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Mediascape: Journalism notes for vultures

Vultures are journalists.

These fellows are better journalists than any on our mediascape for one thing: they can pick out a dying story long before it does.

Which is precisely why any intelligent practitioner of vulture-journalism that perched on a tree next to Africa, fork and toothpick ready for the next big coronavirus story from ‘the dark continent’ must be gathering their feathers to fly back home by now.

Ah, but, we digress. Let’s stick to KISSing- keeping it short and simple.

Truth is, the global mediascape is awash with pre-meditated coronavirus headlines from Africa.

From “Experts warn that Africa could be the next epicenter of coronavirus” to “Africans will be dropping dead on the streets,” a number of journalists out there, especially the breed that still cannot figure out if Kenya is the capital of Nairobi, or the other way around, had their headlines and story lines drawn in advance.

To prepare their audiences for ‘The next big story from Africa’, a number of ‘waiting vultures’ reminded us that  Africa’s health facilities are ‘nonexistent,’  that Africa’s economies were ‘crumbling’ and that many African countries are ‘still struggling with ravaging drought, hunger and disease…’

Give it to this particular brand of vultures – they had, unlike some of our local reporting that cites studies from planet Jupiter – convincing proof to explain why any vulture needing the next juicy piece of news must patiently wait on some tree branch in Africa.

So they cited Zimbabwe, and as an example of crumbled economy now a ‘time bomb for coronavirus’; the HIV-AIDS prevalence in South Africa, pushing the argument that hey, these guys are already too weak, coronavirus is coming to finish them off, then we, clever practitioners of vulture-journalism, will have the next award winning story.

Anyone who questioned the allure of the next big story from Africa was reminded that ‘more blacks than whites (hey, what is the difference between a dead black and a dead white?) were dying in the US. One report citing ‘latest study’ said Britons of ‘Africa descent’ (whatever that means) were dying ‘three times more than white Britons’ from coronavirus. (Yes, three times, means on a scale of dead-deader and deadest, ‘Britons of African descent’ were ‘the deadest.)

Now, we cannot argue with such ‘facts’, or can we?

Even as Africa’s coronavirus figures ‘refused’ to shoot up as the vultures in the global mediascape had predicted, they still sat on, waiting, drooling, fork and knife ready.

Suddenly, we were in Ethiopia back in in 1993, with Kevin Carter, waiting to take the shot of the award winning ‘The struggling girl’ for the  New York Times on March 26, 1993, and silently wondering why it was taking the vulture too long to pounce, to start feeding on ‘Africa’s next big story..’

Ooops, sorry, we digress.

Point is, as the people controlling the coronavirus narrative in Africa’s mediascape, nay, Kenya’s mediascape, we risk losing this narrative to the Western mediascape, to various ‘Africa correspondents’ quickly dispatched with ready scripts that only need a headline, that had already been crafted by some ‘Africa editor’ who thinks Africa is a country, and Kenya is the capital of Nairobi.

One does not have to have a wild imagination to figure out the agenda in some coronavirus coverage editorial meetings in Shanghai, London, Paris, Rome, Madrid and New York: ‘This week we are following the story of Africa as the next epicenter of coronavirus. We already have the headline but we need someone out there to take the pictures. Our headline shall be ‘Africans dropping dead on the streets as coronavirus takes over from hunger and disease as the continent’s biggest killer.’

‘Reporters and camera crew, air tickets are ready. Please liaise with our local Africa correspondents in Kenya, Nairobi, but remember, they are not in charge, we are. Happy hunting!’

And when the script, the actors and the setting failed to fall in place, when the ‘Africa correspondents’ suddenly realized that ‘kwa ground things ni different; when the much promised three-course vulture-journalism meal on the next biggest African coronavirus story was fading fast; when the movie-goers were yawning and moving on to the next corona story, frantic vultures tried to push the narrative on with ‘chaotic lockdowns etc.’

They gleefully dispatched pictures of armed police beating up fellows who defied corona-induced curfews in Kenya, Uganda, South Africa, replete with interviews of fellows saying they would rather die of coronavirus than die of police brutality, and activists screaming that they prefer death from coronavirus than death from ‘violation of basic freedoms.’

We are all for freedom here, and shall faithfully report on which freedom is better, the freedom of the dead or the freedom of the oppressed.

Ah, but we digress again.

Here’s the point for so long, African crisis narratives have been pushed by unAfrican coverage – from civil wars, coups, hunger, Ebola and HIV and Aids ‘epidemic.’

Then comes coronavirus, and suddenly, the old mediascape script does not seem to be falling into place anymore.

Unless we climb down from our towers, stop being lazy and quit relying on a pre-scripted African coronavirus narratives written elsewhere, we might end up with one headline: ‘Coronavirus started in Africa: Study says.’

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