sensationalism gives me headaches
I generally like Guardian Africa correspondent David Smith's coverage of the continent. It's not just the same-old, same-old; he writes stories about web access in South Africa and getting Nigerian chiefs whose ancestors engaged in the slave trade to apologize. Smith is generally able to avoid the "Africa: Land of Rape and Lions" m.o. For that, I'm grateful.
But this report from Congo, well, um, oh, dear:
Is there anywhere in Africa to rival the mystery and mystique of Congo? Henry Stanley explored there, Joseph Conrad's Mr Kurtz went mad there, and Muhammad Ali fought there.That's quite a few tropes for one sentence, don't you think?
But that's maybe to be expected from a Congo first-timer. I remember how disconcerting it was to walk across the border for the first time (especially since that resulted in my detention a few minutes later.)
Meanwhile, The Kristof is in South Kivu this week. He posted this bit of needless sensationalism on his blog late last week:
I’m overnighting in Rwanda, heading overland to Congo right now. It’s one of the most important and neglected humanitarian stories in the world, and I hope I can shine a light on it. If you have some issues you’d like me to look into, let me know.There is so much wrong with these two short paragraphs that it's hard to know where to begin. Oh, wait. I know:
Rwanda is always a lovely stop. Kigali is a clean, lovely city (plastic bags are banned), where you can safely take taxis. ...And now off to the much messier, bloodier world of Congo….
- You can safely take a taxi in Bukavu. In fact, a shared taxi system is the way most Bukavans get around. You stand on the side of the street facing the direction you want to go (On the main drag, the Avenue Patrice Lumumba, your choices are "to the border" and "away from the border"), hail a cab, negotiate a price, and ride.
- You can say a lot of things about how awful the DRC conflict is. But calling it underreported is just incorrect, especially when your newspaper runs a piece about rape in the Congo on a regular basis. I got 112 stories in the international press from the last month by searching "rape Congo" on Google news. That's not underreporting.
- That you can't see the blood doesn't mean that Rwanda isn't messy as well. Or that substantial parts of the mess in Congo aren't directly to related to decisions made in Kigali. Failing to tell the whole story is bad journalism.
(Thanks to @alunmcdonald for the tip on the Guardian piece)
Labels: the kristof strikes again