Coverage of Sub-Saharan African Countries: A Content Analysis study

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Coverage of Sub-Saharan African Countries: A Content Analysis study. Presented by Sara El-Khalili & Mai El-Nawawy. The research was conducted under the supervision of Dr. Ralph Berenger, Journalism and Mass Communication Department. Sub-Saharan Africa.
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Coverage of Sub-Saharan African Countries:A Content Analysis study Presented by Sara El-Khalili & Mai El-Nawawy The research was conducted under the supervision of Dr. Ralph Berenger, Journalism and Mass Communication Department Sub-Saharan Africa
  • The region includes most of the African Continent excluding North Africa.
  • It is divided into Central, East, West, and Southern.
  • Numbers of Sub-Saharan African countries are reported inconsistently 42, 45 or 51.
  • Western Media Coverage
  • “Misery” is the western media’s favorite topic when covering Africa (Montrat, 1994).
  • The Western media mainly cover news of corruption, civil wars, poverty, starvation and deaths of millions of people; disregarding development, history and the rich African culture (Montrat, 1994).
  • “Africans are portrayed as naked, black, diseased, starving, savages, ignorant, without any religion or culture, and no written language” (Ogundimu, 1994).
  • Studies on the Coverage of Africa
  • Domatob (1994) studied the coverage of Africa in Time and Newsweek over a period of two years.
  • A total of 85 stories covering Africa were found in both magazines from August 1989 to 1991
  • Crisis news dominated coverage with 42.2% followed by Politics and government 32.9%
  • South Africa was the mostly covered country, partly due to US business interests
  • Studies on the Coverage of Africa (cont’d)
  • A study conducted by Shraeder & Endless (1998) examined the New York Times coverage and found that 73% of the stories portrayed Africa negatively.
  • The researchers concluded that “the American people have a national geographic image of Africa.”
  • The majority of Americans have never heard of Somalia before the United States launched its Operation Restore Hope.
  • Concerns
  • The proliferation of negative news from Africa discourages foreign investment in the continent, hampers development efforts, marginalizes Africa, and excludes it from the world agenda (Domatob, 1994).
  • Lack of understanding to the nature of African politics often leads to failure among reporters to present the news within the African context.
  • Reasons for the distorted coverage
  • Western news definitions: unusual, rare and odd.
  • “When it bleeds, it leads.” This explains the emphasis on the negative coverage by the West.
  • Vulnerability of the African media.
  • News Organizations
  • International news bureaus & low budgets:
  • News agencies have limited staff in the region.
  • For example, news organizations cover Sudan from their regional bureau in Cairo, which is often busy with Middle East news from Iraq and Palestine.
  • Due to time and budget constraints news coverage is limited to what must be covered, like coups and wars.
  • This kind of coverage only reinforces the perception that Africa is all about bad news (Knickmeyer, 2005)
  • “Parachute Journalism”
  • Well-informed and experienced localized correspondents are being replaced by journalists who come from faraway places, landing to cover a distant breaking news event like a parachute.
  • “Many news organizations have turned to crisis-driven and episodic reporting, fast in and fast out, leaving little room for such important elements as context” (Ricchiardi, 2006).
  • The Global Flow of News
  • News flows in a disproportionate manner from the US to the rest of the world (Sawhney, 2002).
  • Specific areas in the world get neglected on the world map of news coverage.
  • The world’s leading news agencies are Western (AP, Reuters, AFP, DPA…etc).
  • News agencies don’t cover the continent effectively which adds to the distorted image (Hachten, 1971).
  • Hypothesis & Research Questions
  • H1: Western Newspapers provide limited and pessimistic coverage for Sub-Saharan African countries.
  • RQ1: Do Egyptian newspapers provide more coverage for Sub-Saharan African countries than Western newspapers?
  • RQ2: Is the coverage of Egyptian newspapers more optimistic of Sub-Saharan African countries than the Western newspapers?
