Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

There's More to Kenya Than Hungry Lions ; African-American and Kenyan Journalists Are Setting Up Exchanges to Promote Better US Coverage of African Issues

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

There's More to Kenya Than Hungry Lions ; African-American and Kenyan Journalists Are Setting Up Exchanges to Promote Better US Coverage of African Issues

Article excerpt

The black Americans call their Kenyan hosts "brothers." The Kenyan journalists call their visitors wajungu - Swahili for whites. It was a telling detail in a recent meeting of American and Kenyan journalists designed to shed light on what these groups have in common.

The Atlanta-based National Association of Black Journalists has long espoused a responsibility to improve US coverage of Africa. In an effort to build the first cross-country association of black journalists, NABJ representatives traveled to Kenya to meet with members of the Kenya Union of Journalists.

From the start, their work was cut out for them. "When I first told my youngest son I was going to Africa, he said: 'Don't get eaten by a lion.' ... That's the only association that came to his mind," says Keith Hadley of the NABJ. "Misperception of Africa is so widespread," Mr. Hadley says, "and so we are here because we would like to change that."

The groups talked about matters ranging from press freedom and censorship to the shortage of phone lines in African newsrooms. By the end of the visit, they had planted the seeds for an exchange program and promised to visit one another's bureaus.

US reporting on Africa is unbalanced, Hadley says. "Not only is there a meager amount of news," he says, but "it is all negative."

One way to change this, Hadley says, is to push for more top media positions for African-Americans. Once this happens, he believes the news agenda will shift.

"We are always trying to make a connection with our past - with the art, the religion, the culture, etc. of Africa - and therefore we are naturally more identified and interested in this continent than others may be," he says.

But some of the African journalists disagree with what they see as a misguided focus on race.

What Kenya needs in order to change people's perception of it, argues Mark Thomas Lwande, a member of the African journalists' union, is simply more journalists writing about it. …

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