Filling a Need for African-Based Reporting on Agriculture

I've been trying to read as many African newspapers as I can while traveling. In Ethiopia I read the The Herald, in Kenya, the Daily Nation, in Tanzania, The Guardian, and here in Uganda, I'm reading the Uganda Record. One thing that I've noticed in all these papers are the large number of articles on agriculture, hunger, climate change, poverty, HIV/AIDS, malaria, and water and sanitation. It's not surprising--all of these issues impact sub-Saharan Africa in a big way.

What is surprising, however, is the lack of African journalists writing these articles. Most are pulled from newswires, like Reuters and AP, or from the International Herald Tribune and UK-based papers. That means there's not only very little on-the-ground reporting from the continent, but also that the people who know best about what's really happening here aren't the ones writing about the issues.

But there are efforts underway to increase reporting about Africa from Africans. The International Center for Journalists received a $2 million grant, three-year grant in 2008 from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to improve coverage of agriculture and health. They're placing journalists from the U.S. in four key African countries--Ghana, Malawi, Tanzania, and Senegal-- where they will lead projects with African journalists, helping them improve not only coverage, but the quality of the articles they're writing. The project will also help train "citizen journalist" stringers who can relay information from the village level via cellphones.

And earlier this year, the Gates Foundation also awarded a two-year grant to the Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism to develop an intensive training program for African journalists to promote high-quality coverage of agricultural issues.

These projects could be at least partly inspired by grants the Soros Foundation and the Open Society Institute have been giving for training journalists in the former Soviet Republics and in Eastern Europe. The Independent Journalism Institute provides similar programs for journalists in Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia.

These types of grants--and hopefully future funding from other donors--are an important way of not only generating news stories, but informing African people about what's taking place on a daily basis in their own country.

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Jim Lehrer's Guidlines Of "MacNeil/Lehrer Journalism"

The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, renamed last week the PBS NewsHour, is hardly perfect journalism. FAIR is certainly not a fan, quantitatively documenting in 1990, 1995, and most recently in October 2006 that Republicans are featured more often than Democrats, that women make up just 18% of the guest list, and that only 4% of guests are "public interest advocates" and over 75% are "elites" such as government officials (50%). (I would be interested to see if the numbers on Democrats and women have changed since the Democratic take-over of Congress and Clinton's presidential campaign.)

Nevertheless, while the NewsHour is no NOW or Bill Moyers Journal, Lehrer and his team do approach the news with a certain seriousness and depth that is virtually non-existent on television anymore, and that is worth our appreciation if not our outright respect. Last week in a piece about the show's latest changes (new name, revamped website, etc.), Lehrer outlined his "guidelines... of what I like to call MacNeil/Lehrer journalism." Regardless of whether or not you feel the NewsHour follows these practices, they are worthy standards that every journalist should aim for, and Lehrer is to be applauded for at least setting them in an era where few do. Would that every journalist kept them in mind - especially the last one, "I am not in the entertainment business."

  • Do nothing I cannot defend.
  • Cover, write and present every story with the care I would want if the story were about me.
  • Assume there is at least one other side or version to every story.
  • Assume the viewer is as smart and as caring and as good a person as I am.
  • Assume the same about all people on whom I report.
  • Assume personal lives are a private matter, until a legitimate turn in the story absolutely mandates otherwise.
  • Carefully separate opinion and analysis from straight news stories, and clearly label everything.
  • Do not use anonymous sources or blind quotes, except on rare and monumental occasions. No one should ever be allowed to attack another anonymously.
  • I am not in the entertainment business.

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Eric Boehlert and Bill Kristol Are Both Wrong

Eric Boehlert agrees with William Kristol when he says that Todd Purdum's piece must be wrong when he says that Hit's simply not possible that multiple individuals would have concluded that she had Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

First, my background:  I lived in Alaska from 1963 to 1969, I was 7 when I left, and my father worked at various levels in the state and local government, being the head of planning for Governor Bill Egan, and head of the State Charter Commission.

He maintains the friendships that he made there, and as such, he is in touch with many people who are very much a part of the political scene there, particularly on the Democratic Party side.

The other thing to realize is just how tiny the political scene is there.  Everyone knows, and meets, everyone else on an almost daily basis when the legislature is in session, so if one person made a comment, like "I was looking through the DSM IV, and 'Narcissistic Personality Disorder' matched Palin to a 'T," it could rapidly become a talking point.

This makes this story likely, but the email that I got forwarded to me by my dad pretty much makes it a almost certainly true.

I would note that my dad quoted this individual to me in October saying essentially the same thing.

----- Forwarded Message ----
From: -------
To: Mr Ron Saroff <-------->
Sent: Thursday, July 2, 2009 8:31:38 AM
Subject: FW:

Further amusement --this time amongst the R's.  Lots of bad substantive stuff to say about Palin, but frankly I think the sexism is disgusting from both parties and elsewhere.

Check out this page: 9/24392.html

I was one of the people who told TP [Todd Purdum] Sarah had a narcissistic personality disorder! And he told me I wasn't the first to say it.

Thank you,

Cross posted from 40 Years in the Desert.

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People. People Who Don't Need People

For the 21st time, People Magazine has published its Most Beautiful People list. And, once again, the editors have proven how journalistically vacuous they truly are.

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Toothless: The Watchdog Press That Became the Government's Lapdog (Part 2: Lapdogs Get Some Teeth)

In Part 1, award-winning journalist Walter Brasch looked at the press that had abdicated their role as watchdogs upon the government during the Bush-Cheney Administration. In Part 2, he looks at some of the media that tried to restore the dignity and the role of the mass media to question authority.

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