Call for participation : About Journalism – « Poverty and journalism : Transformative practices ? »


The International Scientific journal « About Journalism »  opens a call for papers (deadline : 30/06/2015 for summaries) on the relationships between poverty and journalism.

Call for papers

Poverty and journalism :

Transformative practices ?

Starting date : April 30, 2015
Deadline for submission of article summaries : June 30, 2015
Deadline for submission of complete papers : November 30, 2015

Editors of this issue :

Viviane de Melo Resende, María Laura Pardo, Greg Nielsen –



According to the United Nations, today, worldwide, there are about 100 million people living on the streets, 600 million living in shelters, and over a billion in precarious housing situations (UN, 2011). The conventional economic definition of extreme poverty is limited to the more than 20 % of the planet who live with incomes less than $1.00 a day, while relative poverty, also an economically restricted indicator, includes another 20 % of the world’s population who live with less than $2.50 a day (Davis, 2006). Poverty is by no means restricted to the Global South. People living in, or at risk of living in, poverty in Canada, the United States and Europe, for example, now make up as much as 40 per cent of the population in some regions (Statistics Canada, 2011 ; Fréchet et al., 2011 ; OECD, 2012). An estimated 3 million Americans and 300,000 Canadians have become homeless since the 2008 recession (HUD, 2012 ; Weissman, 2013).


Poverty is a serious global social problem, with disastrous consequences on the lives of millions in the world.  However, coverage of the problem, including what might be called the surrounding industry that responds to it (NGOs, intergovernmental and international organizations), is easily distorted, erased, or naturalized in various ways by newspapers, broadcasts and  other media vehicles (Pardo April 2008 ; Silva, 2009 ; Pardo, 2012). Even if we could say the mainstream media regularly discuss issues of poverty in supportive or charitable terms – without establishing relations between poverty situations and other social issues, thus reducing the representation to a logic of appearance (Fairclough, 2003) -, there is still the matter that reportage rarely addresses the social actors being reported on as their readers, viewers or listeners.  In other words, in the main, the journalist speaks from the point of view of “haves” toward other “haves” about “have-nots”. Does it not follow that public understanding of this level of exclusion is diminished, even when the press passionately pleas in the name of democracy for solutions ? Does it not follow that journalism coverage about poverty operates in such a way that it produces a silencing of)   a set of social actors – curiously those ones who are the most directly concerned by this subject – who are thereby excluded from media representation and access to the public debate on this subject ?


This issue of About Journalism invites contributions that seek to undo the complex combination of political, organizational and creative forces that struggle with and against each other to define ‘good’ journalistic practice. This means situating analysis in homology with the sociological  tensions and diversity found in social and organizational structures as well as discursive practices. Journalistic attitudes and backgrounds, editorial consistency, levels of verification required, and professional cultures differ vastly across various media, but even more so across urban, national and global regions. Everywhere journalists raise questions about poverty, how the poor are named, represented, classified ? Are they represented as numbers ? How does journalism represent how poverty might be solved ? How are poor people represented in images ? Or why images of ‘the poorest of the poor » are so journalistically compelling ? (Gans, 1995).


Journalism is a specific form of mediated communication, an institution Hartley (1996) describes as “the most important textual system in the world”, given its daily assertion of objective truths, its creation of audiences as publics, and its symbiotic relationship with society’s central political, economic and social systems. This issue of About Journalism proposes to explore the inconsistencies therein and the multiple dimensions of reporting on poverty, both from the point of view of traditional and politically engaged journalism.


On the one hand, a history and critique of the political economy of media organizations that cover poverty has yet to be written. On the other hand, one should not ignore transformative initiatives in the field of journalism that seek to include the social actors/groups it reports on as the addressee. There is then an important political role that journalists fulfil in « shaping » the news about poverty. If it is true that hegemonic journalism has been supportive at least through a charitable or supportive framing process – what may be and indeed is questioned -, it has also been narrowly focused on problems related to a lack of access, to significant portions of the world population, to material and symbolic resources in often superficial ways that too easily associate poverty and violence. This common approach tends to avoid critical investigative reporting. Yet, it is also true that alternative journalism, like street papers, community media, citizen’s journalism, and social media as well as emerging First Nations television networks, and some public broadcasters have sought other forms of association between journalism and extreme poverty. Various forms of civic journalism have sought to establish different political relationships when it comes to addressing the subjects of poverty as potential subjects of reports, for example by reporting protagonists actions taken over by subordinate groups.


We recognize that socially and economically marginalized actors do not constitute an attractive market for commercial news organizations and we are equally aware that research has long pointed that journalists are reluctant to change habits and set narrative patterns (Tuchmann, 1978). We further note that the news media have been undergoing a major shift in their economic models over the past two decades, but we also need to critically examine the concept that new, digitized technologies herald a democratization of media. It may be true that the new technologies and emergent practices have transformed the audience into a medium itself or at least made it so anyone belonging to what was once the « audience commodity » can now directly report whatever news comes to mind (Anderson et als.2014), but this remains a perpetual possibility and is far from a proven means of producing reliable and accessible news and information for all, as several researchers have suggested (Jurkowwitz, 2014 ; Hass, 2007 ; Curran, 2010).


As a consequence, from the news making standpoint, it seems that there remains a duality between the journalistic coverage routine (from both commercial and noncommercial organizations), that emphasizes some standard practices (with the over-representation of external governmental or corporate sources on the coverage or the selection and treatment of news based on traditional news values) on the one hand, and, on the other,  advocacy movements promoted by other social actors in order to impact or disrupt mediated public agendas (Silva, 1998) and possibly changing journalism practices. A close description of these interactions and their effects on journalism coverage and the representation of poverty is also yet to be done.


