Reporting Darfur: Does new media make a difference?
July 27 2006 Africa Media blog entry Reporting Darfur: Does new media make a difference?
I'm getting ready to attend the annual conference for journalism profs (Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication) next week and I noticed three research papers examine media coverage of the Darfur genocide. (I've listed them below with title, author and abstract.)
A few years ago I analyzed coverage of the Rwanda genocide, and I wonder if the coverage of Sudan is any different. Pretty much most coverage of conflict in Africa can be predicted: Fighting is "tribal violence," economic and political contexts aren't considered. Coverage is sparse and generally driven by the US government's position (although it appeared in the 1990s that NGOs would begin playing a larger role in shaping the news.)
What's different this time around is there are lots of ordinary folks using the Internet and grass-roots organizing to provide a different message. Be a Witness urges people to contact the mainstream media and ask them to actually cover the genocide as opposed to run-away brides (check out their cool intro video plus the charts on amount of coverage). The Genocide Intervention Network also works to educate the public.
Blogs such as The Coalition for Darfur, The Darfur Blog (written by Toniyah Tonijah of Nigeria), Sudan Watch have sprung up around the issue. (My favorite is Sudan: The Passion of the Present, which has constantly updated information and a good list of links.)
MTVU sent three students over to report on the situation. Their site includes lots of info such as the student winners of a competition for Darfur activism and a video game created by a USC student called Darfur is Dying.
With all this alternative media information and education going on, has mainstream coverage changed? We constantly hear about how bloggers are influencing mainstream media agendas and coverage. Yet the research summarized below suggests it's the same old same old.
What does this say about mainstream media? About the impact of socially conscious bloggers (and other media creators)? Or are we not casting a broad enough net with our research?
Research papers on the crisis at AEJMC August 2006 San Francisco:
Darfur: International Neglect and News Media Silence in the Face of Genocide - Chinedu (Ocek) Eke, Elon University - This paper examines the conflict in Darfur described by many, including the President of the United States, as an ongoing genocide. To this end, I argue that the dearth of news media coverage, particularly of television news, on one of the most egregious human rights violations of our time has kept the public largely in the dark on the scope of the genocide while prolonging the plight of Darfurians.
Un-Covering Darfur Sudan 2003-2005: Which News Organization Offered the Most Comprehensive Coverage? - Bella Mody, University of Colorado - Media coverage of developing countries and U.S. domestic realities continues to be sensational, episodic and stereotypical, in spite of years of scholarship and political protest. The consequences of the lack of an internationally informed citizenry are politically troubling at this unipolar juncture in world political history with the U.S. as sole superpower on the one hand, and private investors looking for faster increases in rates of return from their investment in media firms on the other.
Reporting a Humanitarian Tragedy: A Framing Analysis of Chinese Newspaper Coverage of Darfur - Xun Liu and Seow Ting Lee, Michigan State University - This study examines the coverage of the Darfur crisis by the People's Daily and the China Daily over 26 months. Based on a content analysis and a textual analysis, the comparative framing analysis found similarities in the coverage, which is motivated by national interest. However, there are significant differences in the portrayal of major actors, and the assignment of blame and responsibility. The findings can be explained by the papers' ownership and China's media environment
Technorati Tags: AEJMC, Africa, Darfur, Sudan
July 27, 2006 in Horn of Africa | Permalink