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  1. 1. 1 REPORTING AFRICA IN THE GLOBAL AGE: THE DIFFERENCE GLOBALISATION MAKES An Essay Exam on Fall 2008 Course: REPORTING GLOBAL CHANGE By AUSTEN UCHE UWOSOMAH Instructor: Hans-Henrik Holm, Professor of World Politics, Danish Sch. of Journalism / Aarhus University
  2. 2. 2 Introduction Countries the world over are now reaching crescendo in interrelations due to universal pruning of restrictions on flow of all facets of human activities across territorial borders of earth for maximal international relations. This bloom in international relations further paves way for a better term to describe the radical evolvement of international movement of all the facets of human activities from multi trans-border regions to a trans- global throttle. It is perhaps because of this that the term ‘globalization’ was hatched to describe the phenomena. However, for the purpose of this essay, ‘globalization’ will be viewed from positions made by two scholars videlicet: Jan Aart Scholte and Nick Bisley with recourse to their individual definitions of globalisation; their definitions’ differences and similarities; how their definitions are useful to international reporting and the difference that globalization makes in terms of reporting of Africa. Scholte’s Definition Scholte (2005:49) likens globalization to ‘globality’. He describes it as a centripetal constriction of the social space
  3. 3. 3 and time between earthly people due to “the spread of tranplanetary- and in recent times and also more particularly supraterritorial connections between people” In his explanation, ‘tranplanetary’ “refers to social links between people located at points anywhere on earth.” That is the ‘transworld’ social contact that “…is manifested across multiple areas of social life…” all of which can go any where but perhaps not everywhere due to marks on some territorial limitations. Also, he describes supraterritoriality as “social connections that substantially transcend territorial geography”. Like when human social activities further transcend territorial limitations to become transworld occurrence making them “transworld simultaneity and instantaneity”. Bisley’s Definition Bisley (2007:30) hinges his definition of globalization on the vast array of the interconnected changes it has caused in the spheres of human life. Bisley did not suffice a concrete definition. Rather, he explains that globalization is “a set of related social, political and economic consequences of a series of transformation in the social world, though the causal
  4. 4. 4 character of relationships is uneven and often very unclear”. Bisley means that globalization is a manifest consequence due to mediating factors like reduced cost of mobility and increased speed and rate in the flow of social life and its activities across the world. He says changes in social life practices as a result of globalization have produced a set of consequences which has in turn influenced the social behaviour of institutions in the world order. He infers that concern should be on the effect in human behaviors that form sufficient volumes in the terrestrial flows and as well the institutions that are created to govern those behaviors. Definitions’ Similarities Their definitions’ meeting point is rooted in the commonality they both have with regards to planetary social movements and connections. Both definitions recognize the importance of human activities mobility and social space as platforms for globalization. And posit the state, multinational agencies and individuals as important actors. Also, both definitions recognize the supreme importance of the state as powerful dominant actor.
  5. 5. 5 Definitions’ Differences Differences in the duo definitions can be viewed from the standpoint of Scholte’s underpinning of globalization on the tranplanetary and supraterritorial connections between peoples of the world; the compression of social space and time due to massive improvement on technologies that have aided social life mobility and communication. (Scholte, 2005:49) Conversely, Bisley makes none of these underscores. He infers that while social space and time compression maters, but it does not form the main crux. Rather, concern should be on the way changes to patterns of economic and other social practices due to globalization, have aggregate flow on consequences for the social institutions that govern human life (Bisley, 2007:30). Definitions’ Usefulness to International Reporting from Africa International reporting practice means giving information and some kind of education and entertainment to the global audience. In addition to that, it also involves steering and anchoring opinion, keeping surveillance and as well setting
  6. 6. 6 agenda for global debate. Before globalization became catapulted to its present day frenzy, international news reporting, did not use the modern time sublunary (cyber space) media. It was limited to internationally circulated news journals and celestial transnational satellite radio and cable TV signals. International news reporting has now entered into the era of transplanetary and supraterritorial transverse within earth’s social space. The outcome of this development to international reporting of news across the world, is “…the rapid acceleration of communication that shows little regard for geographic constraints” (Harvey, 1989; Robertson, 1992). Both Scholte’s and Bisley’s concepts of globalization are useful to international reporting particularly from a far-reaching continent as Africa. According to Scholte (2005:62) “the global mass media spread messages simultaneously to transworld audiences”. Scholte by this is noting the shrink in social space. Africa is brought closer to the rest of the world via supraterritorial dissemination of news about the continent by international news organs to the global audiences. Thus news from Africa has become ubiquitous in the world. ‘Simultaneity’, ‘instantaneity’, ‘ubiquity’, are evidence of social space and time compression. However, this is not
  7. 7. 7 possible if social forces were not involved. Thus the institutions of people who are involved in the dissemination of news across the world; the other social structures that govern these institutions practice; and the people who make up the global audiences as well the social practices that ignite the events that are covered and reported as news from the continent have dominant influence and consequences on the way news from Africa is reported in the global age. Other imperatives are in terms of the level of understanding the world audience have about Africa. The editorial policy framework of international media structures and as well, perhaps most importantly, domestic journalistic gambits which manifest through localization of international news. Bisley recounts this when he reiterated Anthony Giddens’ submission of globalization as “the intensification of worldwide social relations which link distant localities in such a way that local happenings are shaped by events occurring many miles away and vice versa” (Giddens, 1996:64). Thus foreign news becomes influenced by the way the international media structures localize what they see and how they want to see it.
