The journalists on our list of the 100 most influential reporting today on armed violence have been selected for a wide list of backgrounds, experiences and media platforms.
In putting together our list, we looked at those who had won prestigious journalism prizes, we read and watched hundreds of news clips and we talked to journalism professors and commentators. Our aim was not just to list the chief foreign correspondent for each and every major news outlet, but rather to present a diverse, possibly eclectic, collection of global conflict reporters including some of the most famous along with some promising younger journalists.
But as we discovered, the field is not hugely diverse. The dominance of Western reporters from Anglo-American organisations was evident immediately, as was the under-exposure of female journalists from all corners of the globe. It became clear that many non-Western journalists lack visibility in the arena of international news, and that, despite their massive contributions, female journalists generally receive less prestige and recognition than their male counterparts.
A glance at the figures drives this point home. Together, British and North American candidates make up more than half of the list, at 55 per cent. This figure rises to 67 per cent when you include the journalists from Western Europe. Despite the persistent violence and conflict in the Middle East, the difficulty in identifying suitable candidates has seen only seven journalists native to the region make the list. Tellingly, only one Afghan journalist is identified on this list. Given the number of Western journalists who have reported from Afghanistan, the lack of visibility of Afghan reporters is striking – especially given that many of the Western journalists who have covered the conflict there rely on Afghan stringers.
African conflict journalists are also grossly unrepresented, with a total of six journalists present on this list from a continent bigger than the US and Western Europe combined. Asian reporters are even less visible. Part of these omissions may be ascribed to the fact we are an English-language organisation, by and large. But clearly something else is going on here.
The gender disparity is less stark, but only slightly. Over half of the journalists here (61) are men, compared to 39 women. The recently announced 2013 Rory Peck awards failed to include a single female journalist among its nine finalists. Despite a concerted effort to look specifically for female journalists working on armed violence, it was remarkably difficult to correct the balance. Again, the case is not that female conflict correspondents are not actively pursuing the trade, but that they are less prominent internationally than their male counterparts.
It is crucial that the Western and white male bias in news media be highlighted. Predominantly Western Europeans and North Americans are covering wars and conflicts in areas where their involvement is either non-existent or peripheral. Clearly, Western news agencies have the financial resources allowing them to deploy reporters worldwide, enabling them to dominate the international news platform. Consequently the points of view and insight of journalists with a different perspective are often obscured and frequently ignored.
For the causes of armed violence to be properly understand, AOAV believes that foreign reporting should encompass a wider spectrum of voices from a wider range of countries, nationalities and cultures. We hope our list helps raise awareness of this.
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