Journalism in Africa: Mud-caked feet in, Cigarettes out

Her ambition was one day to be able to move on to the much More profitable trade of selling sweets and Cigarettes. My copy came back with the Cigarettes ...

South of Westhas a great post about how Western news organisations sometimes try to impose their own views of Africa on to the reports that come in from the field. Kenya is awash with refugees at the moment following the election violence. The only thing is that these refugees don't fit the traditional picture of dust-coveRed, desperate refugees. Desperate they may be, but some of them were actually quite well off and well dressed before they were forced to leave their homes. According to South of West, one journalist covering the refugee crisis noticed his news desk had decided there wasn't enough emotional detail in his report. So they made up and inserted a line about a refugee girl having bare feet caked in mud - despite the fact that an accompanying photo clearly showed the girl wearing a new pair of shoes. Of course, this kind of "editing" doesn't just happen in newspapers. I once wrote an article for an aid agency about a street girl who made her living by shining shoes in Addis Ababa. She was saving up to get on in the world, I reported. Her ambition was one day to be able to move on to the much More profitable trade of selling sweets and Cigarettes. My copy came back with the Cigarettes line edited out. Cigarette selling, I was told by the person who edited my story, was not an "appropriate" trade for a street child to be engaged in.

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