Adam Westbrook // ideas on digital storytelling and publishing

“Why don’t we promote the positive?”

Posted in Broadcasting and Media, International Development by Adam Westbrook on May 6, 2007

Here’s a really interesting statistic, you probably didn’t know: 60% of all the people who access the BBC News Africa page via their mobile phones…do so from Nigeria.

Frontline logoIt’s just one of a whole host of interesting points to come out of a debate on how the media cover Africa at London’s Frontline Club this week.

And the big question that came out of it was: “why don’t we promote the positive?

Here’s another fact that proves the point: Zimbabwe has the continent’s worst economy. Inflation was at 1600% last time we all checked. And it get’s argubly the most coverage in the western media, alongside the conflicts in Somalia and Sudan.

And the country with the continent’s best economy? Angola – it’s growing massively. But when was the last time you saw an article on Angola in the western media? Well I’ll help you out a bit: June 16th 2006 was last time a specific article was published in the New York Times.  When was the last time you saw it on a TV news bulletin?

The debate was handed to an audience of journalists working from Africa and they raised some interesting points – here’s a summary:

  • Western media has a “soft touch” with Africa, born out of colonial guilt.
  • Most African newspapers are now online, so there’s no excuse for not knowing what’s going on.
  • Is there an Africa fatigue?
  • Western editors follow the news agenda like a flock of sheep – courageous editors and reporters are needed to break away and cover the uncovered.
  • We are failing because we’re not making African stories interesting to western audiences.
  • Is it time to help normal people in Africa tell their own stories?
  • And the most worrying point: “Nobody cares – editors don’t care.”

And the one thing I’d add to that myself is money. A problem in the eyes of coin counting editors is that it just costs too much to report on Africa. Maybe the answer might come from enterprising young multiskilled journalists going out with cheap kit and reporting it at a lower price? Who knows.
So is all news out of Africa bad news? For the most part yes – but then most news out of anywhere tends to be bad news. I definitely agree with the point that we’re not making it interesting enough and we’re not connecting stories from Africa to our own lives.

And with hundreds of western corporations investing in Africa, we are most definitely having an impact on the shaping of the continent. And not always for good.

There are many journalists and bloggers freelancing in Africa at the moment – I’d be interested to see what they think…


4 Responses

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  1. Alabi Opeyemi said, on May 15, 2007 at 11:26 pm

    I dont care whatever the western world reports about Africa because I cant expect better from them, example Nigeria had an election, every media wrote about how bad it was, three weeks after, Nigeria sent a satellite into space, no wetsern media reported this acheivement but only a few who had little to write except the common rhetorics of Nigerian people suffering from poverty but the Nigerian government sends satellite into space.

  2. Adam said, on May 16, 2007 at 3:59 pm

    That’s a very good point Alabi…I saw an article about the Nigeria rocket online last week but nothing made it to the mainstream media. Another good example.

    And thanks for the nod and the internet links awoof…I’ll make sure to stop by to you as well!

  3. Oby Nwaogbe said, on July 10, 2008 at 1:49 am

    I am a Journalist and Television Producer in the U.S. and I am glad I came acrosss this article. In a few months I will be traveling to countries in Africa to host and produce a television show that will focus on the Africa the Western World has refused to show.

    This television show will be the long awaited refresher the entire world has been deprived of for so long….. “The Africa that no one ever sees”. So tune in sometime soon to a Television at a market square near you (:

  4. Roland said, on December 8, 2008 at 2:07 pm

    I am trying to organize an action to promote a different view on africa,
    can you tell me five positive things i can promote, so i can work on this,


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