Unlocking the Power of New Voices in the Media

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Feb 14, 2019
by Lucy Browett
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Unlocking the Power of New Voices in the Media

Andrew Quinn, director of the New Voices Fellowship at the Aspen Institute, explains how the program is shaping the demographic of experts in the media Andrew Quinn at Salzburg Global Seminar

When some Western media outlets call on experts, reporters tend not to search for new sources. Instead  they often use the same people on their contacts list.

Andrew Quinn said, “If you look at coverage in the media… often what you’ll see is that the expert quoted is a white, often male, Westerner, from a Northern institution. Oxford, Harvard, you name it. And the victim or beneficiary is a person from the developing world.”

The fellowship program that Quinn directs, the New Voices Fellowship at the Aspen Institute, is seeking to revise this narrative.

The program, which has run since 2013, recruits fellows for a year of media and advocacy training under the guidance of mentors and coaches. The new cohort of fellows for 2019 is predominantly involved in global health, with a focus this year on sexual and reproductive health and rights.

Quinn said, “I’ve worked as a reporter in developing countries for most of my career, and I know that most of the most exciting and, importantly, sustainable interventions that are going on on these important topics are being led by, thought up by, and carried through by experts from developing countries, but these people aren’t appearing in the media.”

Quinn attended Citizen Diplomacy at the Crossroads: Activating Networks for Change, a three-day immersive learning program hosted by Salzburg Global Seminar, the German Marshall Fund of the United States, and the Kellogg Fellows Leadership Alliance.

More than 40 participants from various foundations and organizations with fellowship programs convened at Schloss Leopoldskron, Salzburg, to take part in the program.

Why are experts from developing countries not receiving recognition in Western media? Quinn attributes this to two main elements.

He said, “The reason is reporters generally don’t have much time and don’t look for new sources when they have sources that they know they can reach out to. And, truth be told, some of these developing country experts don’t really understand how the Western media works and how to work with journalists to get their stories out there.”

Quinn believes that diversifying the voices heard as experts in Western media is beneficial to understand better the subject matters being discussed.

He said, “This is important because these are folks who really know what’s going on and what some of the possible answers are. If we as a global community aren’t listening to experts from developing countries telling us what’s happening on, for instance, maternal mortality in Africa, then we’re going to miss a big part of the picture. So there’s a global good to involving more experts from developing countries in the global media conversation about development and increasingly in advocacy work.”

Quinn added, “These are folks who really know where we need to be spending the money, what policies need to be changed, and if we can involve them more in global advocacy efforts around development, we’ll be all the better for it.”
Since the program was launched, an alumni network of fellows has grown year by year, perpetuating the impact the program has on experts from developing countries. The New Voice Fellowship aims to cultivate this network to help drive this impact.

Quinn said, “Putting a couple of articles out over the course of a year and then disappearing isn’t a quick route to thought leadership.”

“What you want to do is establish a track record after the year-long fellowship period, but after that what we try to do is work with fellows as alumni to keep supporting them and keep working with them to get their thoughts out into the media.”

He points to a collaboration between two fellows as an example of the utilization of the network. An agricultural economist from Zimbabwe and a medical doctor from Tanzania with interest in child malnutrition worked together to achieve their commons aims.

Quinn said, “What they did was establish a program to try and coordinate agriculture and health policies across the SADC region so that nutrition was then put first and foremost.”

“That’s the kind of thing where people approach the same question from different angles, all of a sudden we realize that working together, they can create something new. That wouldn’t happen without sort of the serendipity of being in a program like New Voices.”

While the fellowship program is relatively in its infancy, Quinn regards the discussions held at Salzburg to be a great tool for learning from other organizations with fellowship programs which have been running longer.

He said, “As somebody who is fairly new to the fellowship game coming into it, it’s taken me a while to realize that what you’re doing is investing people for the lifetime of their career.

“What I’m learning I think from organizations which have been doing this for a long time is patience… and also the importance of measurement and tracking what you’re doing because if you don’t do that, then you really don’t know your way forward.”


The program Citizen Diplomacy at the Crossroads: Activating Networks for Change was held in partnership with The German Marshall Fund of the United States and the Kellogg Fellows Leadership Alliance, as part of the Global Leaders Consortium (GLC).