  8. 8. 8 The Difference that Globalization Makes in Reporting of Africa A visible impact of globalization is that political ideas, economic events and communication spread much more than before. As corollary, globalization with recourse to international reporting of news across the world has made tremendous difference to the practice particularly in the way news spread in terms of distance and time. The international mass media outlets have had need to recreate structural methodology in the pattern of news dissemination across the world. In strict professional journalism stance, the principles guiding news reporting behoove journalists to brandish news truthfully, accurately, fairly, objectively and comprehensively. But in this global age, it is not practicable to achieve all of these ingredients in actual news reports. Hence there is exemption of 'fairness and objectivity' particularly when it pertains to western media reportage on Africa. Globalization has given the international news media outlets soapboxes to further trumpet the age old style in which Africa was and is still being reported to the global audiences. Africa is a continent that has been and is still being plagued by both act-of-man and act-of-God woes. This is evidently seen in
  9. 9. 9 the myriad of the social and ecological problems that every now and then trigger off there. This is perhaps why it has become veritable newsworthy arena for western media journalists to perfect systemic unhealthy journalism that portrays Africa as perpetually ugly, bad and no good. Undoubtedly, western journalists would suddenly swoop down on Africa whenever any of the stereotypes of disease, famine, war, death, corruption scams, dictatorship antics, or others that the continent was and is globally known for occur. At this juncture, Occidental reporters’ interests are rekindled in the continent and of course then they would always balloon “the negative, giving scant regard to areas of notable progress, development and achievement. Almost like there is a desire to maintain an archaic and dire image of Africa. An image which it infact helped establish in the minds of its viewers since pre-slavery times.” (Belleh, 2006) Salisu Koki (2006) writing on, says “regrettably enough, the once valued and highly regarded Western media have slipped a bit from its renowned tradition of fair and balanced reporting, most especially when it comes to reporting issues pertaining to Africa and Africans.” Reiterating, Belleh (2006) adds “the western media continues
  10. 10. 10 to have a field day at Africa's expense, doing a great disservice to Africa undermining its history, rich culture and tradition and overall historical contribution to world affairs”. Western media may not entirely be at fault for the gross discredit it makes on Africa. Perhaps the preconception their audiences back home have of Africa is desirous of nothing short of what they have from time immemorial become wont to. Assenting, Sis. Margaret (2008) says: “Africa simply lives in their imaginations because the media fathom their audiences and do very good job telling them what they want to hear, see, or read… No one can blame them for selecting stories and images their people like.” So reporting about Africa by the western media for the global audiences has remained the same even in this global age just as it had been in yore times. Globalization has made no iota of difference on the way Africa is being reported in the global age. In fact, one of the things globalization did to international news reporting is to create more audiences in the global social space. Consequently, there are more audiences ever than before who are exposing themselves to global media reportage. Now there has become wide spread global
  11. 11. 11 awareness of Africa’s stereotyped epidemic, endemic or pandemic outbreaks in world news. A glaring short term impact effect of the foregoing is that it led to the world’s social force into a frenzy of global compassion for the continent. Social institutions particularly of individuals, non governmental organizations including multinational corporations and political structures which make up the global audiences developed empathy in coming to the rescue of Africa whenever the international media reportage shows it is once again struck by any of the stereotypical problems it is known for. The global audiences see and hear, and they do same thing often through donating money to be sent to Africa. In the same vein, the continual surly style reporting of the international media about Africa stretched the compassion of the global audiences to a point of fatigue. And globalization stepped in to globally cement the compassion fatique in the behaviour of the global audience. People “became unintentionally dispassionate to human suffering caused not by their innate character but rather a natural tendency to get worn out seeing one and the same thing and doing one and the same thing without changes”. Referring to what Moeller (1999) cites: “been there, done that …everybody is Africa’d out for
  12. 12. 12 the moment…..that the problem has returned might seem a slap in the face of philanthropy”. Compassion fatigue is thus a consequence of the over flogging of the Africa’s many woes in global news media of international news mongers. And globalization has helped to inadvertently make it global. Conclusion Bearing in mind the difference globalization has made in terms of reporting of Africa, Scholte’s and Bisley’s definitions of globalization might help in suggesting some inferences. From Scholte’s standpoint, a glaring impact of globalization is that it increased the spread of Occidental journalists to Africa (tranplanetary) as well as dissemination of news from Africa to many farther continents across the world (supraterritorial). Bisley is right when he said that the consequence of globalization is tantamount to better way of fathoming the term itself. The rate in the flow of journalistic media reporting of Africa across the world changes social life practices. As a result, social behaviours are influenced. The compassion fatique situation is a veritable example. To large extent, the continual globalizing of empathic media coverage from Africa
  13. 13. 13 by international news mongers to the world audience gave open way to compassion fatique. (Word count: 2,000) References Belleh, Raymond Tarek (2006) The Western Media and Its Exploitation of Africa Bisley, Nick (2007) Rethinking Globalization, New York: Palgrave. Koki, Salisu Ahmed (2006) Western Media and Africa: Balanced Reporting? www.english/ Moeller, Susan D. (1999) Compassion Fatigue. How the Media Sell Disease, Famine, War and Death, New York: Routledge. Scholte, Jan Aart (2005) “Defining globalization”, in Scholte, Globalization, (2005) 2 Ed., New York: Palgrave. Sis. Margaret (2008) Poverty in Africa: The solution