Social-historical contexts shape understandings and also orientate audience address, emotional-volitional tones, external and internal sources, and moral or rational judgments that journalists make. In turn, journalism practices influence the way publics perceive and react to social vulnerability, the way people in poverty are identified and the way audiences identify themselves (or not) in relation to social issues (Resende , 2012). Since the relationship between language and society is two-way, these same processes have been shaped in previous social practices. The « shaping » of the news (Benson, 2013) on poverty by news organizations, their geo-political contexts, professional cultures, and relationships to power, thus become an object of interest for research in different disciplines which include, besides Journalism, Cultural Studies, Political Economy, Sociology, Anthropology, Demography, Discourse Studies, and Political Science among others. It is in this spirit that this multidisciplinary dossier invites researchers in the various fields to submit research papers involving journalism and poverty.
Orientation of the dossier
In the scope of this issue, several questions arise :


– Where should we situate coverage of poverty geopolitically ? Locally ? Nationally ? On a South-North axis ? Globally ?


– How have journalistic texts named the various situations of poverty ? What meanings have different types of journalism attributed to poverty ? Which potential effects can be associated with these meanings ?
– Can people in poverty find space for the enunciation of their voice in journalistic texts ? How do their voices find their way into mainstream media and/or on alternative media (street papers, community media, etc.) ?


– Groups in poverty are positioned in active or passive modes ? Do their voices address others in their context ? How can this be understood and explained ?


– Who are the social actors involved on the coverage of poverty ? How is their participation negotiated in the field ? What is the role played by social actors outside the journalistic field (government, NGOs, scholars, intergovernmental and international organizations, etc.) ?


-Who are the implied audiences indicated in the journalistic address and what are the gaps between the social actors/groups being reported on and the addressee’s of the reports ?



Please indicate your interest in this issue of About JournalismSur le journalismeSobre jornalismo by sending a two-page summary of your article proposal to the guest editors before June 30, 2015, at the following email addresses :


Summaries and articles may be submitted in English, French, Spanish or Portuguese. The deadline for submission of complete articles (between 30,000 and 50,000 characters, including references and footnotes) is November 30, 2015. Articles should be sent by email to the editors of this issue.


Article submissions should include clear statements of the theoretical foundation of the research as well as the sources of data and analytical methods used. All submissions will be subject to double-blind peer review.





Anderson, C.W., Emily Bell, and Clay Shirky. 2014. Post-Industrial  Journalism : Adapting to the Present. A report to the Tow Centre for Digital Journalism. New York : Columbia Journalism School. , pp. 1-121.

Benson, Rodney (2013). Shaping Immigration News : A French-American. Cambridge University Press.

Curran, James. 2010 The Future of Journalism. Journalism Studies. Vol. 11, No 4, 464-476.

Curran, James. 2011. Media and Democracy. London : Routledge.

Davis, Mike. (2006) Planet of Slums. London : Verso.

Fairclough, Norman. (2003). Analysing discourse : textual analysis for social research. London : Routledge.

Fréchet, Guy, Danielle Gauvreau& Jean Poirier (eds.). (2011).  Statistiques sociales, pauvreté et exclusion sociale : perspectives québécoises, canadiennes et internationales. Publication en hommage à Paul Bernard, Centre interuniversitaire québécois de statistiques sociales (CIQSS) et Ministère de l’Emploi et de la Solidarité sociale.  Montréal :  Presses de l’Université de Montréal.

Gans, Herbert. (1995) The War Against the Poor : The Underclass and Anti-Poverty Policy . New York : Basic Books.

HUD (United States, Department of Housing and Urban Development). (2012). Annual Homeless Assessment Reports to Congress. U.S.

Jurkowitz, Mark. (2014) The Growth in Digital Reporting : What it means for Journalism and News Consumers. Pew Research Journalism Project.

OECD. (2011). Divided We Stand. Why Inequality Keeps Rising.,3746,en_2649_33933_49147827_1_1_1_1,00.html

Pardo Abril, Neyla. (2008). ¿Que nos dicen ? ¿Que vemos ? ¿Que és… pobreza ? Bogotá : Universidad Nacional de Colômbia.

Pardo, María Laura. (2012). Asociación discursiva entre pobreza y delito em um programa televisivo reproduzido em YouTube, en N. G. Pardo Abril. Discurso em la web : pobreza em YouTube. Bogotá : Universidad Nacional de Colombia, pp. 270-294.

Resende, Viviane de Melo. (2012). Representação discursiva de pessoas em situação de rua no Caderno Brasília : naturalização e expurgo do outro. Linguagem em (Dis)Curso, 12 : 439-465.

Silva, Denize Elena. (2009). Representações discursivas da pobreza e gramática. D.E.L.T.A., 25 : 721-731.

Silva, Luiz Martins da. “Imprensa, subjetividade e cidadania”. São Paulo : artigo apresentado na VII Compós, PUC-SP, 1998.

Tuchman, Gaye. 1978. Making the News. New York : Free Press.

UN (United Nations). (2013). Habitat. 100 million homeless  in  world.  Most are women and dependent children.

Weissman, Eric. (2013) Spaces, Places and States of Mind : a pragmatic ethnography of liminal critique. PhD Dissertation. Montreal : Concordia University.