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Covering Africa Accurately; U.S. Campaigning Continues; Headlines and Photographs: 1968

Aired May 9, 2008 - 20:30:00   ET


FIONNUALA SWEENEY, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Fionnuala Sweeney in London. Welcome to CNN's INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS, where we examine how the media are covering the big stories.
This week, Hillary Clinton vows to fight on, as Barack Obama edges closer to becoming the Democratic presidential nominee. We sum up the candidate's relationship with media.

Covering Africa with headlines like the crisis in Zimbabwe, do news outlets paint an accurate picture of what's happening on the continent. And later, 1968, the pictures, the stories, and the front pages from the international "Herald Tribune." What made it a year to remember.

First this week, the race to the White House. Political analysts labeled it the worst two week stretch in Barack Obama's campaign. That didn't deter Democratic voters in North Carolina, who handed him a resounding win in one of the two primaries held on Tuesday.

In the other, Indiana, Hillary Clinton secured a narrow two percent victory. While it wasn't the two state sweep the Clinton camp had hoped for, she vowed to fight on. It hasn't been smooth sailing for Barack Obama in recent weeks. He's attracted widespread media attention over comments about working class voters, criticism over his relationship with a controversial pastor. And questions were also raised about his patriotism.

Well, to discuss how the presidential race stands from the media's point of view, I'm joined from Washington by Jonathan Allen from "Congressional Quarterly." Also with us is Jon Decker, the Washington correspondent with Reuters. And here in the studio is Michelle Henry from "The Times of London."

Jon Decker in D.C., pursuing Reuters headlines and other headlines indeed immediately after Tuesday night, one correspondent of Reuters wrote a story under the headline "Obama Takes Big Step Ahead in Democratic Race." And another correspondent similarly writing about the Clinton campaign wrote how Hillary Clinton's narrow win in Indiana kept alive her White House hopes. Which is it?

JON DECKER, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, REUTERS: Well, I think that they're both right. And if that's not balanced, I don't know what is.

I think that both of those correspondents are writing their stories from the prism through which they see the campaign. Clearly, one of the correspondents was covering Barack Obama's presidential race in the state of North Carolina. The other correspondent covering Hillary Clinton's campaign, reporting from Indiana, the state that she won by two points. And I think that both of those point of views essentially represent the point of views represented by each of those campaigns. What they're trying to spin reporters, just like us.

SWEENEY: Jonathan Allen, if I could play devil's advocate and put it to you, if you were in charge of the Obama campaign, the guy took Wednesday off after the primaries, as an indication of just how relaxed he can afford to be. Where would you be taking his media campaign now?

JONATHAN ALLEN, CONGRESSIONAL QUARTERLY: Well, I think he's going to continue to make the argument about math. I think he's going to continue to tell reporters that if the nomination is wrenched from him by super delegates rather than the delegates that were assigned based on electoral votes, based on primary votes, that the Democratic party will essentially fall apart, that his voters will stay home. He's brought more African- Americans into the primary process. He's brought young voters into the primary process. He's brought Independents into the Democratic primary process.

And he's going to make the argument to the super delegates that if they take that away, those voters are going to stay home.

SWEENEY: Michelle Henry, you've been a regular guest on this program. And we've talked many times about how this Democratic race has unfolded. There has been a much debated in the media of late. Perhaps perpetuated by the Clinton camp about who is the person to beat John McCain. Is that an argument we're going to see unfold more and more? And is it an argument Hillary Clinton can make in the media, given that she narrowly won Indiana and lost as expected North Carolina?

MICHELLE HENRY, JOURNALIST, THE TIMES: We will definitely hear this argument continuing on and on because in the next primary that we'll see, it'll be in West Virginia, which Hillary Clinton is slated to win. Because in West Virginia, there's lots of those blue collar voters that like her, that find her very appealing.

And if she wins that, as is expected, then of course she'll say, look, when America goes to the polls in November, it's this-it's middle America. It's these blue collar workers that are going to vote for me, not for Barack Obama. I'm the one that can take us to the White House, not him. He's just this one trick pony that people have their faith in.

So we'll definitely continue to hear that. Versus Barack Obama will come back and - against that, using the same line, saying you know, I'm the person that people believe in, that people will vote for. Because if you look at some of the tactical voting that a lot of Republicans were doing in the early days of them - when their primaries were coming up in their states, you were seeing several people switching over to the Democratic side and voting for Hillary Clinton, thinking look if she - we make her the nominee, then that's the one that McCain can beat. And Barack Obama can use that tactic to look at.

SWEENEY: Jon Decker, we could look back maybe on the Barack Obama campaign. You know, he had a stumble in recent weeks, namely over Pastor Jeremiah Wright. But seems to have surged back in this latest primary, winning North Carolina as expected. Where do you see that mistakes may have been made in terms of their handling of the media, or not, as the case may be?

