06/05/2005 02:40 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Africa & the American Media

As someone who has lived through cerebral malaria, my hat's off to Jay Winsten for his proposal last week to distribute misquito nets throughout Africa. The battle against malaria is indeed winnable: all it would take is a marginal amount of international aid coupled with effective local administration.

Meanwhile, with regard to Winsten's larger point about "public consciousness," the one thing I would add is that our media needs to do a better job of reporting the successes which have already occurred. At present the American coverage of Africa is slanted towards stories which confirm its reputation as a cesspool of disease, violence, and licentiousness. These stories are accurate insofar as they reflect a continent variously beset by political corruption and public health concerns, but they are not the whole story. Not everyone on the continent is starving or suffering from AIDS. In fact, many are actually quite healthy and actively working. Yet an American would never know this unless they travelled to Africa or made a point of consuming international news, such as last week's special report in Time Europe on Africa's considerable economic growth.

To the editors and publishers who also contribute to this site, one challenge I'd give you is to seek ways of rectifying this imbalance. With reporters like Sharon LaFraniere, Michael Wines and Abraham McLaughlin already covering Africa, the issue clearly isn't getting excellent journalists to work there. The issue is providing them with the freedom to cover the good along with the bad.

Just last week, the Christian Science Monitor allowed McLaughlin to do just that. Why aren't more American publications doing the same?