2014 - Fall

Issues and Ideas: Covering Sub-Saharan Africa

Course Number: JOUR-UA 505.001

Day & Time: Monday 3:30pm-6:00pm

Location: 20 Cooper Square, room 655

Instructor: Frankie Edozien

Challenges, Issues and Ideas in Covering Sub-Saharan Africa

Africa covers a vast area of 55 countries and 1.1 billion inhabitants. There are countries that are emerging economic powers and heading towards industrialization. In other cases, some countries are taking the lead in developing technology hubs, and testing out new forms of mobile banking and virtual money. Other countries wield considerable “soft power” via their film, music and contemporary culture and they are driving the way Africans present themselves to the world.

Comprehensive coverage of Africa is scant. The sparse coverage is often a variation of an incomplete portrait that has dominated the Western media for the last 50 years: tales of starvation, political instability and disease are mainstays. There is often little or no historical or political context in most of this coverage.

This course will provide students with an understanding of contemporary issues around the various regions on the African continent. We will examine the role of religion, including religious extremism that has led to the near- splintering of several societies; the struggles to develop viable democratic models; cultural norms and practices; and issues of economic development and empowerment. We will focus on the challenges of telling stories from Sub-Saharan Africa that are not the same old stories, with the same tired clichés.

We will accomplish this by reading works that combine history, political analysis and narrative journalism. This historical and political background will help students to eventually write about the region with depth and nuance, and to evaluate the coverage that they read. In addition, we will analyze the evolution and implications of the myriad of U.S. foreign policy actions on the African continent.

Today, Africa is poised for an era of political and cultural renewal. The continent’s population is expected to double by 2050 and its influence on the world stage is growing.

We will discuss the challenges of reporting from regions with competing narratives, authoritarian regimes that have little respect for a free press, and places where journalists must work under constant danger. We also will strive to on occasion have guest speakers who have worked as foreign correspondents or editors managing coverage of Africa. By the end of this course, you will hopefully be a more informed reader and analyst of events in the continent.