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The Need and Importance of Journalism in Urban Planning

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The discipline of ‘Planning’ encompasses the dimensions of development including society, economy, infrastructure, governance and environment. Planning is largely considered as an inclusive process that requires the involvement of all the sections of the society, for developing robust, sustainable and resilient habitats. But the lack of awareness does not allow citizens to be active role players as decision makers in the much required participatory process of development. Hence, the developmental process has profusely been a lopsided top – down approach – largely planned as a pan-nation strategy, lacking the sense of contextuality and holistic stakeholder participation. The need is to sensitize the citizens, invoke them and build them as one of the strong pillars in the process of planning their own built and natural environments.

Journalism can be a promising tool to nudge social activism, paving path for inclusivity; thus rendering the planning process participatory and subsequently, context specific. It needs to lucidly detail out the planning modalities like the preparation, execution and monitoring of urban, regional or community plans; highlight the socio-economic/ cultural implications; contextualise the issues and most importantly attract a wider readership. Planning journalism needs to expand its scope of merely reporting and ought to become a tool for encouraging citizen participatory process and capacity building at an individual level.

Journalism – The Fourth pillar of democracy

Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel (2001) in their book ‘The Elements of Journalism’ said that “Journalism’s first obligation is the truth and its first loyalty is to the citizens”. A popular understanding of the term ‘Journalism’ is ‘the activity of gathering, assessing, creating, and presenting news and information’. Journalism digs the truth of the matter pertaining to any topic and bridges the gap between the ‘informed’ and the ‘uninformed’. This is a very powerful tool as it educates the citizens with legitimate news and also brings in the scope of a wide range of perspectives for the public to understand and take their own decisions.

Media is considered the fourth pillar of democracy as it ensures transparency in our complex human world. But what is media without Journalism; it is merely a platform for information transmission of political and economic happenings, updation of latest events in the sports or fashion arena, reader’s entertainment, thoughts sharing etc. Therefore, it is Journalism that constitutes the Fourth Pillar of democracy as it upholds a mirror to our faces that reflects the bare truths of our society, emotionally scathing and invoking us, all the same. And the content ranges across the scales of micro and macro; levels of impact from community, state and nation; and dimensions of development including society, social infrastructure, economy, environment etc. Journalism has a power to instigate nurturing of community leaders, sustainability actionists and robust society as a whole.

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Need of Planning Journalism

Discussing about the socio-spatial process, the core aspects of planning, we realise that even though journalism on core planning topics like Master Plan or City Development is not available for urban areas as much as it is needed to cause general awareness, but other forms of journalism do cover the key issues of the urban areas as discussed in the next section of ‘Types of Journalism’. For the rural context, however; concerning the criticality of growing rural – urban divide; there is a big gap in the information availability about how authorities decide to plan their land and other resources. Planning Journalism can also provide with a comparison between the development of the urban and rural areas and stress on equal importance of rural area development, so that they are not left behind in today’s world of globalisation. This can help uplift the development of rural regions and the other scheduled areas.

It is imperative to start writing about Planning, as there is close to no-awareness about it. Yes, there are many journals, websites, magazines dedicated to the literature of urban planning, but it is not accessible to the general crowd, simply because they are not aware of such an existence. Just like politics, entertainment, sports etc., are given a dedicated slot in the print media and digital media, it is important to give some attention, to planning and developmental stories, as this is what shapes the cities and the life of the people.

Since, the citizens are not aware of what is happening in their cities, regions or country in terms of Planning, it is not just enough to throw some light on the issues but also explain to the masses how we have reached where we are, and also about what future has in store for us. A more articulated form of journalism dives deep into the topic and presents all the details, the intricacies of the subject in a nuanced form. The lucid writing can cover the aspects of housing crisis, challenges of policy making, economic incentives for environmental preservation, smart cities or any other facet of Planning.

There has to be a bridge connecting the citizens with the system that plans and runs the cities. Without adequate knowledge of what is shaping their cities and environment one cannot expect people to raise the right questions and demand for what is rightfully theirs. It is also important to present a picture of what is happening in other localities, cities, regions or countries. A comparison is necessary to understand where we stand and how to make our systems better and tailored to the context.

