-China in Africa
The most interesting concepts from this reading, to me, are those of “positive reporting” and “developmental journalism” as a vehicle to achieving the ‘harmonious society’. In contrast to “communal communication”, developmental journalism points to the specific role of those in charge of spreading news stories and framing them in such a way as to impulse proactive action on the part of citizens, governments, NGOs, and all actors that can participate in the process. Developmental journalism, then, must be focused on empowering communities through information as a tool for knowledge, and, therefore, for the power to be actively engaged. Furthermore, I believe journalism as a field should no longer be simply “journalism”. It should live up to its original promises of bringing unbiased news to the citizens for the purpose of allowing them to make informed decisions about the different issues that pertain them. It should consider how incorporating and covering international news, which sometimes feel to alien to local and national communities, can actually foster the view of the “harmonious global society” and make it possible. Bringing stories together can actually bring people together. They learn that around the world, there are others who are just like them in many ways. They also learn that those immediately surrounding them can actually help build the welfare of the communities. The focus of journalism, then, should shift from covering rivalries and conflict all the time to turning the stories around and showing people how to actually avoid those clashes. The way I see it, journalism has a unique potential in building bridges between intercultural communities and fostering development. The question, then, would be how to achieve that still utopian goal of journalism for development and peace.
-Family-tree of theories, methodologies and strategies in Development Communication
I agree with the view that advocates for the convergence of modernist and developmental theories as applied to the field of communication for development. However, I wonder, in practice, how it can be achieved in circumstances where the best strategy would be for them to come together, but where politization and rivalry is so great that it is not easy to break the barriers. Mobilizing diverse social forces implies a great deal of compromise, and sometimes that seems like too huge a task to complete. An example that comes to my mind is the culture of smoking cigarettes in Ecuador. In order to create conscience and in an attempt to get individuals to smoke less, cigarette packs are now more expensive because of added taxes, and it is forbidden to smoke in a lot of public places. Clearly imprinted in black, big bold letters in the cigarette pack is the slogan “SMOKING CAUSES CANCER”. Every time a consumer buys them, he is reminded of the consequences that his health might suffer. The big tobacco companies agree to sell the packages with the warning on them because they acknowledge that consumers smoke at their own risk. Campaigns advocating for a healthier lifestyle are common. And yet the number of smokers is not declining. The civil society is not willing to quit, for whatever reasons. The message is not being transmitted effectively. Or is it that the different actors that should merge to obtain the desired result are neglecting to do so? Or is it that the message is ineffective to the “public opinion” because, in communication, opinion is not really public? Since campaigns are usually directed by specific actors, even if they aim to target society as a whole, they are not really focused around public opinions and perceptions, but rather on the objectives the different campaigns seek to obtain. That might be one reason why communication for development fails at times, and why it is difficult for different sectors (and theories) to converge for the attainment of those goals– the public opinion is not really taken into consideration
-Informatization and Dramatization
I would like to take the case studies that focus on Asia for this reading and expand them to the Latin American realm, where infotainment still rules over edutainment. Although considerable efforts have been made in order to advance the latter over the former, the truth is that informatization is still predominantly commercial in its outlook. As such, it fails to consider how the message can be applied widely beyond the sphere of the elites. For instance, telenovelas, especially Mexican ones, became symbols of an aspired lifestyle, one where all “common individuals” could have the opportunity to become famous, rich, and beautiful one day, just like the characters they admired. In that sense, the message conveyed superficially touches upon the real issues because they focus more on the dramatization than the actual information. Many telenovelas are based on daily life stories of drama, relationships, economic, religious, and spiritual struggles, and the like. They try to incorporate the different characters that make up society, but still mirror the typical elite lifestyle. The outcast characters are still outside of the elites. This, on the one hand, makes it attractive for different spectators to watch because they all feel represented in some way or another. But on the other hand, they fail to offer alternatives to the metanarratives and social inequities that exist. The focus on drama, then, becomes more of a vehicle for entertainment and a moment for commoners to gain distraction from daily work, rather than educate them to avoid or adopt certain practices that might allow them to develop. There is, however, much potential in how these shows inspire people to aspire for more. Furthermore, though birth rates in Latin America remain skyrocketing, the case has been made that in Brazil, telenovelas might be contributing to decreased birth rates. A report by the Washington Post a couple years ago interviewed working class and middle class women in Brazil who said that they desired to achieve the same level of success (both economic and social) that the characters they revered in their favorite shows has attained. That meant that they were now thinking about having less children (if at all) in order to advance their professional careers first. In conclusion, then, I believe edutainment should move past the discourses of the elites and become more inclusive, precisely because I acknowledge their potential to subtly empower viewers to make decisions that might transform their lives for the better (or worse, when entertainment or infotainment are merely superficial and based on detrimental practices for society).