given current budgetary constraints, these programmes will be under increasing pressure to provide evidence of value for money. In countries where media are not free, it may be that support should focus more directly on monitoring aid delivery, (as the previous British government said that it would), as a more achievable aim. Government support for media programmes will be politically constrained. Other donors may be able to support more direct media impact on governments. Private support for online publications would circumvent some of the ethical problems involved in encouraging Congolese journalists to monitor governance.

(Nick Long has an MSc in Communications for Development from Reading University, and a PhD in Land Economy from Cambridge University. He currently works as a journalist for the BBC World Service and other media.)

Dr Pype, Katrien, U. of Birmingham (Katrien.Pype@soc.kuleuven.be)

Reciprocity and Risk in the Work and Lives of Kinshasa’s TV Journalists

In the field of TV news journalism in contemporary Kinshasa, a strong division can be made between pro-government journalism and that criticizing the government. Notwithstanding the antithetical position of journalists in Kinshasa’s political society, still some generalities of the ‘journalistic condition’ in that city can be made. First, reciprocity structures the relationship between journalists and politicians, and shapes the journalists’ professional biographies, their working modalities, and also the aesthetics of their work (‘what news actually is, and how it is broadcast’). A second characteristic is the experience of risk, which evolves from the dependency relationships in which journalists are embedded. In this presentation, I will discuss both aspects in the lives and work of Kinshasa’s TV journalists, and also how these shaped my ethnographic fieldwork (2009-2010).

Dr Udo, Jacob, J.U.U.Jacob@leeds.ac.uk

Ethical and Methodological Dilemmas of ‘Participatory’ Media Impacts Research in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In researching the impacts of elements of the UN’s Public Information Operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo, this author was faced with the methodological dilemmas inherent in most media impacts assessment studies – mapping clear causal pathways to link impacts on audiences with specific information intervention contents while isolating various other variables.    In this paper the author reflects on these methodological dilemmas in the context of deeply divided societies in South Kivu Province of the DRC and the participatory research techniques used to transcend them – peer researchers were trained to monitor media exposure and to moderate focus group discussions.   The paper discusses the ethical issues that were considered during the research and concludes that peer-led focus group discussions gave a sense of empowerment to focus group participants and recreated contextually organic social conversations that would have been unachievable with an outsider moderator.

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The Congo Research Network (CRN) is a community of researchers working on DR Congo and its diaspora across the Humanities

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