After scouring the internet for current journalistic trends in Africa, I came across an article written by a South African journalist named Simon Allison. Despite being published over 4 years ago, the piece made quite an impression on me. The article discussed how many African journalists are struggling to compete against the likes of foreign news organizations such as NPR, BBC, and Reuters. Simon uses personal accounts of her own journalistic experiences to demonstrate how these international news agencies have greater funds and resources, which in turn gives them a greater ability to cover news. She expresses discontent with how local news outlets are left to sit on the sidelines, watching their foreign journalistic counterparts tell African stories in place of locals. Most importantly, she states that these foreign journalists often “do not understand the local complexities and base their narrative on sweeping, misleading generalisations.”
While Allison does shed light on a grave issue that hasn’t been brought to the public’s attention, she struggles to provide the data needed to support. Interviews with other journalists are a great way of hearing what people have observed, however data would have been helpful when looking at points such as the funding imbalance between foreign and local news outlets. Nonetheless, Allison’s main argument was thought provoking and inspired me to do some additional research. If journalists in Africa truly aren’t receiving the assistance they need in order to succeed, then how can we address this pressing dilemma?
Fortunately, there is hope. My research demonstrated that there are individuals and organizations that have begun to address the lack of support surrounding these journalists. Training programs are being established in order help guide novices and teach them about journalistic writing, reporting technology, privacy, etc. These programs serve as a way to empower writers by advancing their journalistic skills. What is great about these programs is that many of them are digital initiatives. Africa Talks is an example of one such project. This educational website serves as a facilitated way for journalists to take part in “live discussions with reporters, online seminars” and even discuss the “legal issues around publishing information on a country-by-country basis.” As a result, these journalists are provided with the skillset needed to potentially compete with foreign news outlets.
There is an opportunity for such training initiatives to go even farther, by teaching journalists and the agencies that they are affiliated with, skills to help journalism as an industry thrive. For example, these training initiatives could teach correspondents how to efficiently allocate existing funds to get the best coverage of a story and how to keep originality in their body of work. African journalists should be able to share narratives, especially since they are individuals with a deep-rooted connection to the continent. Most importantly, Africans are the ones being most affected by the spectrum of activities unfolding in Africa. It is vital that these journalists can hone their skills to effectively convey important stories impacting their lives.
By Arianne Noorestiani
Editorial Intern, Summer 2017