Why should we decolonize journalism? Here are 8 reasons.

The word ‘decolonization’ has become widespread since last year, at least to my perception. There are calls on social media to decolonize our education system, our traveling, our yoga, our food and so on. What does it actually mean to decolonize?

The term is used when we’re talking about a country that withdraws from its colony, leaving it independent. But we now know that leaving a country physically doesn’t mean that colonial practices on a level of legislation, customs and human behavior suddenly disappear. 

Decolonization within the media context means confronting and deconstructing the colonizing practices – the thoughts, preferences and values that derive from a colonial way of thinking – that are still present in journalism today. An example of such a practice is parachute journalism.

Why is that important?

  1. “Western” journalism is disproportionately white, which gives problems for good representation and gatekeeping and creates a white lens through which journalists look at the world. 
  2. So far solutions to the lack of diversity in media have not been very successful. Despite the countless media diversity training and HR solutions in hiring a handful of people of color to change the direction. 
  3. Global news organizations sending “foreign” correspondents overseas worsens the issue. The world has become smaller and “foreign” isn’t always foreign anymore, just like “overseas” isn’t nearly as daunting a term as it once was.** 
  4. Journalism can do better. And people who watch and read the news too! So far the focus hasn’t really been on the established journalists to do the work. It means a rigorous research on the existing system and what is needed to decolonize it. 
  5. One aspect is that “world” news has rarely, if ever, been representative of “world” issues. We need to look at the perspective of the global South, whether in that South or looking from the North. And to break down the false representation. 
  6. For journalists and news consumers it means better education about our own history and the dark pages of that history. And use of better and sometimes new words to describe issues and more intense collaboration amongst existing journalism initiatives. 
  7. We need to discuss antiracism in journalism in an intersectional way and really challenge stereotypes of people and countries. Taking into account people’s overlapping identities and experiences in order to understand the complexity of prejudices they face. The approach of the topic should combine race, class and gender. 
  8. Do we need a new kind of journalism? No. We just need to talk more about the ethics of the profession and work from there. 

(**“Is it possible to decolonize media?” on poynter.org)