- It is not enough to plead for the right cause; journalists must do this effectively.
- Journalism is more than just informing; there is a responsibility to rally people to a cause.
- Facts matter, but emotion and empathy matter more.
- Getting editors interested in development journalism remains a challenge.
Development journalism is essential to tackle global challenges including inequality, exclusion and discrimination around the world. In 1992, the Lorenzo Natali Media Prize was launched to recognise excellence in reporting on development issues, inequalities, human rights and poverty eradication.
Created by the European Commission’s Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development (DG DEVCO), the prize is named after Lorenzo Natali, a former Commissioner for Development and staunch defender of freedom of expression, democracy and human rights.
This year, a record 1,200 applications were received for the three categories:
• The Grand Prize, open to journalists from around the world.
• The Europe Prize, open to European Union journalists.
• The Best Emerging Journalist Prize, for journalists under age 30.
Each winner receives EUR10,000. The best emerging journalist is also offered work experience with a media partner.
Salvadoran writer Glenda Girón Castro, editor of Sunday magazine Séptimo Sentido, received the Grand Prize for highlighting HIV’s impact on work opportunities in El Salvador. But Girón also gives a message of hope over the stigma HIV brings. His story tells how one HIV-affected Salvadoran went from street work to running a street food business.
A French journalist, Zoé Tabary, of Thomson Reuters, won the Europe Prize for her article on how Mauritania’s pastoralist women have taken the lead on the climate crisis.
The French Best Emerging Journalist Sébastien Roux’s story detailed how in Benin, West Africa, the water hyacinth is responsible for spreading diseases such as malaria. But it can also be used in biogas production or as a compost – transforming an invasive water species from a threat into “green gold”.
The message from all three winners is clear. Development journalism must be accurate, informative and socially responsible. But it must also be packaged correctly. Emotions are more overwhelming than facts and emotion-filled writing will help people commit to a cause.
DG DEVCO Commissioner Neven Mimica said that in a world of 24-hour news cycles, misinformation has overtaken information and sensationalist and often-irrelevant news stories dominate headlines. Reporting must be on issues that matter. For example, inequality levels in Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa remain on average higher than they were 30 years ago.
Entries to this year’s prize also open people’s eyes to “unseen truths” and give a voice to those forgotten about and – key to the language of the Sustainable Development Goals – “left behind”, Mimica added.
Despite the benefits of working in a field that can really make a difference and say goodbye to fake news, it remains difficult to attract development journalists to the profession. It is also a challenge to get editors to take development stories. Getting a diverse, not-just-white, mix of writers is even harder.
Nearly half the world does not have access to free information. Journalists must be free to alert the public, to enable them to combat atrocities and defend women’s rights or the environment.