Ladybrille® Blogazine


Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Waiting for the Western Media to Change

In one of musician John Mayer's recently released songs, which is a hit on the radios and music charts, he says, "We keep on waiting, waiting for the world to change." I find his song very applicable when it comes to how Africans want to be perceived in Western media.We keep on waiting, waiting and waiting for Western media to change when it comes to telling the stories about Africa and Africans in a positive and sophisticated light. Meanwhile while we wait, most of us have nodded our heads so vigorously till we have migraines, as we discuss, analyze, further analyze and engage in over intellectualizing/sub-sub analysis on the African image[s] in Western media.

However, there comes a time where Africans themselves must heed the calling of Ex-United States President John F. Kennedy [JFK]. JFK in his inaugural speech of 1961 said, "And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country."
Frankly, while Western media has an obligation to be as objective as possible in reporting news about Africa and Africans, it does not owe Africans or any other minority group for that matter the obligation to tell their positive stories. Africans themselves must tell their own positive stories. Yes Western media, for the most part, shows only negative images of Africans that stigmatizes us but can we move beyond that and get to work?!
To African consumers in the West, which means all of us, there are lots of independently owned African magazines and publications popping up each year. These magazines need support to be successful. An enlightening NPR piece a few years back by Jack Speer titled "New Magazines Target Niche Audience" states 60% of new publications do not survive their first birthday. Needless to say, it becomes particularly difficult for when a publication is new, its target audience is quite narrow and that target audience is unresponsive. It would be only a matter of time before the publication goes out of business, regardless of their wonderful intentions, it boils down to numbers, at some point.
To African celebrities,especially in the music and fashion industries, if you want to see your images in Western fashion and entertainment pages, step up your fashion style. If you have to hire an image consultant/stylist, do so! You make our jobs easier when we receive images of you and it looks presentable. By the way, while we are at it, presentation is everything. A press kit matters. Media, especially in the West, whether African owned or not, cannot process information about you when it is all over the place. Get a press packet together and hire a media/publicity person to manage you.
"A picture is worth a thousand words" is a common adage that makes African photographers in Africa very important. A celebrity/model/designer can look great but if there are no images to accompany a story, it ain't going nowhere. Western photographers are not going to hop on a plane to Africa to go capture African celebrity images. African photographers, particularly in Africa, would be the ones to liason with African Public Relations agencies/persons to provide strong images to Western and African focused publications in the West. African photographers should also seek to liason with Western photographers and work on improving their skills. If the photo ain't great, it will not be used. There are obviously more things we can do to rebrand our images and identities in Western media. The other option is to wait, wait some more and keep on waiting for Western media to change.


Susan Solomon said...

Yes, yes yes...

I am a North American public relations professional who wants to help young p.r. people in Africa. I have applied to Univ. of Ghana to teach there....hopefully, will help (in a small way) to make a difference. said...

Sussol, awesome! That's a big move and I applaud you. It's also a great place because the country's fashion industry is growing so rapidly. Keep me posted. Will check your site out!

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