DECKER: Well, I think that just in terms of handling the Jeremiah Wright situation, Barack Obama had an opportunity initially with some damage control that he failed to do. And that was back on March the 18th. He made a speech on race relations that was lauded very much in the media. It was seen as a groundbreaking free speech, but he failed to distance himself and repudiate himself from his former pastor. And that was why it was necessary on April the 29th to return to the same issue, and distance himself even more from his pastor.

I think that if they had an opportunity to do it all over again, they would have taken care of all of this back in March. And unfortunately, they had to return to this problem in late April. But as we saw from the results in North Carolina and Indiana, it may not have affected him all that much. He came very close to beating Hillary Clinton in Indiana. He won by a large margin, thanks to the large African-American vote in North Carolina. He won by I think 16 points or so. So perhaps for now, this problem that he's dealt with as it relates to his former pastor is behind him.

But I think that it returns for the general election if he indeed is the nominee.

SWEENEY: Jonathan Allen, I suppose this race is a very long race for the candidates involved. If you were in John McCain's camp now, in terms of handling of the media, would you just sit back and let what is happening in the Democratic race unfold? Or do you believe that McCain is actively trying to spin his own story, his message at the moment?

ALLEN: He is actively trying to spin his own story and his own message at the moment. I think he realizes that this is a good opportunity for him to start telling his story without anyone really attacking him or at least each of the two Democratic candidates aiming some of their fire at him, but reserving a lot of it for each other. This is a time when he can talk to voters around the country and tell them who he is. He's not getting the kind of coverage he might for that, but there's a good part of that too for him, which is that he's made some gaffes on the campaign trail, even without anyone really running against him. And they have not gotten as much attention as they probably would in a general election run- off.

SWEENEY: A final question to you, Michelle. As an American journalist working for "The Times in London," as you view this election and have this race so over the last few months from across the pond, without giving away your own personal views necessarily, but have you found yourself being swayed at all in your judgment as you follow the media campaign surrounding the race?

HENRY: Absolutely, because I think that there was - in the beginning especially, there was all that excitement about oh my goodness, look at this race. It's wide open. We have this war veteran, we have a woman, we have a black man, we have a series of firsts going on in the United States.

And you want - at one time you want to say, oh my goodness, there could be women in office. In another you think, no, let's go for the underdog, this unknown. And if anything, well, there's this war veteran there that is quite kooky. And he's actually kind of a neo Republican, a new version of Republicans that could really redefine that party and rejuvenize it.

So there's some really exciting to sit back and see what's been unfolding.

SWEENEY: And we have a lot more to unfold, but we have to leave it there for the moment. Michelle Henry here in London, Jon Decker of Reuters in D.C., also in D.C. Jonathan Allen of "Congressional Weekly," thank you all very much indeed for joining us.

ALLEN: Thank you.

SWEENEY: Going unreported, negative news often dominates the headlines out of Africa. The case for more positive coverage of the continent when we return.


SWEENEY: Welcome back. The crisis in Zimbabwe, violence stemming from a disputed election in Kenya. Headlines out of Africa are also negative, but is it an accurate reflection of what's taking place across what is a diverse continent?

We put that to two judges of the 2008 CNN multi choice African journalist awards. More than 1900 entries have been received this year from 43 countries.

I spoke to Azubuike Ishickwene, the executive director of Nigeria's "Punch" newspaper and Brahima Ouedraogo, senior reporter with Radio Burkina in Burkina Fasso.

Our first asked M whether the judges have noticed a difference in the kind of stories being submitted by African journalists.


AZUBUIKE ISHICKWENE, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, PUNCH NIGERIA: I have noticed tremendous changes and gratifying changes if I might say, but only in the fact that the entries - number of entries we got this year, 2008, increased - went from up by about 20 percent, but also the range of stories that have been covered in the broad range of newsprint, I mean, radio, TV, and print.

We have a situation where more journalists from what we have seen in the past one week, taking a lot more interest in health, HIV-AIDS, and environment, and in business reporting as well. Not just general business reporting around the continent, but also in business with Asia. And I find that quite interesting indeed.

SWEENEY: Brahima Ouedraogo, internationally, do you think that Africa gets a fair shake by the Western or the international press?

BRAHIMA OUEDRAOGO, SENIOR REPORTER, RADIO BURKINA: Of course, it is, or the discrepancy. There's a difference between what we see in Africa, really, for African journalists, and how it is reported in international news. But the good thing is that African journalists are now trying to change the rules, you know, set up long time ago. They're trying to build up networks that have them cooperate even when they're off - they don't have the financial means. They know how to share the news from each country to another, which is a good thing.

