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It’s not just me ranting about the media…

11 January 2011

Well, maybe I’m the only one ranting, but at least another blogger is also questioning journalist tactics in covering the Sudan:

The voting has been generally peaceful, and it is indeed an honor to watch and listen to Southerners who are excited about this historical time for their homeland. In fact, the most unruly scene that I observed was between Norwegian and Czech reporters. They were upset about getting in each others way while trying to snap a ridiculously close-up photo of a voter stuffing their ballot. The shouting was in one of the few indoors polling stations, so it was noticed by all. Meanwhile the voter could not vote because they were hovering over the ballot box.

That was from the most recent post to Cameron Wimpy’s blog. Cameron is a Ph.D. student of mine currently based in Juba and splitting his time between a pilot survey for his dissertation and acting as an international observer of the referendum election.

Relatedly, I’ve started reading (at the suggestion of an MA student from last semester) Africa: Altered States, Ordinary Miracles by Richard Dowden. Dowden was a journalist assigned to Africa for many years. In the start of the book, he talks about the media’s image of Africa and considers reasons why “the news of Africa has been almost exclusively about poverty, wars and death”:

“Not all Africans are fighting or starving. Millions of Africans have never known hunger or war and lead ordinary peaceful lives. But that is not news. Editors want breaking news but have little interest in explanations, let alone explanations from an African perspective. Journalists are sent to get `the story’… And even if they do go, editors and journalists do not dig into the complexities of Africa. `Keep it simple’ is the message. All the rich history, culture and complexity of Africa is missed. Few in the media have felt the need to dig deeper into Africa. It is easier to describe it as chaos. Africa may often look like chaos and madness but there is always a comprehensible — if complex — explanation. A group of us, journalists who covered Africa full time, decided that we would ban the word chaos from our reporting and never give up the search for rational explanations for what was going on. Our watchword was, `If you describe it as chaos you haven’t worked hard enough.’

She may not have called the Sudanese voting in the diaspora chaos, but I still think Katrina Manson hasn’t worked hard enough.


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