Africa Notes: Africa in the U.S. Media: A Glass Half Full or Half Empty? - April 1996
April 1, 1996
Over the years, U.S. media coverage of Africa has been excoriated for a dearth of news stories about the continent and for the impression that such reportage as does take place too often emphasizes negative news. But the media (although obviously playing a pivotal role in influencing U.S. perceptions of the rest of the world, including Africa) do not deserve all the blame for U.S. pessimism regarding the continent. Other constituencies including governmental, academic, ethnic, and developmental groups-also influence U.S. views of Africa. Another factor is "channel surfing" on the part of American news consumers; when faced with yet another civil unrest or starvation story, many Americans soon want to go on to something else. In this connection, Cable News Network (CNN) world affairs correspondent Ralph Begleiter describes the network's goal as "opening windows for Americans" and compares CNN coverage to a stage light: "During a crisis, CNN is there with an intense light for a short period of time . . . saturating the viewer with not only the issue but with the culture and ethnicity factors; then the network is off to another issue."