Media portrayals of refugees and the wider coverage of the refugee crisis in past years have sparked a conversation about the challenges of humanitarian journalism.

How does the language used in the media influence the way people relate to those affected by a disaster? How are humanitarian issues presented to different audiences internationally? And how does the response from NGOs relate to those affected?

Research has been conducted about the humanitarian journalism and communications landscape, but it can be difficult to track down articles and the academic writing style can make them less accessible to those looking for answers.

The Humanitarian News Research Network (HNRN), based at City, University of London, aims to provide a resource that publishes and curates research on humanitarian journalism and fosters a conversation around it.

"We have lots of researchers in the department who are all really interested and committed to questions around humanitarian reporting," said HNRN convenor Melanie Bunce. "And we were doing this research but we were mostly just publishing in academic journals or it was going into books that weren't getting to the public or a wider audience."

"A lot of this research is really helpful and beneficial for NGO communications teams and also people working in policy and other organisations that might be really interested in the findings but are not written in a way that they can understand what they are saying or they might not have the time to read long journal articles.

The network also includes researchers Lilie Chouliaraki, professor of media and communications, LSE; Glenda Cooper, lecturer in journalism, City, University of London; Simon Cottle, professor of media and communication, Cardiff University; Suzanne Franks, professor of journalism, City, University of London; and Matthew Powers, assistant professor, University of Washington, among others.

So far, around 300 interested people from various backgrounds have signed up to the newsletter, and Bunce told HNRN is working on larger research projects as well as a conference to be finalised in the second half of 2018.

Topics covered so far include research on the BBC’s relationship with charitable causes, NGOs and user-generated content in humanitarian crises, and how donor funding influences humanitarian journalism.

HNRN is also planning to release guidelines on topics related to humanitarian reporting, such as advice for donors who wish to fund public service journalism but are not sure how to go about to ensure their money doesn't land in the wrong hands.

"It's a good example for what we really want to do, which is take out research and then actually really try and help journalists, donors, NGOs, aid workers, communications teams, and editors, think about what they do and hopefully improve what they're doing," explained Bunce.

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