New Humanitarian Journalism Books To Watch Out For

We take a look at new and forthcoming books on humanitarian journalism everyone in the industry will be talking about this year. 

By Carolina Are

Caring in Crisis? Humanitarianism, the Public and NGOs by  Irene Bruna Seu and Shani Orgad

Using an original UK-wide study of public responses to humanitarian issues and how NGOs communicate them, this timely book provides the first evidence-based psychosocial account of how and why people respond or not to messages about distant suffering. The book highlights what NGOs seek to achieve in their communications and explores how their approach and hopes match or don’t match what the public wants, thinks and feels about distant suffering.

Written by Birkbeck’s Irene Bruna Seu from the Department of Psychosocial Studies and Shani OrgadAssociate Professor in the Department of Media and Communications at the London School of Economics.


Communication in International Development – Doing Good or Looking Good? Edited by Florencia Enghel and Jessica Noske-Turner

Featuring chapters by the Humanitarian News Research Network’s Melanie Bunce, Kate Wright and Martin Scott, this book is an unmissable read for students and scholars in the areas of development communication and international development, and will also appeal to practitioners working in international aid who are directly affected by the challenges of communicating for and about development.

Communication in International Development unpacks various ways in which different efforts to do good are combined with attempts to look good, be it in the eyes of donor constituencies at large, or among more specific audiences, such as journalists or intra-agency decision makers. It does so by explaining how international development stakeholders use communications towards two broad purposes: to do good, via communication for development and media assistance, and to communicate do-gooding, via public relations and information.

Development communication studies have tended to focus primarily on interventions aimed at doing good among recipients, at the expense of examining the extent to which promotion and reputation management are elements of those practices. This book establishes the importance of interrogating the tensions generated by overlapping uses of communication to do good and to look good within international development cooperation.

NGOs as Newsmakers: The Changing Landscape of International News by Matthew Powers

As traditional news outlets’ international coverage has waned, several prominent nongovernmental organisations have taken on a growing number of seemingly journalistic functions. Groups such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Médecins Sans Frontières send reporters to gather information and provide analysis and assign photographers and videographers to boost the visibility of their work. Digital technologies and social media have increased the potential for NGOs to communicate directly with the public, bypassing traditional gatekeepers. But have these efforts changed and expanded traditional news practices and coverage, and are there consequences to blurring the lines between reporting and advocacy?

In NGOs as Newsmakers, Matthew Powers analyses the growing role NGOs play in shaping —and sometimes directly producing—international news. Drawing on interviews, observations, and content analysis, he charts the dramatic growth in NGO news-making efforts, examines whether these efforts increase the organisations’ chances of garnering news coverage, and analyses the effects of digital technologies on publicity strategies.  Through an unprecedented glimpse into NGOs’ newsmaking efforts, Powers portrays the possibilities and limits of NGOs as newsmakers amid the transformations of international news, with important implications for the intersections of journalism and advocacy.

Global Humanitarianism and Media Culture by Michael Lawrence and Rachel Tavernor

Toni Frissell, sitting, holding camera on her lap, with several children standing around her, somewhere in Europe

This Manchester University Press collection of essays explores the historical, cultural and political contexts that have shaped the mediation of humanitarian relationships since the middle of the twentieth century. Interrogating the representation of humanitarian crisis and catastrophe and the refraction of humanitarian intervention and action from the mid-twentieth century to the present, the book examines a diverse range of media forms: traditional and contemporary screen media (film, television, and online video) as well as newspapers, memoirs, music festivals and social media platforms (such as Facebook, YouTube and Flickr).

Together, the chapters illustrate the continuities, connections and differences which have characterised the mediatisation of both states of emergency and acts of amelioration. The authors reveal and explore the significant synergies between the humanitarian enterprise, the endeavour to alleviate the suffering of particular groups, and media representations, and their modes of addressing and appealing to specific publics.

The collection considers the ways in which media texts, technologies and practices reflect and shape the shifting moral, political, ethical, rhetorical, ideological and material dimensions of international humanitarian emergency and intervention, and have become integral to the changing relationships between organisations, institutions, governments, individual actors and entire sectors.

More details about our book launch and tour will be published on the Facebook Page, where the editors also share links to relevant content on global humanitarianism and media culture.

Routledge Companion to Media and Humanitarian Action edited by Robin Andersen, Purnaka L. de Silva

In this moment of unprecedented humanitarian crises, the representations of global disasters are increasingly common media themes around the world. The Routledge Companion to Media and Humanitarian Action explores the interconnections between the media and the humanitarian challenges that have come to define the twenty-first century.

Featuring a chapter by the HNRN’s Suzanne Franks, the book sees contributors, including media professionals and experts in humanitarian affairs, take a look at what kinds of media language, discourse, terms, and campaigns can offer enough context and background knowledge to nurture informed global citizens.