News / Africa

Demand for Science Reporting Growing in Africa

Ntaryike Divine Jr.
I’m sitting in the central newsroom at Canal 2 International television in Cameroon’s largest city Douala. 

Flanking me around a large oval table are 20 journalists cataloguing the private broadcaster’s news menu for the day…

The arguments are intense. Such vigorous debates over which  stories should be in the line-up are becoming more and more common.

Only a few years ago, there would have been a consensus to put the science report at the tail end of the day’s newscast.  Back then, editors complained the stories were simply not sexy, and far too abstract to interest the audience.  

But observers say they’re noticing the dawn of a new era for science journalism on the continent.  Reports on climate change, epidemics, research and innovation are increasingly competing for headline space with politics and sports.  

Kejang Henry Atembeh, an editor at Canal 2 International in Cameroon, said "stories about politics have become boring to a lot of people. They do not see much change happening and so are just fed up. The same sit-tight leaders are still in power, corruption and bad governance continue all across the continent."

Kejang said viewers are asking for more science stories,  which are consequently getting more media attention.

"Take the recent floods across West Africa, " he said, "people are keen on knowing why it happened and how they could prevent a recurrence in the future.  Farmers want to hear about research findings that enable them grow better-yielding crops.  People are excited about medical breakthroughs announcing new drugs against malaria.  Others want to hear about the latest cellphone technology and so on." 

Elsewhere, others point to a growing interest among young African journalists to report on science.  Also, the public and policymakers are increasingly recognizing the importance of science and telecommunication in fostering development.

Meanwhile, there are more opportunities for training in science journalism.  Observers say these have resulted in significant advances in the quality of reporting, improving researchers’ trust in journalists.

Much of the praise for the spread of science journalism across Africa and the Middle East goes to the Canada-based World Federation of Science Journalists.  Since 2006, it has trained close to 100 reporters from over 30 countries.

The vehicle is a free long-distance mentoring program, called Science Journalism Cooperation, or SjCOOP, in which experienced journalists tutor beginners via online courses in English, French and Arabic.

Maxwell Awumah is a journalist with the Ghana News Agency.  He graduated with distinction from the second phase of the program at a ceremony held in Amman, Jordan in October.

"My competence," he said, "has been enhanced in science reporting, and I’m now well positioned to be able to see and sniff science from afar. It has given me the leverage to critique issues and set the right agenda, to follow policymakers and scientists so that in the end, we bring accelerated development in Africa."

SjCOOP alumni like Maxwell are increasingly impacting their colleagues in newsrooms across the continent and successfully thrusting science to the forefront of news shows. 

Others are creating national associations of science reporters, recognizing the best journalists with awards and setting up dedicated science publications.

Akin Jimoh, a coordinator with the venture, says it’s having a domino effect. 

"There are activities by national associations in terms of training and conferences.  There are journalists coming together to work on one thing or the other.  It’s something that will expand and expand," he said.

Despite such glowing optimism, science journalism in Africa still faces hurdles.  Experts pinpoint science-unfriendly editors, difficult access to information and data sources, limited resources and dwindling foreign aid for training.

Jean Marc Fleury is president of the World Federation of Science Journalists.  He said despite the challenges, there’s hope on the horizon

"It’s to keep the new young associations vibrant," he said. "To help them fundraise, find resources locally, create science journalism prizes, to build a critical mass so that eventually, there’ll be a buzz around science journalism in Africa and science journalists will bring ideas, initiate important debates so that good debates can be made."

Meantime, the most brilliant graduates from the SjCOOP Class of 2012 have been retained to work in a first-ever virtual newsroom for science reporting.  Journalists will submit their story ideas and scripts to one of six editors in the Middle East and French and English-speaking Africa. 

Their works will be broadcast in leading media outlets worldwide.  It will provide a welcome source of knowledge to a continent depending on science to boost economic growth in coming years.

Listen to segment on improved science reporting
Listen to segment on improved science reportingi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X

You May Like

Beloved Lion Killing Sparks Virtual, Real Life Outrage

Twitter, as usual, was epicenter for anger directed at Palmer, with some questioning his manhood, calling for him to be released into the wild More

Video Booming London Property Market a Haven for Dirty Money

Billions of dollars from proceeds of crime, especially from Russia, being laundered through London property market, according to anti-corruption activists More

Video Scouts' Decision on Gays Meets Acceptance in Founder's Hometown

One former Scout leader thinks organization will move past political, social debate, get back to its primary focus of turning boys into good citizens More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’i
X
July 29, 2015 9:34 PM
Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Scouts' Decision on Gays Meets Acceptance in Founder's Hometown

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs