The Institute of Commonwealth Studies (ICwS) held a conference on November 29, 2017, entitled `News on a Knife Edge: Gemini and development journalism today’, to explore the legacy of the small news agency Gemini News and how it led to the growth of development journalism
The Institute of Commonwealth Studies (ICwS) held a conference on November 29, 2017, entitled `News on a Knife-Edge: Gemini and development journalism today’, to explore the legacy of the small news agency Gemini News and how it led to the growth of development journalism.
Known by many as the “Commonwealth news agency”, Gemini news agency was established in 1967 with the aim of developing and tapping local expertise to cover news from the developing world.
It wanted to counter the parachuting in of foreign journalists and their coverage of development from a western perspective, instead covering global news from a local perspective.
Trinidad-born British veteran journalist and broadcaster Sir Trevor McDonald gave the opening speech at the conference and described his colonial upbringing, where education and future aspirations were fed through a western perspective.
Canadian journalist Elaine Shein worked at Gemini and described the ground-breaking opportunity to exchange news and ideas between developed and developing countries, with people on the ground able to spend time researching stories.
British Channel Four broadcaster Lindsay Hilsam referred to the subscriber service’s foreign news features, the first of its kind, which included “people like me, writing about people like them for people like me.”
Gemini’s architect Derek Ingram, who became a founder of the Commonwealth Journalists Association, put resources into nurturing the journalistic talent from newly-independent nations and created the template for the growth of local journalism.
Speakers also addressed the future of development journalism in the digital era and the challenges faced by news organisations cutting down on in-depth foreign coverage and the inundation of platforms and 24/7 news channels.
Questions were raised on the role of charities and aid agencies with sophisticated media teams working with under-resourced news organisations, which may get journalists to the heart of the story, but may also present news through the charity’s point of view.
Technology was also discussed and whether the fast-moving tech world made it easier to cover rapidly-changing events in situ.
Gemini struggled on small budgets for years before being bought by the UK Guardian in 1983 and effectively closed down in 2002.
The Guardian is creating digital versions of Gemini’s main archives, whilst Ingram’s personal archives are being curated by the ICwS.
Ingram sent a message to the conference stating: “My passion has always been for the Commonwealth.”
The conference’s Chief Convenor and author of News on a Knife-Edge: Gemini Journalism and a Global Agenda, Richard Bourne, wrote for the Round Table Journal about Gemini’s legacy and said: “This small and battling news service based in London, forever at risk of running out of funds, had an honourable role in helping newly independent countries to understand each other, in making sense of the concept of ‘development journalism’ and in challenging ideas about and inside what was then described as the Third World.”