Focus areas: Media, development, innovation, media in Africa and the extractive sector

Anya Schiffrin is the director of the Technology, Media, and Communications specialization at Columbia University’s School of International Affairs. She teaches courses on media and development and innovation as well as the course  “Media, Human Rights and Social Change”. Among other topics, she writes on journalism and development as well as the media in Africa and the extractive sector. Schiffrin spent 10 years working overseas as a journalist in Europe and Asia and was a Knight-Bagehot Fellow at Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism in 1999-2000. Schiffrin is on the advisory board of the Open Society Foundation’s Program on Independent Journalism and of the Natural Resource Governance Institute. Her most recent book is “Global Muckraking: 100 Years of Investigative Reporting from Around the World” (New Press 2014).  

Research & Publications

October 2012|The New Press|Anya Schiffrin, Eamon Kircher-Allen

Protesters in the Middle East made history in 2011 when they toppled dictators who had been entrenched for decades. As the world economy worsened and austerity measures hit, the wave of demonstrations spread to Europe and the United States. From Tunisiato Egypt, from Athens to Madrid, from Zuccotti Park to London's financial district, protesters came out en masse, calling for an end to inequality and for government leaders to be held accountable. Specific demands varied, but one thing was universal: a new conviction that real change could be achieved through the peaceful action of the masses

October 2012|Journalism: Theory, Practice & Criticism|Anya Schiffrin, Ryan Fagan

It is widely believed that the media has an important role to play in promoting development and in shaping economic policy. This is done partly by the media’s framing of the issues for public debate and by educating consumers of news. Increasingly, economists have shown that the media has played a constructive role in promoting informed civil engagement on economic policy and even in promoting corporate governance. At the same time, the business press has been referred to as the weak link or ‘step child’ in an increasingly professional and knowledgeable news room. Among other critiques, business journalists are faulted for being ideologically captured, and so generally presenting a pro-business/market point of view. They are often accused of being not only biased, but too ill-informed to write in an analytical or critical way about economics. This article examines the US press coverage of the stimulus package over several months in 2009 to ascertain the validity of these hypotheses. We found that although there was robust discussion of the stimulus, it was mostly focused on the political process rather than the economic issues, there was little agenda setting and government and business sources – including many with a ‘vested interest’ – were overwhelmingly cited the most.

October 2012|Ecquid Novi|Anya Schiffrin, Michael Behrman, James Canonge, Matthew Purcell

The media are viewed as playing an important role in promoting economic development by educating the public, framing the agenda for discussion, serving as a watchdog and promoting corporate governance. This article examines some characteristics of the print coverage in Nigeria, Ghana and Uganda of oil, gas and mining, to see whether it lives up to these lofty goals. A content analysis was done of 788 articles that appeared in Nigerian, Ghanaian and Ugandan newspapers from 2007–2009 to determine how informative their coverage of the extractive sector was. Measurements included the use of jargon; the explanation of context and background; the number, type and range of sources. The conclusion was that much of the reporting was news-focused and did not include substantial discussion about the effects of oil and gas extraction or the policy implications. Nor did the articles provide a balance of sources who could articulate a range of perspectives. Differences were more pronounced between periodicals than countries. Delineated are some ways in which press coverage could be improved.

May 2012|Journalism Practice, Volume 4:3|Anya Schiffrin

Not Really Enough: Foreign Donors and Journalism Training in Ghana, Nigeria and Uganda