How to Communicate In A Crowded Universe

IMAGINE how many unwanted messages you receive in your inbox each day; messages that you simply trash away without bothering to check. Yet some person at the other end of the chain is pampering themselves that they have done their job to communicate whatever it is they have at hand, so to speak. Is the golden age promised by the Internet for communicators over? Continue reading

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101 for Campaigning for Human Rights in Africa

WHAT does it mean to campaign for internationally recognized human rights in sub Saharan which is chock-filled with rampant human violations? Does it mean that because governments in the region violate human rights willy-nilly, there should be no concerted effort to engage in a campaign for their recognition.

It is not enough to feel outrage when we learn of the number of children exploited sexually or at work, of refugees or of those suffering from hunger. We must react, each one of us to the best of our abilities. It is not just a matter of looking at what government is doing – Federico Mayor, former UNESCO Director-General

Human rights are often misunderstood and can sometimes be seen as abstract ideals with not much practical relevance for real people. And there is no doubt that the rampant abuse of human rights in Africa only serves to worsen the inequalities and vulnerabilities of individuals and communities.

The promotion of social justice and the culture of peace in Africa is of paramount importance but doing the job can be quite a risky business. And, of course, not so many people are willing to put their lives on the line. It’s understandable.

There are many stories of people who have disappeared in the night never to be seen again, of daylight murders, of state impunity that fill the majority of the citizens of the continent with terror. Continue reading

Diabetes in Africa: The Silent Killer That’s Everyone’s Business

Diabetes is a silent killer in Africa. In comparison to other diseases such as AIDS or malaria among others, diabetes rarely makes any news headlines. Neither does it attract funding. Yet, the statistics of people affected by the disease in the continent are quite shocking and merit public health and policy-making and funding attention.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), approximately 10 million people in Africa have diabetes. The disease is also ranked as the fourth leading cause of death in developing countries, and the number of people suffering from diabetes is expected to rise to almost 20 million by 2025.

The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) contends that diabetes is already a major public health problem in Africa and its impact is bound to increase significantly if nothing is done to curb the rising rate of impaired glucose tolerance (IGT), which now exceeds 16% in some countries.

In addition, IDF projects that the prevalence rate will shoot up by 95 percent by 2010 from the current 0.5 to 3 percent range across the continent.

“Many people, including children, die from lack of insulin, and it is likely that many die of diabetes before even being diagnosed, let alone treated,” states the IDF. “Still more suffer debilitating consequences of diabetes such as amputation and blindness.”

For many people in Africa, diabetes is not a major concern. Compounded with little public health information about diabetes, many people wait until it’s too late to seek medical attention for diabetes.

Continue reading

Wired Journalism for Africa: Making It Work

The emergence of online digital tools have dramatically revolutionized the traditional story-telling and publishing model. Rather than merely rely on text and pictures, journalism has an opportunity to open readers or audiences to a revolutionary interactive experience.

 

Also, production is highly low cost. In todays’ digital storytelling environment, a combination of sound, images, and video can be utilized to enliven the process of storytelling.

 

In itself, this approach enhances the interactivity of a specific digital platform, thereby increasing the levels of dialogue and conversation.

 

Unlike the traditional journalistic model in which news is seen as a product to be created and delivered to audiences, online digital tools largely involve audiences playing an active part in defining the meaning of news.

 

“The audience decides what journalism they want. It always has. And the journalism that people want today has nothing to do with gatekeeping. Unfettered access to information and unparalleled interaction with that information is today’s standard,” says Mark Briggs in an article titled “Raising the Ante: The Internet’s Impact on Journalism Education”.

 

According to Briggs, journalists today lack the skills required for building the multi-dimensional story-telling model.

 

“The ability to recognize and make sense of so many sources of information, rumor and speculation – and to publicly interact with those sources – are new skills that many journalists do not possess,” he says.

 

The challenge in today’s digitalized environment is to create a news model that facilitates dialogue, and makes the audience participate in shaping the value of the conversation.

 

It is no longer a one way street.  

 

Journalism in today’s digital media environment, will be circular as opposed to a top-down model, in which readers and audiences are regarded as passive in the process of content creation.

