In oder to set the tone to properly discuss this topic, the first thing it would seem needed is a basic understanding of news within the context of the answer that is being sought for this article. Consistent with the litany of descriptors that explain what news represent, the ones that stand out in relations to this topic include, ‘shocking images; crime, death, disaster’ http://www.media-awareness.ca/english/special_initiatives/toolkit/news and the likes. But before going further, it would make sense to step back and reflect on some of the logical reasons why news have been defined in this manner, which it should be noted constitutes a western paradigm of how information dissemination ought to be practiced. In other words, there is a major divide that separates the west from Africa and that is technology as heralded by the industrial revolution, an era that is yet to occur on the African continent centuries after its initial advent in Europe. Within the context of industrialization, therefore, it stands to reason that infrastructural developments do not make news because such occurances are commonplace. On the other hand, postulating the notion that infrastructural development makes news when it is linked to the resolution of a social setback should be a preposition that is supported by the trend of news within the western context. Put simply, in a milieu of progress it is unrealistic to insist why additional activities of progress should make news. It rather makes more sense to see why in the midst of progress, destructive tendencies and crimes make news. This is because crime and other antithetical social vices can more or less be classified as the social outliers that defy the general norm that western cultures are noted for. The irony here is that western cultures are the victims of thier own civilized law – democracy. The freedom to choose, which is central to democracy and normal civility assumes that peace is a social condition that society ascribes to. This is why when this assumption is debunked through the commission of a crime, such outcome forms the basis for a major news headline.
As noted in one of the many articles written about Africa by this author, since the end of colonialism, Africa is yet to stumble upon a positive major era (as the Europeans did with the industrial revolution and the Americans have done with the information age) that would catapult the continent as a serious international player on the world stage. In other words, Africans, over the decades and centuries, have relegated the relevance of the continent to a byword that is all too often associated with everything that is negative about human nature. All fingers disproportionately point to Africa when the issues for discussion center on: poverty, AIDS, wars, ignorance etc. Given this state of affair, it is very curious that in the midst of saturated negativity and hopelessness, the only stories that feature prominently from Africa are stories that contribute to these trends. As much as western progress is so commonplace so much so that progress is not news, it should also stand to reason that given Africa’s trajectory of destruction as being commonplace, activities of destructive nature ought not to constitute news about Africa. The fact that this is not the reality of what is occuring within the media landscape should be regarded as a rare case in which the anomaly has become the accepted norm. It is therefore instructive to investigate the information value of negative reporting from an area that is already known to be negative – Africa. Mind you, the backdrop for a continuation of this discussion, going foward, is that although news is intended to inform and educate it is also necessary to draw attention to the agenda setting goal, a media strategy targeted at the audience that is paying attention to the content that is being projected. In other words, gatekeepers, imaginatively, are always asking themselves how they can most effectively continue to maintain their audience. Internationally speaking, as with major international news organs and for the purpose of this article, the audience can be divided into two culturally distinct group – African and non-African.
In the case of the non-African audience the portrayal of the stereotypical obvious, i.e. wars and varying types of destruction only serve to further desensitize the observer into dampening whatever attention the person may have had towards the issue. Where news is redefined to constitute the severity and expansiveness of mayhem and destruction the rules are set to indicate to the perpetrators that they will only have access to news coverage for the price of being able to reek total havoc on innocent lives. It is at this point where there is an intersection of interest between the ordinary African observer and the media. In other words, because it is becoming evident that international involvement in crises are defined by interest and proximity one can appreciate that the overwhelming service of destructive news is to only encourage further mayhem. It therefore should not be surprising that messages of terror from jihadists have almost been eliminated as news, which makes sense and should bring one to question why destructive inclinations of other forms are still being given audience. At this point, as much as it would seem that individuals deliberately carry out violence as a way of gaining news coverage, isn’t it possible to hypothesize that if the news paradigm is shifted to cover only positive news, African leaders and nations would begin the competitive process of doing significant things to gain international news coverage? Although western and African measures of what constitute significance can be markedly miles apart, the spectre of bloodletting in the name of accessing international news coverage should be sickening enough to draw down the curtains on killers confining their acts to obscurity as has been the approach taken against others whose only goal it is to seek the destruction of those who have done them no harm.