  • Methodology
  • Content Analysis Research Methodology
  • Variables: Health, Natural Disaster, Economy, Politics, Society, Media, and General Subjects
  • Composite Week over three months of the following: America’s The Wall Street Journal America’s The International Herald Tribune Britain’s The Times Egypt’s Al-Ahram
  • Results Results were calculated on the (SPSS) Program Coverage of Sub Saharan African countries Total Newspaper Coverage Al-Ahram 47.8% The Wall Street Journal 7.8% The Times 23.3% International Herald Tribune 21.1% Newspaper sections where stories on Africa’s Sub-Sahara appeared Newspaper Sections Front page 8.9% Arab Affairs 24.4% (Al Ahram Only) News pages 5.6% Health & Science 1.1% Sports 8.9% International 28.9% Business 4.4% Culture 2.2% Op-Ed 13.3% Feature 2.2% Regions of Sub-Saharan Africa Covered in the newspapers appeared Regions West Africa 11.1% Southern Africa 16% Central Africa 12.2% East Africa 60% Sub-Saharan African Countries Covered appeared Countries’ Coverage Reunion 1.1% Nigeria 5.6% Democratic Republic of Congo 3.3% Guinea 1.1% Congo 4.4% Gambia 2.2% Burundi 3.3 % Equatorial Guinea 1.1% Kenya 2.2% Cameroon 2.2% Uganda 1.1% Zimbabwe 3.3% Eritrea 2.2% Zambia 1.1% Ethiopia 2.2% South Africa 7.8% Namibia 1.1% Somalia 16.7% Malawi 2.2% Botswana 1.1% Sudan 35.6% Subjects Covered by Newspapers appeared Discussion & Conclusion appeared The Western Newspaper’s Coverage appeared
  • Findings of the study support the research hypothesis. The three Western newspapers provided minimal coverage of the region.
  • The three Western newspapers also provided a pessimistic image of Sub-Saharan Africa focusing on issues such as violence 24.4%, unstable political systems 14.4%, civil wars 11.1%, poverty 7.7%, and social disorder 5.5%. The three newspapers provided minimal coverage to culture 4.4% and totally ignored African sports.
  • Al-Ahram’s appeared Coverage
  • Al Ahram provided more than half the coverage of the Sub-Saharan African region.
  • But 24.4% of the coverage appeared in the Arab affairs section of the newspaper and not the international or news section.
  • In other words, Al Ahram provided more coverage to the Arab Sub-Saharan African countries such as Sudan and Somalia.
  • The other countries were covered in the sports section.
  • Al-Ahram’s appeared Coverage (Continued)
  • Al Ahram covered the region from a different viewpoint which could be allocated to issues of proximity.
  • Throughout its coverage of the Sub-Saharan African countries, Al-Ahram emphasized the diplomatic and trade ties with other African countries.
  • Final Remarks appeared
  • Although UNDP (2006) statistics show that of the 30 million HIV positive people worldwide, 21 million are in Sub Saharan Africa, only 4.4% of the stories mentioned AIDS in the content.
  • This contradicts the previous studies and the reason could simply be attributed to previous AIDS overexposure.
  • The image of the war-torn, violent, and unstable region is clearly dominant in the media's coverage of Africa's Sub-Sahara. In addition to providing minimal coverage to one of the world's most populated continents, newspapers in the West focus on subjects that portray the backwardness of the this large African region.
  • References appeared
  • Domatob, Jerry. (1994). "Coverage of Africa in American Popular Magazines." A Journal of Opinion, Vol.22, No.1. (Winter-Spring), pp.24-29.
  • Hachten, William A (1971a). Muffled Drums. Iowa State University Press. Ames:Iowa.
  • Knickmeyer, Ellen (2005). "Darfur Fits Into a Pattern of Reporting Neglect." Nieman Reports (Summer), pp 113-114.
  • Montrat, Myriam (1994). "From the Heart of An African." Journal of Public Opinion. Vol. 22, No.1 (winter), pp.5-6.
  • Ogundimu, Folu (1994), "Images of Africa on U.S. Television: Do You Have Problems with That?" A Journal of Opinion, Vol.22, No.1. (Winter-Spring), pp.7-11.
  • Ricchiardi, Sherry (2006). "The Limits of the Parachute." American Journalism Review, Oct/Nov, Vol.28, Issue 5.p.40-47.
  • Sawhney, Harmeet (2002) "Global Economy and International Telecommunications Networks" in Global Communication edited by Yahya R.Kamalipour. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth
  • Schraeder, Peter J. & Brian Endless (1998). "The Media and Africa: The Portrayal of Africa in the New York Times (1955-1995). A Journal of Opinion, Vol.26, No.2, The Clinton Administration and Africa (1993-1999), pp.29-35.
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