Today, I’ll be speaking on a media panel discussing tourism in Africa. While broad in scope, the intention of the event is to understand not only how journalists cover the continent and shape the stereotypes/conceptions of the region (I.e. Dramatic headlines citing death and disaster, how the media’s appetite for stories from the continent often starts and stops with crisis) but also to suggest ways to showcase some of these regions as a valuable destination for international visitors.
While compiling a short-list of topics I might discuss, I found it difficult –read: impossible– to distance myself from the crowd I like to criticize. I argue, likely too often for those around me, that the editorial appetite for stories with an Africa theme is small. That there is a cyclical and self-defeating argument made in editor’s offices: the stories aren’t popular enough to warrant the higher costs of their reporting, but failure invest in them confirms the audience will remain small.
That might be true, but it isn’t a sufficient response to the charges of editorial selectivity.
On this platform, and others like it, I tackle “under-reported” Africa in the same manner major networks do: the first sign of a storm creates an opportunity to capture that “illusive reader”. But if I feed that reader conflict and collapse, is that truly appropriate?
Admittedly, there are more questions on this topic than there are answers; with a continent of 54 countries I would hope that’s the case. But I’m eager to follow through with this experiment; to force myself to reflect in the same way I have (and continue to demand) that editors re-think their own positions.
But if the practice of “covering Africa” has to be updated, how do we do it? Thoughts?