“Doing good” and “looking good” in global humanitarian reporting: Is philanthro-journalism good news?

Martin Scott, Katherine Wright, Melanie Bunce

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


This chapter investigates if and how a private donor’s apparent motivation to ‘look good’ – or to generate symbolic capital – interacts with a news organization’s ability to ‘do good’ by producing public service content. We address this issue by reporting on the findings of a year-long study of the online humanitarian news organisation – IRIN – as it became primarily funded by a new donor. We argue that whilst it is possible that the Foundation’s pursuit of symbolic capital may have had some effect on how IRIN sought to ‘do good’, it did not appear to affect the extent to which IRIN was either willing or able to ‘do good’. Indeed, our analysis makes clear that the influence of the Foundation only had an effect on IRIN when it combined with other factors, especially journalists’ own values and organizational strategies. Ultimately, this case highlights the limits of generalized claims about the likely influence of a donor’s desire to ‘look good’ on a news organization.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCommunication in International Development
Subtitle of host publicationDoing Good or Looking Good?
EditorsFlorencia Enghel, Jessica Noske-Turner
ISBN (Electronic)9780203703977
ISBN (Print)9781138569928, 9781138569911
Publication statusPublished - 15 May 2018

Publication series

NameRethinking Development
PublisherRoutledge Publishers


  • development
  • journalism
  • philanthropy
  • foundations
  • public relations


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