Monday, June 17, 2013

Africa and the American press

The American corporate press is both lazy and under-performing. My theory: A dumbed down American public is easier to manipulate and control. This press relies on sensational, trending and inconsequential stories:

Breaking News Justin Bieber snubbed again. News at five.

Our press reports on politics as a WWE sport. We have Fox vs MSNBC and the daily clueless shouting talking heads

As far as Africa coverage -- outside the tired stereotype narratives -- our press is stuck on stupid as well. For example, how many Americans -- black, white, Latino or Asian -- know that the fastest developing continent in the world is Africa?
Howard French

As Howard French, a leading American journalist on Africa for four decades states:

For the last three years, I have traveled extensively in sub-Saharan Africa, after an unaccustomed absence. My recent experiences, which have ranged through every region of the subcontinent, tell me two essential things: Africa is caught up in intense and rapid change, and American policy toward the continent is not adjusting fast enough.

A trickle of articles in the American press has belatedly recognized Africa's strong run of economic growth. Some of them have touted the expansion of a new African middle- or consumer-class, which by some measures is larger than that of India. Others have focused on the continent's overall economic growth, drawing on data and forecasts from the International Monetary Fund and other sources. These suggest that over the next several years, Africa will grow faster than any other continent, including Asia.  source

Mr. French has also written in his blog:

I wrote a blog post that relates to this a few months back. It mourns the demise of the Washington Post’s Africa coverage, and I paid due homage then to a long list of correspondents who worked hard to bring richness and balance to their Africa stories.

It seems fairly indisputable to me, however, that the West’s African coverage in general is broken and failing badly. This is true in terms of quantity, quality and especially variety, and I think that is Laura’s main point.


The other effect I’d point out here quickly is that by ignoring this humungous category called business (or, if you will, the economy), the Western press is doing a disservice to its readership by furthering the conditioning of news consumers to not think of Africa as a place worthy of business or investment. It is all the more galling that this is happening at a time when economic growth is booming around the continent and opportunities abound. As someone who is writing on this now, I’d add: Just ask the Chinese.

We need for those who cover Africa to break out of their old, narrow molds and start seeing Africans and Africa in its fullness and complexity. We need more real African characters in our reporting and writing. And we need to have the whole range of human activity reflected in our work.

We need to see an Africa that is written about as a place where ideas matter, and not just our ideas.

We need for people to write about Africa understanding that it has history that goes far beyond index card depth.

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