Reuters survey reveals NGOs’ media shortfall

NGOs are missing out on valuable press coverage because regional offices are not skilled in press relations and are not prepared for journalists who lack expertise in particular crises.

This is the key finding of a global study undertaken by Reuters AlertNet and the Fritz Institute.

In a poll of 290 journalists, a lack of funding for field trips and inadequate response from organisations at the scene of the crises emerged as the two biggest problems for the media.

These problems were amplified by the initial lack of knowledge of journalists, with only two out of 290 saying they covered crises full time, and only 27 saying it represented more than half their output.

The study also interviewed 54 media relations personnel in NGO headquarters and regional offices, and looked at 32 NGO websites. It found NGOs ill-equipped to educate journalists efficiently because regional offices are stretched in times of crisis and lack media relations skills.

It also found that NGOs under-employ the internet, with only 17 websites containing explanations of the NGO’s background and only a third carrying a press releases’ archive. Three of the 32 websites did not even display contact details.

These areas represent the top three reasons journalists visit web sites. Seventy-seven per cent use websites to find contact details, 69 per cent look for news of current projects and 59 per cent want an explanation of an organisation’s history and aims.

Although NGOs often have a policy of referring journalists to head office, this often breaks down and local nationals working in regional offices are often inexperienced in media relations, the survey found. Some journalists said information given to them by NGOs was often inaccurate.

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