When it comes to covering Africa, the news show ’60 Minutes’ would much prefer interviewing white people about what’s happening on the continent than actual black Africans who call it home.
In a scathing open letter to ’60 Minutes’, 200 writers and academics blast the newscast for its abysmal coverage of the African continent. The letter was written by journalist Howard French and addressed to ’60 Minutes’ producer Jeff Fager.
According to the letter, signed by prominent writers such as Teju Cole and Binyavanga Wainaina, black Africans were not included in the broadcast’s Africa coverage.
For example, a story on Ebola in Liberia failed to interview even one Liberian, even though Liberians were seen walking and within range of an interview. It wasn’t that they weren’t available, just that they weren’t considered important enough to cover, seems the implication.
Liberians, including doctors and nurses, suffered and died because of the disease, but were excluded from the coverage. Only white foreigners were interviewed about the Ebola outbreak.
Two other newscasts featured whites who were rescuing African wildlife; in one story the rescued animals were apes, lions in another. Both segments, filmed in South Africa and Gabon, featured no black Africans.
Africa is only given coverage when white Westerners are available to be viewed as heroes, the letter concludes:
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 favourite, wildlife.
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 dis-serves Africa, it also badly dis-serves the news viewing and news reading public.
Quartz reached out to ’60 Minutes’ about the letter and received the following response:
60 Minutes is proud of its coverage of Africa and has received considerable recognition for it. We have reached out to Mr. French to invite him to discuss this further and we look forward to meeting with him.