Media and Governance


The World Bank and the Shorenstein Center have gathered a terrific international group here at the Kennedy School to discuss “The Role of the News Media in the Governance Reform Agenda.” [Warning – semi-live blogging ahead, expect inaccuracy and incompleteness. Details in conference papers here.]

This morning, we discussed a framework put forward by Pippa Norris (McGuire Lecturer in Comparative Politics, John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University) and Sina Odugbemi (Program Head, CommGAP, The World Bank Group). The two most controversial issues were their decision to use a typology that focuses only on three normative roles for a journalist: watch-dog, agenda-setter and gate-keeper and their diagram (at left) mapping the “factors influencing the roles of journalists.”

To grossly simplifiy the ensuing discussion, there was some consensus that even if we limit ourselves to only the desired roles of journalism and only in the context of promoting good (or democratic, depending on which jargon-camp you live in) governance:

— the roles of gatekeeper and agenda-setter are too similar and don’t include the key roles of media as a facilitator of democratic deliberation, a conduit of information and discussion between people and the government, in short a kind of public servant;

Both my role model Ellen Hume (Center for Future Civic Media, MIT) and Marguerite Sullivan (Center from International Media Assistance) jumped up to make the point that the graphic on this page has one thing missing: the public. Hellooo. This brought up the critical need for media/news (yet another jargon war) literacy as part of any plan to improve the impact of media on democracy, which is one of Media Re:public’s conclusions.

Ellen of course also pointed out the need to take into account new forms of media, from new authors to new delivery mechanisms. This is a flag we’ll continue to wave for the rest of the conference, as there’s a very serious tendency in this crowd to forget about new media. (truly live – A notable exception to new media blindness: in after-lunch session Susan Moeller (International Center for Media and the Public Agenda, University of Maryland) mentions Summize, an interesting twitter aggregator – search for “china earthquake” or any other news story).

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