Fear vs love. Them and us vs we. The number of Ebola cases has now exceeded 25,000 with over ten thousand deaths; about 9000 cases in Liberia with almost 4000 deaths. Liberia reported no new cases last week while the virus continues to spread in Guinea and Sierra Leone. An unprecedented crisis.
And we still are not getting it right. On March 25, 2015, a letter was sent to the Executive Producer CBS 60 Minutes signed by 150 journalists and professors “expressing grave concern about the frequent and recurring misrepresentation of the African continent by 60 Minutes.” Regarding the coverage of Ebola in Liberia, the letter states:
“In that broadcast, Africans were reduced to the role of silent victims. They constituted what might be called a scenery of misery: people whose thoughts, experiences and actions were treated as if totally without interest. Liberians were shown within easy distance of (reporter) Logan, including some Liberian she had spoken about, and yet not a single Liberian was quoted in any capacity.
Liberian not only died from Ebola, but many of them contributed bravely to the fight against the disease, including doctors, nurses and other caregivers, some of whom gave their lives in this effort. Despite this, the only people heard from on the air were white foreigners who had come to Liberia to contribute to the fight against the disease.
Taken together this anachronistic style of coverage reproduces, in condensed form, many of the worst habits of modern American journalism on the subject of Africa. To be clear, this means that Africa only warrants the public’s attention when there is disaster or human tragedy on an immense scale, when Westerners can be elevated to the role of central characters, or when it is a matter of that perennial favorite, wildlife. As a corollary, Africans themselves are typically limited to the role of passive victims, or occasionally brutal or corrupt villains and incompetents; they are not otherwise shown to have any agency or even the normal range of human thoughts and emotions. Such a skewed perspective not only disserves Africa, it also badly disserves the news viewing and news reading public.”
The documentary I am working on, Liberians for Liberia, Ebola and Beyond, will be exactly the opposite of this 60 Minutes coverage. Fellow members of our human family will share their personal stories. I am so blessed and honored to be able to introduce them to all of you.
With love and gratitude ~ Deborah