SWEENEY: Of course, it's very easy to brand the continent, Africa, as being, you know, just one entity. And of course, as we know, many countries, many tribes, many regions, how is that not reflected in international reporting?

ISHICKWENE: I think that it's something that I have asked myself, and I'm sure that journalists in many parts of Africa continue to ask themselves, that this year, for example, the growth prospect in Africa is going to be 6.5, 6.7 percent. We also have a situation where the inflows in terms of the amount of investment in high yield government bonds in Africa as 24 times about $23 billion. And we have a situation in Africa where the loans and investment inflows have grown from about $11 billion in 2000 to $53 billion in 2008.

SWEENEY: So what you're saying is to a certain extent, that growth and that good news is not reflected.

ISHICKWENE: Absolutely. Now we're not seeing much of that reflected, but that it's a question I'm sure that many people in newsrooms put in Africa and perhaps also in this part of the world must be asking themselves. Having said that, I also said in my introductory remarks that looking at the entries that we had this year for the CNN multi choice journalist of the year award, there's been a greater - great number - great, you know, interest in the reporting of business in Africa and business between Africa and Asia as well. I find that quite exciting.

And also, an indication of the fact that Africans are not just - and also, in the West African sub region is also more to read about in many newspapers more to listen to on the radio stations and on TV about business in West Africa and in Africa and Asia as well.

SWEENEY: I mean, are people very often associate Africa with conflict and corruption and crime. Brahima Ouedraogo, I'm wondering when we mention about how there is a lot of interest in business news among journalists in Africa, how much is a conflict like Somalia reported within the continent?

OUEDRAOGO: Well, I think it is a great interest, you know, if you get to newspapers in Francophone or English speaking (INAUDIBLE) in the Arab world, you sort of divest in the issues going on in Africa from Somalia, to Zimbabwe, it was going in South Africa, and developmental issues and corruption, also all the disease, but also on what - some of the positive things they have to do to promote the continent.

So everything is, you know, they go side by side, as you said.

SWEENEY: But specifically in Somalia, I mean, it's very difficult for international journalists to get in. It's extremely dangerous. And it's extremely dangerous for any Somali journalists as well. But how many journalists or how much interest would there be on the part of networks or publications to send journalists into Somalia at the present time?

OUEDRAOGO: Yes, I would say - that's - the issues France also, you know, for some African countries want to go to Somalia. That would be very difficult. But I would say that Africa - some of the like - if you go - look at the Kenyan newspapers, Kenya, you know, they have a lot of interest in the - in Somalia. So they can rely on the U.N. agency reports or some networks as I said. And you also have local journalists also reporting for some of the media in the area.

So from Uganda and Kenya. So some of the radio or you know, newspapers can get some stuff out of - output from Somalia.

ISHICKWENE: Just a quick one on that. I think, Fionnuala, that the matter of context is - has become as far as I see the big issue. Not just only in reporting in Africa, but also for journalism in the world.

Sometimes this does not just apply to journalists in the West, but also even to journalists in Africa. We - there is this tendency to just sit down and just get a bit lazy and do it in our comfort zone. I think that a challenge for journalism, both in Africa, in Europe, and in the world is providing context to the news.

And when people complain as often they do, sometimes often justified be in Africa, but not being correctly portrayed, I think it is the context issue that really is the point.

SWEENEY: What are the big stories dominating the news in Africa at the moment?

ISHICKWENE: Well, the big stories dominating Africa is the crisis in Zimbabwe. You have the crisis in Zimbabwe, the Kenyan elections. But you have side by side as well the elections that went on very, very well in Botswana. We're not hearing much of that.

As I also said last year, there were elections in Nigeria. And that election in Nigeria was a matter of major international concern. But after the elections, we're dealing with post election demons so to speak. And it would be interesting I'm sure for the rest of the world to know just how we're grappling with these issues.

So it's back again to the question of context. And that really, I think, is at the heart of it. How much context are we giving to what we see on television to what we read in the news, plus what we listen to on the radio.

OUEDRAOGO: Yes, I think if you look at some of this - the countries, you know, what we've got from the entries this year of CNN, the diversity and the quality of the productions, you can see that they simply at home in those countries where a lot of interest in local news. You see that, you know, a lot of newspapers and radio stations and again helped by the new technologies.

You have correspondents in the old country reporting to - you can redo positive things to the old country. And then, also have some of the foreign journalists are not started to read those stuff and call local journalism - ask them to report for them or help them report on some of the news. That is changing a little bit landscape on some of all things, but (INAUDIBLE) in the past.

So I think the - we can see complete that you know, the (INAUDIBLE) some things are changing positively.


