Jargon and Its Discontents

I need advice.

A friend of mine is going to be doing some training for journalists on aid and relief work. She asked me what jargon I think journalists need to know, what aid clichés I hate seeing, and any pet peeves in general on reporting about aid work. I had some answers for her, but I thought I could probably collect a lot more by asking the readers of this blog.

So, let’s hear it: What are the words journalists need to know? What are the words to avoid? And how can journalists find the real stories in the aid world?

Here’s my list, to help start the conversation:

1)      Not paying attention to the money. An aid group’s freedom to act is heavily dependent on their donor funding. It’s easy to blame an aid agency for not doing X, but if they’re funded by OFDA to do Y, then X isn’t an option for them.

2)      Lumping all aid groups together, as though they have the same motivation, skill set, and competency.

3)      Getting hung up on either a savior narrative that focuses on one person as a hero, or a villain narrative, that decides all aid is a failure and picks a single agent as scapegoat.

4)      Declaring aid a success or failure without looking at similar aid efforts in other years or locations for context. Not having an actual idea of what success would consist of, yet still declaring failure.

5)      Spending the whole article giving visual descriptions and leaving out actual content.

6)      Taking donor press releases as gospel. Or, alternately, ignoring them.

(photo credit: jovike)