Trapped in a Time-Warped Narrative

Keane, Fergal
September 2004
Nieman Reports;Fall2004, Vol. 58 Issue 3, p8
This article calls for journalist to move past their focus on Africa's misery. What is profoundly concerning is the real damage to Africans' sense of themselves and of their nations' potential in the midst of journalists' relentless focus on their misery. Spin back through news tapes--from Congo in the early 196O's through Biafra, Ethiopia and into Sudan today--and we see how little has changed in our reporting of Africa's stories. This is a pity, because during this time a lot has been transformed in Africa. The ground for positive change has never been so fertile as it is today. This is not because of anything we have done in the West but because of the rise of a new civil society in places like South Africa, Kenya, Liberia and even in deeply troubled Nigeria. Africans are now holding their leaders to account. Anyone who remembers the messes of the 197O's and 198O's cannot be but inspired by this new scenario. It is not an African renaissance but an awakening, every bit as powerful as the Pan Africanist movement of the 196O's. Our tendency to portray life on this continent as an unrelenting series of disasters, if not happening then waiting to happen, is as old as news reporting itself. We thrive on drama, and this habit of ours isn't going to ebange overnight. But evolving into a different kind of coverage challenges all of us who love Africa and her people and want to see the continent fairly portrayed as a place of hope in this new millennium.


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