Wednesday 7 December 2022
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Media Coverage of Minority Communities Reflects Bias

Op/Ed By Kofi Quaye


kofi_quayeFriday, Nov. 14, numerous gunmen opened fire at different locations, and killed several people. Every indication has been given that Paris, the capital of France, was targeted again by terrorists.

Following the events, major television networks and news organizations swung into action; interrupting regular programming, with BREAKING NEWS announcements.

“Terrorists have struck Paris again,” the headlines screamed. CNN, in particular, began to do what it seems to do best; provide the public with nonstop coverage of events as they occurred.

Their leading reporters converged on Paris, and began reporting almost immediately from different parts of the city. The network interviewed experts on terrorism; terrified witnesses recounted chilling stories of dodging bullets, fleeing for their lives, and seeing others die in pools of blood. CNN also called upon television personalities with relevant expertise, and knowledge on the subject of terrorism, to analyze the incident.

Other news seemed not to matter, at least for a couple of days after the incident. The Paris tragedy completely dominated the headlines. All other news seemed to have been relegated to the background.

It was the beginning of the latest marathon coverage of breaking events, the kind we have become used to lately.

It came as no surprise then, that, around the same time, social media began to focus attention on another tragic incident, similar in many ways to the Paris tragedy. Similarly horrendous, yet, it seemed to have gone unnoticed, in part because no major news organization reported on it in more than one newscast.

It was a terrorist attack staged by Al–Shabbab that left 149 people dead. Most of the victims were university students in a college in Northern Kenya.

A further search online confirmed the fact that media coverage of the Kenya massacre had been extremely limited. The BBC briefly reported on it. So did CNN. And that was about it.

All the other major news outlets ignored the incident – which brings me to the issue raised by many on FACEBOOK, and other social media.

Why is it the media appears to have concluded that African lives don’t matter? That is the obvious conclusion, if 149 Africans being killed by one of the most dangerous terrorist organizations in the world is not considered newsworthy.

Facebook members have referred to the media coverage of these two tragic incidents as proof major news organizations tend to give low priority to covering news from Africa, and top priority to news from other parts of the world.

And, as crazy at it may sound, it seems like major news organizations will only respond to, and cover news elsewhere (especially in Africa) when the victims are Americans or Europeans.

Is it because they know they will win awards for reporting on breaking news events that impact their own people, and create an opportunity for media giants to show how good they can be, in terms of their ability to respond to and cover a global crisis in which their people have played a leading role, regardless of the incident’s nature?

Social media has published comments and posts from people from all over the globe, which point to the fact it was all too obvious media coverage of the incident in Paris led them to belive similar tragedies in Nigeria, Kenya, and other parts of Africa, would receive little or no publicity. Many have said they want to know if there is an alternative media source Africans can use to keep the global community informed when news events such as the Kenya massacre occur.

Currently, I believe social media seems to be serving that purpose. It has emerged as a source which many may turn to these days. And, however imperfect, and not always credible, it may be, social media has emerged as a news substitute on which many people can rely.

It seems there are just no news organizations, owned and operated by Africans, that can operate with the same intensity, resources and talent.

But, the problem is, social media does not contain a news gathering function. Anyone can post whatever they want on social media, and get global exposure. Consequently, I think it has a long way to go before it evolves, if it ever does, into a credible source of information.

Social media certainly will continue to provide an outlet for Africans, and others, to criticize what the media does or doesn’t do, as in the case of the coverage of the Paris tragedy, and the non-coverage of an African tragedy such as the recent Kenyan massacre.

But, that is about as far as it will go. I don’t think anything much else will come of it, beyond making it possible to vent our frustrations when we notice such obvious disparities. Boris Cudjoe, recently made a similar observation regarding Facebook.

Ultimately, in order to change the situation, concrete actions will have to be taken to make it possible for those seeking information to find it from sources other than CNN, BBC, and other major news organizations.

And, what about African-American media? Are African-American media outlets in a position to help disseminate information about Africa and Africans to a global audience?

I believe they can. And, while it is true that African and African- American media outlets may lack the resources to be able to play a significant role in gathering and disseminating information to a global audience, maybe African-American media can begin by focusing more attention on covering and reporting on news and events in Africa.