By Steven Youngblood, director, Center for Global Peace Journalism
Peace journalism is largely about telling counternarratives–stories that offer a different perspective from traditional news coverage. Counternarratives are especially crucial when reporting about groups of people, since traditional coverage tends to over-rely on generalities and stereotypes that often create negative distortions or myths about “the other,” whether these “others” are migrants, those from another race, religion, or ethnic group, or citizens of another country.
Traditional, standardized Western reporting about Africa, for example, is replete with such distortions, starting with the absurd notion of a monolithic Africa wherein all 54 countries and 1.2 billion inhabitants share the same politics, customs, climate, food, and problems. As I state in my textbook Peace Journalism Principles and Practices, most international reporting about Africa neatly fits into several negative categories (crime, war, poverty, disease, famine). Writing in Project Syndicate online, Shayera Dark points out, “This penchant to accentuate the negative does more than reduce Africa to stereotypes; it also feeds the one-dimensional narrative of Africa as a war-torn, disease-ridden, poverty-stricken hellscape where all hope dies.”
Several initiatives are underway that offer news consumers a more three-dimensional view of Africa. AllAfrica.com, an African news portal, has recently launched a project called Peacebuilding Focus. It will examine “issues of peacebuilding in Africa, in collaboration with African media partners and African researchers and research organizations. The reporting… will be published on allAfrica.com and made freely available to online, print and broadcast media.” This peace counternarrative is sorely needed, especially given traditional coverage which highlights and exaggerates wars on the continent.
On Twitter, an initiative called “Africa The Good News” (@AfricaGoodNews) is spreading counternarratives that offer a fresh look at the continent. Among recent news tweeted or re-tweeted by Africa The Good News are stories about how Kenyan farmers have found a way to counter mudslides; how a South African artist made the cover of Time magazine; and on the world’s largest solar farm in Morocco.
Any initiative that provides a more nuanced, complete view of Africa is necessary and welcome. The world can’t go on hearing only the negative stereotypes about the continent.
–The Peace Journalist magazine is still accepting submissions. For details, go to http://stevenyoungblood.blogspot.com, and scroll down to the second post.
–Follow me on Twitter @PeaceJourn–