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International media

Cosmopolitan Germany

by Hugh Williamson, Astrid Kohl
D+C/E+Z is a relevant magazine thanks to its international reach. The monthly publication provides actors involved in development affairs with many relevant starting points and contacts in business, politics, civil society, multilateral institutions and the media. [ By Hugh Williamson ]

The role of the media has changed dramatically over the past 50 years. Unless they rise to new challenges, publications become obsolete. This cannot be said of D+C/E+Z. This magazine meets today’s needs.

Our world is marked increasingly by information overload, both online and in traditional media. Dealing with this, and shaping it to benefit society, demands new thinking on the role of media organisations, and how much emphasis they place on “adding value“ via analysis and comment, rather than simply on recycling old information.

The Financial Times, for which I work, is still a paper for business people in Britain – but they are no longer our only target group. The FT’s combined circulation in the US and continental Europe exceeds the British circulation, and the paper’s readership in Asia is growing too. The website, moreover, has taken on a central role within the FT's operations, combining rolling news, online graphics, videos and other features to reach many more readers than those that pick up the paper every day. Thanks to the FT’s international outreach the political relevance of the paper has grown significantly.

Adapting to new challenges, we changed the way we work. For example, we use far fewer British idioms than we did in the past – we want to be understood beyond our national shores after all. Our correspondents are actively doing research in all regions of the world.

In this context, I consider D+C/E+Z a valuable resource. The magazine provides a sense of orientation in world affairs by looking into development issues from all sorts of angles. D+C/E+Z starts off relevant discussions as the authors are experts themselves. D+C/E+Z therefore helps journalists to find topics and deal with them in depth.

The crisis of quality journalism

Quality journalism is in deep crisis. Business has become tougher. The reason is that editorial quality does not automatically translate into advertising revenue the way it did in the past. Publishers are under constant pressure to cut costs.

The consequences have been particularly dramatic in the USA. Long-established newspapers like the Rocky Mountain News in Denver or the Seattle Post-Intelligencer have been shut down, though some live on as websites. There is a clear trend, most obvious on the web, towards opinion-based stories and away from factual reporting, which would depend on research and accordingly cost more to produce. The format of the opinionated blog, which appeals to users due to its ideol­ogical rigour, is much cheaper to handle.

D+C/E+Z’s approach is different – and more interesting. This forum is exciting because it involves academics, practitioners, politicians and civil-society actors in policy debates. The magazine does not polarise much; rather, it looks for overlaps between diverging positions and, in doing so, networks experts throughout the world. It is useful that D+C/E+Z is circulated in different spheres – from universities to government bureaucracies and private-sector enterprises through to multilateral institutions and non-governmental organisations.

International model

Other donors’ have begun to use similar journalistic means. That, in itself, is proof of D+C/E+Z’s sound concept. Two striking examples are the The Broker and Development Asia.

The Broker is a bimonthly publication from the Netherlands. Its 20th edition appeared as a double issue in July. In this maga­­zine, experts discuss development policy. So far, however, the editorial team seems to be less interested in giving contributors from Asia, Africa and Latin America a say. Like D+C/E+Z, however, The Broker is funded by a donor government with the mission of providing a controversial forum for debate.

Development Asia, in turn, is published every three months on behalf of the Asian Development Bank (ADB). The paper comes across like Times or Newsweek in the good old days. Professional journalists research important subjects and report without being blinkered. The magazine is not a mouthpiece for official ADB policy. The Bank’s presence in the paper is limited to several pages of advertisement. Cover stories like “A growing hunger” (April 2010) prove that the ADB is not trying to inspire the kind of optimism that is typical of PR publication, but hopes to trigger serious debate.

In D+C/E+Z, Germany is showing its cosmopolitan side. Unfortunately, the Federal Republic does not always do so. Too often, English-language publications from German institutions are still a strain to read because of poor translations. D+C is not among them. This paper is edited well.

Germans tend to be ridiculed in international development circles. One joke is about delegations of eight members each representing the UK’s Department for International Development (DfID) and Germany’s Federal Development Ministry (BMZ) at an international conference. In all working groups, one Brit will eloquently argue the stand of DfID, whereas only one or two Germans will actually say anything – the others, you see, are working on behalf of various implementing agencies, trying to make sure that their agency will get the assignments that may result from the conference. In the end, the conference adopts DfID’s position.

This mockery is clearly exaggerated, as jokes typically are. Nonetheless, most German colleagues will no doubt see the point. D+C/E+Z, in contrast, is living proof of Germans’ not having to be shy and defensive. Their approach can just as well be argumentative and engaging in the long run.

It is not immediately obvious to the readers, but D+C/E+Z and InWEnt’s International Institute for Journalism cooperate closely.

It was a delicate subject for the author, but E+Z/D+C accepted his proposal. In the March 2010 edition, Gambian journalist Nfamara Jawneh reported on female genital mutilation and the first successes of increased awareness campaigns in his homeland. The subject is still taboo in many places in Africa, so it takes determination and courage to tackle it in the media. D+C/E+Z is a good forum for doing so, which, in turn, is a sign of the editorial office’s inquiring spirit. D+C/E+Z gives authors from developing and developed countries an equally prominent say.

What was not mentioned in the bio­graphical note on Nfamara Jawneh, how­ever, was that he is an alumnus of ­InWEnt’s International Institute for Journalism (IIJ). Jawneh completed a training course on the subject of conflict sensitive reporting in 2009 in Accra. Of course, part of the programme was a gender debate, with all its personal and emotional repercussions. After returning home, the sub-editor of The Point newspaper dared to tackle the topic of genital mutilation.

There is a large number of IIJ alumni among D+C/E+Z contributors from
developing countries – whether Gambia, Senegal or Pakistan. Working for this maga­zine often feels to them a bit like an advanced journalism school, from the initial proposal through to the rigorous editing of the final manuscript. The IIJ is proud of its D+C/E+Z contributors, and the magazine gains from voices from all over the world. Its mission, after all, is not to serve as a governmental mouthpiece but rather to provide a forum for controversial debate. For that reason, moreover, our alumni rate D+C/E+Z as a useful resource. After all, this is a compendium of development-­related topics which is expanded and updated by experts, networks colleagues and ultimately contributes to institution and capacity building itself.