reporting asean

Reportage Around ASEAN-related Issues: A Tip Sheet

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ASEAN. Journalists and editors might love it, hate it – or flee from being asked to work on stories related to it. But regionalism in the ASEAN region is a running story of public interest that is here to stay, so we might as well know the beast better, so to speak.

This tip sheet is an invitation to do just that, and take a deep dive into issues around ASEAN.

There are many news and professional reasons for thinking regional and understanding ASEAN better in order to analyze it independently, break it down into digestible stories, and translate what it does (or does not do) into everyday language

Regional (and global) is increasingly local, given the expansion of the collective public spaces we interact in, not least in online ones. As journalists, we have seen how the difference between local, and regional as well as international, has shrunk sharply even just over the last decade. Indeed, we have become global citizens.

A knowledge of history, the dynamics of foreign policy and the value of ‘knowing how the other half lives’ are thus indispensable journalism skills in today’s news environment.

For the ASEAN constituency - our audience - ASEAN’s role in shaping policies at the regional and national level has been growing especially after it stepped up its transition into a community in 2015. Governments’ policies today can no longer be contained in purely domestic silos, and have increasingly become election issues as well.

How ASEAN’s experiment in regional integration plays out is a news beat by itself. But while the ASEAN story will not go away, ASEAN often appears faceless, opaque and distant to ASEAN citizens - and to many journalists as well.

This tip sheet is an independent, media-friendly tool that aims to be useful to different users - be it those who are new to ASEAN-related news to those who want to get past ASEAN jargon and get a better handle on what I call ‘ASEANSpeak’.

This media tool looks at ‘ASEAN stories’ beyond ASEAN the organization and its alphabet soup of acronyms and meetings, meetings and more meetings. I define ‘ASEAN stories’ as stories around the idea of an ASEAN, even if it were not called ASEAN. These are stories that connect our communities to a collective of some kind, beyond the real and imagined borders of our nation-states.

For this tip sheet, I revisited the insights that come from over three decades of following ASEAN and Southeast Asian issues. I have also tried to address the storytelling challenges that journalists say they face in regional reporting, pulling from mental notes gathered from years of commissioning and editing news and feature stories, running skills-building workshops and hands-on training with journalists.

I hope that ‘Reportage Around ASEAN-related Issues: A Tip Sheet’ contributes to encouraging, and challenging, more journalists from within the region to specialize, and invest in, in foreign policy reporting and doing independent analyses – and break the habit of leaving ASEAN stories to external news providers.

Johanna Son
Editor and Founder, Reporting ASEAN
Bangkok, Thailand
December 2019

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Date of Publication
December 2019
Reporting ASEAN
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