A Place on the Edge: Textual Analysis of Online News about Africa

Article excerpt

Abstract

This paper examines the coverage of Africa on websites of news stations in the United States. CBS, ABC, NBC and PBS are four major sources of news in the United States and their websites are created to enable more people have access to the world. This paper will report on a textual analysis of online news about Africa especially in relation to "children", "health" and "education" looking at both headlines and stories. Stories that mention celebrities, politicians or politics is excluded

Rationale

Recently, I visited a school in the Athens area to talk about my home country - Nigeria - and to my shock the children and even teachers knew very little about my country which has come to be known by the world as the giant of Africa. As I tried to comprehend this discovery I asked "What do you know about Africa?" and what I heard made me realize how far removed they are from the true situation in Africa. This led me to find out how much information was available in the local and national newspapers. I found out from reading The Athens Messenger, The Post, The Athens News, New York Times, USA Today, Washington Post and Washington Times that in summary stories about Africa show that Africans are weak and depend on the West for help. Then I decided to check online for what Africans are writing about themselves and how they are trying to re-orientate the young ones (even if it is almost impossible to change the mind set of adults). A quick search of the websites of 10 most accessed African online newspapers (Online Newspapers.com, 2006) published in English - The Guardian (Nigeria), This Day (Nigeria), The Punch (Nigeria), Vanguard (Nigeria), The Sun (Nigeria), The Daily Nation (Kenya), Champion News (Nigeria), Nigerian Tribune (Nigeria), Daily Independent (Nigeria), East African Standard (Kenya) - made me see that very minimal reference is made to "children", "youth", "young people" or the likes and only one of the African online newspaper websites had a link to a children's webpage. With this I came to the conclusion that it is necessary to understand more clearly the stories for and about children in African online newspapers. This turned out to be a Herculean task as the data was not readily available online and the editors were not forthcoming with regard to response to my mails. While I believe research on African online newspapers is important, I realized that to understand U.S. children's beliefs about Africa it was important to look at what is written in United States online news report about Africa. Since young people are more likely to look to the web for their news (Globescan, 2005), I decided to do a textual analysis of four major news websites to enable me see how Africa is represented in news stories in the United States.

Research Questions

Based on my experience with children in Athens Schools, I formulated the following questions:

RQ1: What geographic areas of Africa are represented in news stories?

RQ2: What are the themes of the stories?

RQ1: What image of Africa do the stories portray?

Literature Review

A number of studies have been carried out on children in relation to health and education. Also a number of subjects are available on the representation of Africa in news but here I'll focus on that which has to do with online news.

According to Mahamat Saleh Haroun the Director of the hit African film Abouna (Our Father) "...it is down to Africans to shake off stereotypes by telling their own stories" (Starwars, 2003). Lyombe Eko an associate professor in communication and journalism and an award-winning documentary film maker is of the opinion that following the concept of if it bleeds it leads has led Americans to "see only the disease and pestilence. Good things happen but they don't make the news. American viewers have a selective and jaundiced picture of most of the world". He goes on to say "You must bypass the media images to get a realistic picture of what the world is like. …

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