Free media, of course, if an integral part of democracy, and it depends just as much on the climate within which it operates (laws and regulations) as it does on the people behind the scenes. Skilled journalists, in this regard, play a very important role in making democracies work, whether its by exposing corruption and providing citizens with access to information and critical thought.
Many organizations get involved in building the professional skills of journalists – and the importance of such efforts can’t be understated. Still, what we often see is that it is not just the reporting skills that journalists lack – it is the understanding of issues that they are reporting on, particularly in the economic and business areas. Take corruption for example – it is not enough to expose corrupt individuals after the fact (although it is important to do so). Journalists must understand corruption as an issue, be able to navigate the legal climate, determine causes and consequences of corruption, and generate ideas on possible solutions.
In a recent CIPE article, Nadezhda Dobretsova talks about economic journalism and its importance in Kyrgyzstan. Kyrgyzstan may not seem like an important country in a global scheme of things, but many of the ideas and concepts she discusses are applicable in many other countries. Why should media concentrate more on substance of what political economy rather than politics (infighting and gossip)? Why is it important to develop business skills among journalists? Why should journalists be able to explain the economic environment in a simple way to an average citizen? How can you get there?
If you are interested in reading more about developing business skills among journalists, you might also want to check out this Handbook from CIPE.