Video -- Assignment Africa Hosted by Hodding Carter

Article excerpt

*The Press and the Public Project. Assignment Africa. 58-minute video (VHS or 3/4 inch), $185 purchase (including 10 free viewer's guides), $50 rental, available from New Atlantic Productions, 330 W. 42nd St., Suite 2420, New York, N.Y. 10036.

Assignment Africa is a safari into the political problems Western journalists face in covering black Africa. The guide is former White House media chief-turned TV correspondent Hodding Carter.

The video follows three journalists--a CNN correspondent, a Visnews bureau chief, and a Denver Post photographer--as they confront the difficulties of gathering news in several black-African countries. Viewers expecting stereotypical African scenes of teeming wildlife and enchanting native dancers should look elsewhere, for this video examines news coverage of famine in Sudan, refugee camps in Ethiopia, and the skull-strewn killing fields of Uganda.

Remote locations and rough travel conditions make the journalist's job difficult in Africa, but those physical problems are secondary to the political roadblocks often thrown up by African governments profoundly suspicious of Western media. African leaders prefer positive coverage of the continent's progress toward modernity but instead see a Western media intent on coverage of disaster and drought, famine and fear, civil war, and despotic rule. The result of this portrayal of a continent of despair is often visa problems, last-minute changes in appointments, and other delays that create aggravation and tedium for journalists. As one correspondent explained, "Ninety percent of our time is spent waiting."

It's hard to be too critical of a video that The New York Times has called "fascinating," that was nominated for an Emmy, and that received a blue ribbon from the Educational Film Library Association. …