The International Development Secretary said that the media should also accept responsibility for breeding pessimism.
In a speech in London, Ms Short blamed an obsession with crisis for deflecting serious debate about longer term development work.
As this year's crisis in Sudan grew, agencies sought an opportunity to raise funds, she said.
"There was no need to fund-raise. Money was not the problem. Through its appeal I believe that the Disasters Emergency Committee muddled the message about the cause of the problem - the persistence of civil war and the desperate need to end it," she said.
Ms Short has asked aid agencies to discuss with her how the "real development story" can best be put across to the public.
"We live in a moment of greater achievement in development than ever before. But at the same time there seems to be more cynicism about development, reflected in a decline in serious media coverage of development issues," she said.
The cynicism sprang from a pre-occupation in the media with countries in crisis and a tendency among some organisations to focus their fund- raising efforts around acute crises, she said.Reuse content