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2Mar

We Are Responsible For Telling Our Stories

We Are Bright, We Are Colourful But Are We One?

As a journalist, you come across different kinds of people and experience different situations. When I decided to make Africa one of my focus areas in journalism, it was because I realised there are too many negative stories about Africa out there. The bad press has done us no good because it forever reinforces the negative stereotypes. Sometimes we are to blame for we create situations that make a mockery of us. Jacob Zuma being the best example that comes to mind right now, but his ‘wifey’ mission is a topic for another blog. Let me go one better, the political ‘mumu’ situation in Nigeria does not help things either.

I remember when I first came to London, I would get compliments that my grasp of the English language is very good, especially when the other party realised it was a second language for me. I saw and took it as a compliment but after a while it got on my nerve because to me, it was just English, you don’t need two heads to learn or know it. I mean, for crying out loud, after all the beatings I got at school and my father telling me, failure is not what he was paying tuition fees for, I buckled up and got in the game. I do not for one minute deny there are people who still have to learn the language in order to communicate better in an English speaking country. However, I do think, we need to stop making it look like mission impossible or that because an individual cannot speak English, there are lesser than us.

My choice of image today, shows a colourful and beautiful African Map. Don’t you just wish, you heard more colourful and bright stories, same way the doom and gloom of Africa circulates so easily. So, here I am, trying to make this journalism gig work for  me but I have come to realise that no matter how much I want to tell positive stories about Africa, be it about Nigeria, Kenya or any part of Africa, it won’t change much because the machines that roll out the negative stories are biger than me. But that will not make me give up. I do not intend to sit on a story that may be negative and not talk about it either…that would be against everything that journalism is about for me.

I know I cannot change the world and I am not for one second naive about the fact that there are negative stories which must be told. For journalism is about accountability, at least, that’s what I was taught. We hold our politicans accountable and make them answer for their decisons and actions. We expose the wrong doings in our society and inform people. We also entertain them with light hearted stories. However, where do you draw the line and what do you do when some media machines have made up their minds that all they will ever tell are the negative stories? Who then fights to make sure the good stories are told?

I have been doing a lot of observing lately and I find that when you mention the word Africa or African in some journalism related situations, be it pitching or trying to get a story or an interview, the stakes sometimes become so high. It is either you end up with a situation where you want to pull your hair out or use the F-Word…Imagine having to justify why you should get an interview with anyone…if the publication it is for has Africa/African in it? Let it be known that publications aimed at the African Diaspora or those in Africa are not ‘Second Class publications.’

It is to this, that I say we are truly responsible for telling our stories, be it the good, the bad or the ugly because no one else is going to do this for us. The same way you are responsible for yourself as an individual is the same way, we as Africans are responsible for ourselves as a continent. We may not be one big nation, for we are a continent with many countries, tribes and languages but we need to start telling the stories of the different places we hail from in our own little way.

Sometimes, what I find confusing is when you get people of African descent who work for media outlets in the West and they have this notion that they are better than journalists based in Africa and so have this condescending attitude that makes me sick to my stomach.  Some think they are can tell the story better, I am sure they do on some stories but you cannot forget the journey you have been on and the resources you have at your disposal. However, for those on the ground, that should be no excuse for bad journalism either. We must learn to tell stories in a forthright manner and ensure responsible reporting.

I am of the opinion that, what we fail to realise is that, this is not us against them. It does not have to be that way and we need not make it that way.  It is simply us telling our story. I know there are people, who say, it is not their responsibility to tell positive stories about Africa because these stories have always been there and will always be there. That’s okay, tell the story you want to tell but be ready to dance to the music when you read another negative story written by a non-African. Don’t get angry about it for that would be wrong.  I am by no means suggesting anyone censor themselves…but when you tell the bad, tell the good also…balance is such an easy word to say but a hard act to pull off.

My aim was to keep this as short as possible for this is a topic I hope to write more about at a later date. But my stance is still the same, we are responsible for telling our own stories for no one else will.

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6 Responses to “We Are Responsible For Telling Our Stories”

  1. enisio says:

    Agree wholeheartedly! I couldn’t have expressed these sentiments as eloquently as you did but it is a subject that is near and dear to me. We absolutely must tell our own stories!

  2. Belinda Otas says:

    Thank you…and so we must.

  3. Deborah says:

    I also truly agree with you…

  4. leine says:

    I really like the map, might pinch it from you.
    I admire your determination, the bad press machine is so huge! It must be disheartening sometimes, but keep on. Even people of African people (like me) who haven’t lived in their home country for long, need that type of journalism, to have a more balanced view of where they come from. Journalism should not be solely Eurocentric nor Afrocentric.

    Thanks 🙂

  5. Belinda Otas says:

    Thanks Leine…you have have the pic, I pinched it lol!!!

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