Wednesday, 30 January 2008

On the press

I've been reading some more of the Western press's coverage of Kenya. It's a curate's egg - some good, some bad. One enthusiastic headline writer in the Independent announced that we were sliding into civil war. The article underneath the headline said no such thing. Obviously, the headline writer was more bothered about penning something catchy, or something that fitted his view of how things ought to play out in an African country, rather than being faithful to the article.

This led me to reflect. On a small number of occasions in life, we get to be close or close-ish to something that gets reported in the press. In my experience, whenever this happens (whether to me or someone else), what gets reported is at best simplistic, distorted through being shoved into the mould of the press's view of the world, or at worst downright wrong. When I talk to friends about their experiences, they say the same thing.

I increasingly find myself thinking that if this is the case for all the incidences where I have personal knowledge of the situation - how accurate is the rest likely to be? Increasingly I find myself reading the newspapers more critically - looking both for the facts reported, and for which parts are the copy writer's own interpretation; and asking myself why the writer has presented things that way.

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