Humanitarian Journalism

Melanie Bunce, Martin Scott, Kate Wright

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This entry considers the intertwined relationship of journalism and humanitarianism, and the way that communication scholars have studied the subject. A large body of research has focused on the content of international reporting about humanitarian crises. These studies show that a small number of ‘high profile’ crises take up the vast majority of news coverage, leaving others marginalised and hidden. The quantity of coverage is not strongly correlated to the severity of a crisis or the number of people affected but, rather, its geo-political significance and cultural proximity to the audience. Humanitarian journalism also tends to highlight international rescue efforts, fails to provide context about the causes of a crisis, and operates to erase the agency of local response teams and victims. Communication theorists have argued that this reporting prevents an empathetic and equal encounter between the audience and those affected by distant suffering. However, there are few empirical studies of the mechanisms through which news content influences audiences or policy makers. There are also very few production studies of the news organisations and journalists who make humanitarian journalism. The research that does exist focuses heavily on news organisations based in the global North / West.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationOxford Research Encyclopedia of Communication
EditorsHenrik Örnebring
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Print)9780190228613
Publication statusPublished - 20 Mar 2019


  • journalism
  • humanitarianism

Cite this