Popular US TV Show “60 Minutes” Criticized For Shoddy Coverage Of Africa

Popular US TV Show “60 Minutes” Criticized For Shoddy Coverage Of Africa

With over 13 million viewers every week, 60 Minutes,  is one of the most popular TV shows in the US. It uses investigative journalism to hook viewers across states during peak broadcast hours on Sunday evenings.

But its coverage of issue in Africa has come under heavy criticism from a group of journalists, academics, and activists from the continent or covering the region in what they terms as “frequent and recurring misrepresentation of the African continent” by 60 Minutes and its reporters.

In open letter, written by veteran journalist and author Howard French and signed by more than 200 people including Teju Cole, a Nigerian-American writer, Binyavanga Wainaina, a Kenyan author and winner of the Caine Prize for African Writing, and Sean Jacobs, of the popular blog ‘Africa is a Country’, the show has been accused of trivializing issues in Africa.

An example given in the letter says that a report on Ebola filed by 60 Minutes correspondent Lara Logan from Liberia reduced Africans “to the role of silent victims”.

“They (Liberians) constituted what might be called a scenery of misery: people whose thoughts, experiences and actions were treated as if totally without interest,” the letter said.

“Liberians were shown within easy speaking range of Logan, including some Liberians whom she spoke about, and yet not a single Liberian was quoted in any capacity.”

In response to these accusations, 60 Minutes spokesman Kevin Tedesco told Quartz the show was proud of its coverage of Africa and had “received considerable recognition for it”, adding that they had reached out to French and were looking forward to meeting him over the issue.

French, however, told Quartz that he had replied to Tedesco’s request to meet him by asking them to address the issues raised in the letter first.

“Africa has traditionally been accorded very little space in the media, and when it is mentioned, it has usually been for the same reasons that I’ve criticized 60 Minutes: immense tragedy, interest in a white person playing a starring role, or wildlife,” French told Quartz in an emailed response.