Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Mainstream Media Asks Why Lack of Initial Coverage Of Nigerian Kidnappings: Answer, Mainstream Media Ignored The Story

"What came first, the chicken or the egg,” is the age old question. Now that the extremely tragic and horrific events that are taking place in and around Nigeria have been brought to light via social justice advocates storming social media to vent their outrage, the media has the unmitigated gall to inquire about why this story was under reported. 

Before addressing that head on, let us give proper acknowledgement to the use of the hash tag #bringbackourgirls with its trending around the globe to get networks to start reporting on the kidnapping that was first reported by media outlets like The Guardian on April 15, 2014, a day after the girls were taken by terrorists. 


So, what comes first, the public interest or the media’s coverage bringing to the public the story that will ignite their interest?


While the media has started to give more coverage to the kidnapped Nigerian school girls over the last several days because of world wide protests demanding the girls be found, each story was accompanied with a media personality asking why the media did not pick up the story initially. When the question is asked, "Why has there been very little coverage of the kidnapped Nigerian school girls?", the network asking the question is trying to exclude itself from the media (the other guys)  that did not reported on the kidnapping. The network news black out on the kidnapping is a stark contrast to the 24 hour coverage that has been given to the missing passengers on MH370 since March 8, 2014. With unpredictable seas, lost of confidence in the Malaysian government's transparency, and the likelihood of any survivors, many have accepted the fate of the passengers while still hoping MH370 is found. But the missing MH370 still receives widespread coverage on most cable networks.

When networks question its lack of informing the public, it shows how far the media has loss sight of the role of journalism and how today's media rather entertain the public than inform the public. Journalism is a method of inquiry and literary style that aims to provide a service to the public by the dissemination and analysis of news and other information. Today's rating driven media fails miserly in its duties to the public. This weekend as part of the reporting on kidnapped Nigerian school girls, the media hid behind that failure by asking questions about the lack of coverage in the reporting. The answer to their staged questioning is very simple, the networks did not see value in covering the story and begun reporting more frequently after being shamed by social media and the rallies held around the world over the weekend.

One example of justification for lack of reporting on ghastly events in Nigeria was given by CNN's Reliable Sources host, Brian Stelter. Stelter credited CNN for having reporters in Nigeria before asking Nigerian based CNN correspondent, Vladimir Duthiersis, more about the story. During Vladimire's segment, he  made the following statement regarding lack of coverage:
In Nigeria - in Africa, but specifically in Nigeria - there are a lot of challenges when it comes to reporting a story like this. This has happened in a part of the country that is very remote. There are challenges in getting signals there.


CNN, a network that reported for over a decade from the harsh barren terrain of Iraq and Afghanistan, countries known for rocks and 120 degree heat in the shade, does not have equipment to cover kidnapped school girls in Nigeria, a country that is known for rocks and heat? During Operation Iraqi Freedom, CNN had embedded reporters who actually lived with the troops for months in some of the most desolate parts of the world. Because of their reporting, we saw war up close and personal. All the time. The kidnapped girls' story has elements of many stories CNN has profiled around the clock other than MH370 plane. CNN and Headline News has given unprecedented coverage to missing children. In the case of Florida's missing toddler, Caylee Anthony, we learned every detail about a child whose mother, Casey Anthony, was charged but was found innocent of her death. We also learned everything about her mother, dubbed "Tot Mom" by the network, as well. Casey Antony's  monthly cycle, her mother, her father, her brother, her boyfriends, her clubbing were all part of the 24 hour news coverage of that case for several years. JonBenet Ramsey and most recently, Jodi Arias, all have received relentless news coverage on CNN and Headline News.


CNN is not alone by any means in 24 hours coverage of a particular storyline favored by a network. Fox News maybe not be known for covering many issues outside of politics but no one can not deny their devotion for covering terrorists and helping promote the war on terror. Long after 9/11, Fox News keeps their loyal audience prepared for possible terrorists activity around the globe. Even after nearly two decades at war, Fox News hates the audacity that our country has been slow to intervene with military force to help save those fighting against Islamic extremists in recent years. When innocent school girls are kidnapped by terrorists who can find a wireless signal to shoot a You Tube video boasting about their crimes (when CNN can't), this should have been a story competing with Fox's coverage of Benghazi.


The kidnappers, terrorists named Boko Haram, which means Western education is sinful, seems to have all of the requirements for an all out religious extremists color coded Fox News coverage. Fox News has had an insatiable appetite for the United States to send troops in the following conflicts:  Syrians rebels fighting against Assad, nuclear stand off with Iran, unrest in Egypt, Arab Spring, Russian Urkaine. Fox News covering the kidnapped school girls would have been a reminder to its base that the world is under constant threat of terrorism. Boko Haram should have received non stop coverage complete with Sunday talk shows with Senator McCain and military experts pounding their fists to bomb the region, raid the palace of the incompetent Nigerian President and help arm the parents with weapons to fight for the children.


The MSNBC Network covers women issues often  and had several segments on this past weekend discussing the kidnapped Nigerian school girls as well. But in each segment, the reporting slipped in the question of lack of coverage the media has given the kidnapping. MSNBC has devoted hours to pay equality, legislative restrictions on women reproductive rights, numerous GOP gaffes on "rape rape", and has interviewed many women politicians and candidates than most cable channels. With MSNBC championing women rights as fiercely as Fox promotes military muscle against terrorism while CNN break ins with trial updates of cases they have helped sensationalized, women and girls seeking an education kidnapped by terrorists and sold to the lowest bidder should have had MSNBC working around the clock investigating the facts of the story within the first few days of the kidnapping.


With each network, profiling stories should inform and educate the public. As networks have moved into ratings wars vs. informing the public, often the news is cherry picked by what the network executives, producers and hosts think will draw numbers that benefits stockholders not the public. With this form of journalism, stories like Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis, and now the missing Nigerian schools girls are only given coverage after there is uprising because of the absence of national network interest in reporting the story. Once picked up, deeper scrutiny of the lack of initial coverage is often forgotten until the next outrage breaks on Twitter. When it comes to stories of social injustice, nationally and internationally, we have to wonder will "what comes first the chicken or the egg" continue to be asked about news coverage. At this point, world wide outrage for lack of coverage must trend first on Twitter before a story is covered. Especially, if the stories involve social injustice towards people of color.



Screen shot photos: MSBC, Fox News, CNN

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