Journalism and Media Studies: Richard Stupart Abstract

The relationship between mass media and African ‘development’ has been an object of critical study for media studies scholars since at least the 1980s. The 1985 Live Aid concert, and the BBC coverage of the Ethiopian famine that inspired it, indicated that media coverage and the ability to mobilize resources for foreign assistance were connected – although this relationship was only beginning to be theorized. In this paper it is argued that two of the most influential models of the media’s power to mobilize assistance that subsequently developed remain under-theorized, and may operate in ways substantially different to their applied conceptions. Further refinement is needed if the role of the media in constructing distant suffering and mobilizing solidarity with those affected by it is to be productively understood. The paradigms of the ‘CNN Effect’ as the power of the media to compel humanitarian action, and ‘compassion fatigue’ as the tendency for audiences to lose empathy for distant victims after over-coverage of their plight have informed a long history of media advocacy related to Africa’s conflicts, famines and disasters. Though forming the conceptual foundation of media strategies ranging from the Kony2012 viral media campaign to the advertising of Oxfam and the United Nations, these theories of media influence are subject to numerous critiques from both more nuanced understandings of media power and actual case appraisals.

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Richard Stupart to speak on Compassion Fatigue, the ‘CNN Effect’ and the Need for Better Media-Humanitarian Theory

Richard Stupart
Richard Stupart (Universität Erfurt)

The next seminar in the Journalism and Media Studies stream of Finding Africa will be presented by Richard Stupart from Universität Erfurt, Germany.

Stupart is a freelance photojournalist, researcher, writer and videographer with a particular focus on the intersection between narratives of Africa and development assistance. He previously completed an MA analysing the understandings present in coverage of the 2011/12 Somalia famine, and is currently studying towards a second Masters in Public Policy and conflict at the Willy Brandt School of Public Policy at Universität Erfurt.

Stupart’s current academic interests include the intersection of media and development, data gathering/processing in conflict areas, and the effects of violence and representation on legitimacy. Stupart also writes at his own blog, richardstupart.com, and has contributed work to CNNGo, Matador Network, Timeline, Good Men Project, City Press (South Africa) and other assorted publications on topics ranging from    travel to aid, voluntourism and race.

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