Is the famine in Africa too boring for media coverage?

Refugee camp in Dadaab, Kenya: Courtesy Dr. Alastair Summerlee

The media find African famine boring.

I cringed when I heard the President of the University of Guelph, Dr. Alastair Summerlee, express that sentiment at a conference I recently attended. Not because I thought he was wrong, but because I was worried he was right.

That’s the beginning of an article I wrote for J-Source on how the media is covering the famine in Somalia, and the humanitarian crisis that bleeds into refugee camps in Kenya. You can find the full story here. But it doesn’t end with the J-Source piece.

I wanted to write the article and talk with Dr. Summerlee so that I could see if there are ways to connect him with mainstream media–and help him find alternatives that will allow him to tell his own story and shed light on the suffering of thousands.

Refugee camp in Dadaab, Kenya: Courtesy Dr. Alastair Summerlee


I also talked to CBC’s Brian Stewart who is, quite literally, a wealth of information on the topic of covering African famine and have attached his full interview transcript as a public service 🙂

Brian Stewart interview

Working on this article brought up many issues I have discussed on this blog before: media basing story coverage on perceived public interest in an effort to maintain ratings, lack of resources in newsrooms, media dropping the ball on important stories because they’re hard to cover, and, perhaps most importantly, why we should be looking to ordinary citizens doing extraordinary things to help fill the gaps in news coverage as we know it.

And all of this served as a reminder of how truly important it is to ensure that as many voices as possible, contribute as many stories as possible, on topics that really matter.


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