Liz Ford: On the future of international development news coverage

By Eliza Villarino 12 October 2011

Liz Ford, deputy editor of The Guardian’s Global Development website. Photo by: Steve Murigi

Liz Ford helps ensure international development gets sufficient coverage despite industry pressure to reduce foreign reporting. She is deputy editor of The Guardian’s Global Development website, a partnership between the U.K. newspaper and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that seeks to spotlight content focused on the Millennium Development Goals.

Ford is one of today’s most influential development leaders under 40 in London. She and her peers have inspired change that transcends borders.

Devex is recognizing 40 of these young London-based trailblazers in international development. They are social entrepreneurs, government leaders, development consultants, business innovators, advocates, development researchers, nonprofit executives, philanthropists and investors.

We asked Ford about her leadership and vision for news coverage of development cooperation in the years to come. Here’s what she said:

Does the future of international development journalism lie in funding arrangements such as the one between The Guardian’s Global Development website and the Gates Foundation?

The funds available for journalism have been shrinking for years, due to industry pressures. Most spending cuts in news organisations are falling on international coverage because of the costs involved. Development journalism has never been mainstream so this increased pressure on funds will, I’m sure, push media organisations to look elsewhere for support. Increasingly, the media will need to find foundations that are supportive of international development to ensure the issues are kept high on the news agenda.

What steps are you taking so that in-depth reporting on global development becomes an endemic part of The Guardian beyond the Gates funding?

Global development has always been a core part of the Guardian. At one time the paper had a ‘Third World’ section. In a sense, the Global development site is the next manifestation of the organisation’s commitment to report on the issues. Despite the financial strains, the Guardian is maintaining its large network of staff journalists and freelancers around the world. And through its partnership networks, the Guardian is also able to aggregate news and expertise from places we are not able to reach.

What can the development community do to better broadcast its message as traditional media outlets cut international coverage?

The media is changing and I think the development community will need to be more proactive in generating and creating content, and work with news organisations in more imaginative ways to get their messages out. NGOs, for example, have access to wide networks of people we couldn’t hope to reach, so they need to think how they can be more active in amplifying these voices from the ground. I want to see a move away from the simple ‘give £5 save life’ message, and instead try to really explain development processes in an engaging way, without the jargon.

Read more about the Devex 40 Under 40 International Development Leaders in London.

About the author

Eliza villarino 400x400
Eliza Villarino

Eliza Villarino currently manages one of today’s leading publications on humanitarian aid, global health and international development, the weekly GDB. At Devex, she has helped grow a global newsroom, with talented journalists from major development hubs such as Washington, D.C, London and Brussels. She regularly writes about innovations in global development.


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