 

The practice is more about creating an open space utilizing web technologies that can bring people together to address complex, important issues and achieve meaningful results among people.

 

In its ideal form, journalism seeks to inform, educate and empower citizens to be knowledgeable actors in decisions that affect their own well-being. Journalism is therefore an attempt to define reality.

 

In a wired environment, it is a fallacy to say that that privilege of content creation is the preserve of traditional journalists.

 

The internet has given citizen s the power to define their truths and share that information with the rest of the world.

 

Conversation-focused journalism is indeed the way of the future. In the developing, such models have to exist more traditional print methods.

 

Due to low connectivity, and adeptness to digital technology, many people still heavily rely on traditional means in spite of the apparent limitations.

 

Efforts to actively encourage and engage with audiences, particularly young people, need to be promoted. Furthermore, there is need for a platform that promotes the culture and identity of the target audiences.

 

Platforms must be designed and implemented in a fashion that energizes the target audiences to become active participants.

Aligning Citizen Journalism and Traditional Journalism

The advent of web 2.0 has result in the emergence of a cacophony of voices expressing themselves all over the web, giving rise to the the concept of “citizen journalism”.

 

In lay terms, citizen journalism refers to a form of recording events and issues by people who have neither conventional journalistic training or educational qualifications. Utilizing new web technologies, citizen journalists are able to reach to audiences and readers, just like traditional journalists.

 

Unlike proofessional journalists, citizen journalists are driven by the desire to tell their stories without necessarily pandering or adhering to institutional or organizational guidelines.

 

Moreover, the stories that citizen journalists tell do not have to follow traditional story-telling models that can be seen as restrictive on the one hand but in a way help to promote fairness and accuracy, on the other.

 

While the formlessless of citizen journalism allows for people to write as they consider fit to tell the story, it has also created a form of information chaos mainly on the web.

 

Citizen journalists do not have to adhere to standards or ethics, and are free to purvey information which has not undergone a filtering process to determine accuracy of content.

 

With citizen journalism, it is largely the preserve of the individual to define standards of telling the truth of the matter as closely as possible.

 

On the contrary, professional journalism is based on models that have been developed for a long period of time, and in many ways adheres to standards and ethics that ideally promote both fairness and accuracy.

 

However, as commercial interests have become a dominant force in traditional media, the traditional role of professional journalists to tell the full story has become increasinly eroded.

 

So, seen from another perspective, citizen journalism allows citizens to put the power back the hands of citizens because the models allows individuals to tell the story according to their own perspectives.

 

Ideally, both citizen and professional journalism have the same concern at their core: to get as much close to the truth as is possible through verbal and visual mediums.

 

Both models have inherent faultlines, and through a dialectical learning and collaborative process, each model has something to teach the other.

 

Put in other words, citizen journalism in its purest form is free from external interests, and is subject only to an individual’s desire to tell a perspective as they see it.

 

The fact that citizen journalism is all in an individual’s hands promotes freedom of expression but opens the model to abuse. Citizen journalists can easily fabricate and get away with it unlike professional journalists who have to adhere to a professional code of conduct and may face reparcations if they fabricate. Professional journalists may be forced to tell half-truths in order to protect commercial interests or purvey hegemonic stances.

 

In both cases, the quest for truth is what suffers, and humanity finds itself at a loss.

 

Thus, citizen journalism needs to borrow some of the standards and models that define traditional journalism without sacrificing the freedom of expression offered by new information technology platforms.

 

Likewise, professional journalism can incorporate the freedom to tell the story inherent in citizen journalism without losing traditional principles.

 

Therefore, citizen journalists can gain equality with professional journalist if they infuse principles and ethics of traditional journalism into their work.

 

Citizen journalists need to realize that they have a responsibility to be accurate and fair in the stories that they tell. Truth must not be sacrificed on the altar of freedom of expresion offered by pervasive Web 2.0 platforms.

 

Through a conscious awareness of objectivity, accuracy, corroboration, and editorial oversight – concepts that lie at the heart of professional journalism – citizen journalists can exponentially increase the integrity of their work, and subsequently achieve the esteemed value of trust with readers and audiences.

 

When citizen and traditional journalism meet in agreement at a principles level, truth prospers, and humanity will be better served.