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Who's Reporting Africa Now?

Non-Governmental Organizations, Journalists, and Multimedia

Kate Wright

As news organizations cut correspondent posts and foreign bureaux, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have begun to expand into news reporting. Why and how do journalists use the photographs, video, and audio that NGOs produce? What effects does this have on the kinds of stories told about Africa? And how have these developments changed the nature of journalism and NGO-work?

Who’s Reporting Africa Now?: Non-Governmental Organizations, Journalists, and Multimedia is the first book to address these questions—using frank interviews and internal documents to shed light on the workings of major news organizations and NGOs, collaborating with one another in specific news production processes. These contrasting case studies are used to illuminate the complex moral and political economies underpinning such journalism, involving not only NGO press officers and journalists but also field workers, freelancers, private foundations, social media participants, businesspeople, and advertising executives.

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Chapter 8. African Self-Help, Corporate Social Responsibility, and Positive Features: The Observer and the Kenyan Paraplegic Organization




The Observer and the Kenyan Paraplegic Organization

Journalists working for media organizations in the US and UK have long been accused of portraying Africa in overly negative ways (Hawk 1992). Writers, diasporic organizations and sub-Saharan politicians have all condemned their sporadic, decontextualized and crisis-driven coverage of the continent (de Beer 2010a, 2010b; Opuku-Owusu 2003; Wainaina 2005). More recently, social media participants have taken to Twitter to challenge international news organizations over the negative wording of their reports—the most famous example of which was the #SomeoneTellCNN campaign (Nothias 2017; Nyabola 2017). Underpinning these criticisms is the conviction that the overwhelmingly negative news reporting of the continent seriously damages the prospects of people living in sub-Saharan countries (Marthoz 2007; Schorr 2011).

But is news about Africa really so overwhelmingly negative? We can’t assume that it is, as academic researchers have tended to make judgements about what such coverage is like on the basis of a narrow range of studies, which also involve a highly selective focus on negative events (Scott 2017). In addition, it seems questionable to imply that all reporting of negative events in sub-Saharan countries is necessarily problematic as entirely positive “sunshine journalism” is usually regarded as little more than elite-led propa←219 | 220→ganda (Kuper and Kuper 2001). Moreover, negativity is a core news value and other continents are often presented far more negatively than Africa (Nothias 2016; Scott 2009). So...

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