Finding the African Topic

Capture023By Sarah Bomkapre Kamara

The first official meeting with my supervisor
Prof Dr. Thomas Hanitzsch was brief but thought provoking. After speaking about my plans over lunch, I got some tips on how to promote my research. Returning to his office, we began discussing authors on journalism studies in Africa. He mentioned a few scholars who have published works on journalism studies, but our  last moments together left me thinking.

Finding the topic
Prof Hanitzsch suggested relevant literature to consider in my writings and walked up to his book shelf taking out a book. The journalism studies book claimed to be international. There were topics on journalism practice on the American continent, Europe and Asia. We were excited to look through for topics on Africa. He opened the book and began to skim through the pages looking at the chapters. To our dissappointment, we could not find a single chapter or article on an African journalism topic. My supervisor then turned to me and said, “this is really the problem we don’t know so much about African journalism,” and that is why you should do something.

Leaving his office that day, I started thinking. Why are scholars from Africa not contributing their knowledge in such international academic books? Why are materials on African journalism studies still hard to come by? Of course there are a few journals on the continent championing studies on journalism in Africa like the Equid Novi: African Journalism Studies headquartered in South Africa and the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA) based in Dakar, Senegal.

Scholars and journalists
Don’t get me wrong there are also renowned scholars on the continent who have been writing on journalism topics. Scholars like Francis Nyamnjoh, Arnold de Beer, Herman Wasserman are among the academics living on the continent and contributing to knowledge. There are others who have left the continent but are still contributing in their own way.  There are many more I believe – academics who are not from the continent but are as well passionate about topics on African journalism. There are those researchers at different universities around the continent with vast knowledge on the existing trends of journalism in their countries and how journalism practiced in their local settings affect the practice worldwide.

Moreover, there are journalists in Africa whose works journalism scholars research on. The journalists who know what they do, why they do it and how they do it. Sharing their personal experiences is not only valuable for scholars but for everyone who seek to learn about the daily work routines of journalists in Africa.

Creating a platform
There are many questions that come to mind when one mentions journalism cultures in Africa. What are the roles of journalists in African countries? How are they coping in some countries where corruption is rampant? How do they practice objectively in some countries where stringent media laws still exist? The knowledge, opinions and views of scholars and practising journalists are needed to understand and answer these and more questions.

As I left my professor’s office that day these thoughts flooded my mind. Day in and day out I pondered over what to do to get both scholars and journalists together to discuss topics on African Journalism. I believe there are scholars and journalists out there who know a lot about Journalism topics in their region, whose research interests cover African countries and who have lived through the changing times of journalism practice. This blog is for you. It is a small step towards bringing together such people on a platform to share their experiences – a small contribution to help share the African journalism stories.

However, this project would not have started without the encounter at my professor’s office – searching through that book, looking for a topic on African journalism. We hope that this blog will help students, scholars, journalists and everyone who wants an update on the journalism trends on the continent.

Capture Sarah

Sarah Bomkapre Kamara is a PhD Student at the Communications Department, Ludwig Maximilians University, Munich, Germany. Her research interests include journalism cultures, peace journalism, news framing and human rights journalism. She is also a freelance journalist at Deutsche Welle radio – Germany’s international broadcaster.