This article was first published by The Observer.
Africa will always be painted as a hopeless place by the Western media as long as the African media fails to tell the stories of innovation and industry on the continent, Trevor Ncube, an accomplished media entrepreneur and publisher, said on Wednesday.
Speaking at the inaugural annual Media and Politics in Africa lecture at Golf Course hotel, Zimbabwean Ncube, said the African media had become bystanders as Western media (mis)reported the continent’s affairs.
“We should not expect the Western media to tell our story. Criticising the Western media for the way they tell our story has not changed the way they tell it,” he said at the lecture, organised by the African Centre for Media Excellence (ACME).
Ncube (pronounced “Nube”), said African media needed to focus more on stories of the ordinary person, as opposed to chronicling the tape-cutting engagements of politicians. This bias, he said, had contributed to the dwindling newspaper sales across the continent.
Ncube, however, said it does not make the African media less patriotic if they objectively report on the challenges that afflict the continent or when they question the notion that “Africa is rising,” an expression normally used by the Western media to show that development is finally taking root in Africa.
Earlier, Bernard Tabaire, the director of programmes at ACME, said the annual lecture would serve as a platform for cultural and intellectual debate amongst Uganda’s media practitioners.
“Ignorance should never be an option,” Tabaire said.
The three-hour lecture, moderated by Robert Kabushenga, the Vision Group chief executive officer, was attended by media owners, practitioners and academics, communications professionals, and civil society activists, among others.
Ncube, who holds a controlling stake in Mail & Guardian, a South Africa -based media house, said it is a shame that sections of media in Africa had become cheerleaders whenever rights of the minorities, like gays, are being abused. The media’s role, he said should be to expose all forms of bigotry and point out the hypocrisy of people who might want to use certain issues for selfish interests.
“For us as continent which has suffered slavery and colonialism, our prejudice against gays was indication that we had not learned anything from our suffering,” said Ncube, a self-confessed born-again Christian.
Sometimes, he said, the majority is not right. Ncube added that corruption had eaten into the heart of the media and, like a critically-ill person, our integrity and reputation are in the “intensive care unit.” Nobody will take journalists seriously as long as there is thinking that they are paid by politicians to write certain stories.
Social media, he said, had poked holes into the notion that traditional media “gives voice to the voiceless” because anybody with a Twitter or Facebook account essentially has a voice. Still, he cautioned that there was too much “junk” on the internet, making it an unreliable medium.
Ncube challenged media houses to strive to be profitable, so that they are able to cover the issues they are so passionate about.