SWEENEY: That was Brahima Ouedraogo and Azubuike Ishickwene. And a note, this year's CNN multi choice African journalist award ceremony will be held in Akra, Ghana on July 19th.

Now a year to remember, the stories, pictures, and front pages from 1968, as "The International Herald Tribune" saw it. We take a tour of a new exhibition that's opened in London when we come back.


SWEENEY: Welcome back. From the assassination of Robert Kennedy, street riots in Paris, to the first images from space of planet Earth, 1968 was a big year in news. To illustrate the events of that time, "The International Herald Tribune" has opened up its archives for an exhibition at London's National Theater. It shows the stories, photographs and front pages as the newspaper saw it.

The IHT's director of photography Cecelia Bohan showed me around.


SWEENEY: "The International Herald Tribune" headline on Friday, June 7th, 1868, "Robert Kennedy is Dead." Self explanatory story in a way. Probably not a very hard decision, Cecilia, to include in this exhibition?

CECILIA BOHAN, INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: Not a hard decision. In fact, it's the only front page that we've actually included the jump as well. So we have the entire story. People that come to the exhibit can read, I mean, much more interesting to read the story in its entirety, and to show how "The Herald Tribune".

SWEENEY: Covered the news that day.

BOHAN: Covered the news that day and gave it so much display in the paper.

SWEENEY: This is a picture for his funeral train of Robert Kennedy. And you can see the people gathered outside.

BOHAN: This is the funeral train passing by Rahway, New Jersey. And the train drew crowds, thousands of people at every station. I really feel very strongly about this picture and the next picture. The next picture shows it's a very simple picture. Black man and a white man, very sorrowful expressions on their faces. And I just feel that this photo here is one of my favorite pictures in the entire exhibit, because I feel their pain.

SWEENEY: And so here we have a section devoted to Martin Luther King. Obviously not particularly a difficult choice for you to make in terms of including that from 1968 in this exhibition.

What is this photo about?

BOHAN: These four people are sitting on their porch, watching the funeral cortege go by. Going on to the next picture.

SWEENEY: This is of the funeral cortege itself and the family, widow of Martin Luther King.

BOHAN: It's not just the family that makes the picture for me, though. It's all the faces, the depth of the photo. And I look at all the faces. And it strikes me that these people seemed to know that a new chapter in American history was opening.

SWEENEY: February 2nd in 1968 was another big day for "The International Herald Tribune" in terms of Vietnam and the photo that was on the front page of the paper that day.

BOHAN: The photograph that ran on the front page that day was to be the Pulitzer Prize winning photo. It was by Eddie Adams with the Associated Press. And it ran on newspaper fronts all over the world. When it moved across the AP photo wire, people recognized its importance right from the moment they saw it. That doesn't happen with every photo. Sometimes photos gain importance over time, but this particular photo, you can feel the fear. You can smell the napalm. You can.

SWEENEY: You can almost see the bullet whizzing.

BOHAN: You can almost see the bullet whizzing when you see him wince. It's - you're struck with horror.

SWEENEY: May 1968, the Paris riots, "The International Herald Tribune" also based in Paris. The headlines from that day being General DeGaulle Disappears for something like Seven Hours amid speculation that he might step down." Really a very turbulent period in the life of France and Paris particularly, and also I suppose in "The Herald Tribune's" history at that moment.

BOHAN: We can't exactly have an exhibit on 1968 and not include the May riots in Paris. In fact, one of the decisions we made for placing the photographs was to - we had five pictures from the Paris riots. And so, we took the biggest wall to show. And we have three front pages from "The Herald Tribune."

More than any other subject. But I love having this - the original crop marks on it and grease pencil and indelible pen. They just.

SWEENEY: Set it off really. This headline is from Wednesday, December 25th, 1968, the end of a tumultuous year. You have the pope holding his midnight mass. And then you have Apollo orbiting the moon heads back today. And here is a picture from that time.

BOHAN: This is the picture of the earth, the rising earth as seen by the astronauts from Apollo 8 as they rounded the dark side of the moon. The edge of the moon is over here. Such a beautiful picture. And it's hard to imagine now that this is one of the very first pictures of the earth shot from space, because now we see the earth so many - it just seems like such a common thing. Surely we must always have had pictures of the earth. But no, this is one of the very first pictures. And it was broadcast back from space in December of '68.


SWEENEY: Images and front pages from 1968 as seen by "The International Herald Tribune." That was the Cecilia Bohan speaking to me.

Well, don't forget to check us out on the web. Log on to to see all or part of the show again. You can also view our archive, take part in the quick vote, and read the blog. That address again

Well, that's all for this edition of the program. Tune in again next time for another look at how the media are handling the big issues.

I'm Fionnuala Sweeney. Thanks for joining us.