The reason Journalism as we know it HAS to die.

[col-sect][column]This graph has been floating around in the twitter feeds for a couple of days now.  I saved it to my computer and I keep looking at it.

John Emerson designed this graph for a NY times piece a few weeks ago.  It does a fantastic job of showing the depravity of situations in Africa as well as the depravity of several editing desks in the western world.  Something is not right here.  I hope we all can see that.  I have seen a few, very good explanations for the problem that basically boil down placing the blame on false meta-narratives.  Themes like Christians vs Muslims and West vs East, which the Darfur conflict plays right into, and which the issues in Congo completely confuse.

One could almost argue that the public made Darfur into a religious coldwar theater the way Angola or the first Afgani war was for the democratic west and communism.  To distill it more, I think that with Darfur there was a clear moral devision in the begining: "Helpless minority peoples being chased down and killed systematically by the majority people group in control the state."  Western Journalism has a box for that, we have seen this story before.[/column]

[column]It might be said that Western Journalism (maybe western narrative to be more fair) doesn't have a box for the complexities of Congo.  The ten years of rippling war that has reverberated through the DRC and it's eastern neighbors does not allow the video journalist on a deadline to cut a nice concise picture in time for the 6pm news.  Writers given 10 inches and a deadline are left trying to empty a dumptruck full of sand with their hands.  But really, I think you could have said the same things about Kosovo: it's a really complicated place with 2000 plus years of baggage, but we found a way to make it really simple didn't we?  Not always accurate, but digestible for the West.

My suspicion (and fear) is that really, no one cares about Congo.  We have no reason to care.  More accurately, we have not been given a reason to care. Journalism has failed to cover one of the most bloody events of the last 50 years because it wasn't flashy enough, because they couldn't find a romantic enough angle.  To quote Anneke Van Woudenberg, Senior Researcher at Human Rights Watch:

"I fear that the Congo conflict receives less coverage because many outsiders have bought into the preconception that Congo is the ‘heart of darkness’... if the country is somehow predisposed to dark atrocities and violence, and hence there is nothing new to report.  Yet many have misunderstood the real message of Conrad's book. It is not Congolese barbarism but rather the greed of outsiders that have plagued this country's history."

It's not romantic when we are part of the problem.[/column][/col-sect]