As an undergrad journalist, my beat was Community Development. I was living in America’s fastest growing city so change was rampant in local culture, economy, infrastructure, environment, and student-resident relations. I reported on maintaining cultural roots, city services addressing local income disparities, local politics, sustainable handling of the local river, and how the student population at my university could engage with these issues. It was my most valuable learning experience to date, not only because of what San Marcos leaders, civilians, and organizations taught me but because I was exposed to the relationship between news media and activism. I started the job thinking that informing the public was the beginning and end in activism. It was eye-opening to see the way advertisers shaped publication content and how little the community actually engaged with content on larger social issues. Activism is about engaging the public but it is an art that goes beyond handing out the truth. Working as a video-journalist confirmed my desire to work closely with the community but taught me that my effectiveness in the micro sense (local development) would always be limited until I further explored larger development themes in activism.
Ten Years from Now
I recently saw this quote that perfectly explains why I’m merging journalism with development:
Is it enough for a scientist to simply publish a paper? Isn't it a responsibility of scientists, if you believe that you have found something that can affect the environment, isn't it your responsibility to actually do something about it, enough so that action actually take place?"
The development field is where a lot of the global-change research happens and journalism is where it is communicated. As a video-journalist, I want to develop a government career serving this niche that calls for improved communication between development think tanks and the general public. The main obstacle I see media activists struggle with is transforming understanding into action. In the past decade, climate change activists have thoroughly informed the public but the next ten years will be a process of transitioning this into action. The wealth of research on development, journalistic techniques, and psychology shows that after all the dialogue on global warming, the public at large still fails to act because the issue doesn't directly affect them. Scare tactics don’t work because they aren’t both intrinsic and extrinsic appeals. This disconnect is present in all global issues, be it disease, income inequality, or corruption. Ten years from now, I see myself being a contributor if not a leader in this journalistic movement within international development, experimenting with and refining intrinsic-extrinsic appeals into global mediation.
To be honest, I am not sure which governmental organization these plans will take me to. I strongly believe career opportunities are best found by forming specializations from passionate interests. I might join an organization like the US African Foundation (USADF), The International Center for Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), or any of the relevant bureaus in USAID. It doesn’t matter which city this career path takes me to, so long as I am with an organization that genuinely believes in global activism and change.
Call me an idealist but I still believe that the media can enact change when used consistently, intelligently, and doggedly. I don't believe journalistic integrity is dead, that the American public has given up all hope, or that responsible development will always be curtailed by fossil fuel interests.