Types of Journalism in planning or closely related to it

Urban Planning plays a crucial role in the process of building democratic institutions. The extant planning issues are narrated through several types of journalism like civic, business, cultural, cyber, political etc. Bhasin H. (2019), through his blog on ‘Marketing 91’ identifies 21 such types of journalism used vividly through the media.

Environmental journalism deals with sensitizing the public about protection and conservation. It also includes critical literature about the environmental policies, guidelines, environment protection societies etc. Climate change, energy crisis, health and the like environmental issues have been very effectively sketched through the form of impactful environmental journalism. The story titled “Alaska’s permafrost is no longer permanent”, published in New York Times, authored by Henry Fountain (2017) is one such striking piece of journalism. It was able to convey a piece of complex scientific information in a very lucid manner, thus breaking the otherwise impenetrability of environmental journalism.

Civic journalism, for instance, deals with the news about certain community, city or a region. These stories can claim highest levels of public awareness through a developed sense of association. The stories of civic journalism can include aspects of citizen’s rights, socio-cultural issues, and legislations related to social needs. Civic journalism can be predominantly considered a proponent of democracy and inclusivity, engaging citizens and creating public debates.

Business journalism on the other hand, covers stories related to economy, trade and marketing, the aspects which govern the urban and regional dynamics. In the writings of Alexander Gutzmer (2016), compiled as a book titled “Urban Innovation Networks: Understanding the City as a Strategic Resource”, he analyses the heterogeneous industrial sector and its role in shaping the urban – spatial and economic morphology. Another notable story is that of “Which India Matters?” in which, Pankaj Mishra (2013) critically appraises the pre and post phases of economic liberalization and how that has transformed the nation.

So, as can be understood, there are several types of journalism which constitute the wider umbrella of ‘Planning Journalism’. And all these types of journalisms follow the principles of truthfulness, loyalty and sensitising the masses about the local and global issues.

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Journalism – as a tool for change

The power of Journalism is such that, over the years, it has educated people on a greater level to know and understand their surroundings and be a part of it. Today, it has given more freedom than ever and people are expressing their views on every topic fearlessly. The power lies in the hands of the public, and media is continuously providing with greater opportunities to speak one’s mind, question the authorities, demand justice etc. It may be true that journalism is not always as authentic as we expect it to be, but it is still a great source of information and ‘social activism’. It has the power of integrating urban and regional planning with the lives of people and catalyse the process of change in the planning domain and to invoke citizens for their rightful demands. Today, almost everyone is aware of their rights to elect their own political representatives; similarly, they need to be made aware of their rights in the citizen – centric participatory process of planning.

There exist many types of journalism but a comprehensive ‘Planning Journalism’ is the need of the hour to inspire and empower people to develop the knowledge and expertise to plan for their own community, contextually, according to their own needs. This will in turn create a chain of social development, right from the roots of our society.

Author Bio:

Jayasmita Bhattacharjee: Architect, Pursuing Urban and Regional Planning from SPA, Bhopal. As a young architect and a fresher in the field of planning, she enjoys the subjects of urban governance, forms of urbanism, sociology and the dichotomy of cities. She also enjoys writing as much as learning about new topics.

Adwait Limaye: Architect, Pursuing Urban and Regional Planning from SPA, Bhopal. With a professional work experience of over four years in the field, he has gained a sound expertise in the domains of spatial planning, sociology, and urban – rural economic synergies. Besides practice and research, he engages himself in travelling, reading and meeting new individuals, in his process of exploration.


  • Bhasin, H. (2019, March 12). 21 Types Of Journalism most used in Media. Retrieved from Marketing 91: https://www.marketing91.com/21-types-of-journalism/
  • Fountain, H. (2017, Aug 23). ALASKA’S PERMAFROST IS THAWING. Retrieved from NY TIMES: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/08/23/climate/alaska-permafrost-thawing.html
  • Gutzmer, A. (2016). Urban Innovation Networks: Understanding the City as a Strategic Resource. Springer International Publishing.
  • Kovach, B., & Rosenstiel, T. (2001). The elements of journalism: What newspeople should know and the public should expect. New York: Crown Publishers.
  • Mishra, P. (2013). Which India Matters? The New York Review of Books, 60(18), 434.

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