The silly and wonderful sides of Malawi's press

Academic Progress Goes Clunk has been doing a series of posts on amusing news articles from Malawi. She’s got one up about their mocking presentation of former president George W. Bush, and another about some ladies in Chinamwali being chased by a huge rat. Via Johanna Chuan, here’s another great one: for a while news outlets here were circulating a fabricated story about Secretary of State Clinton being chased out of the country by bees.

Stories like the bee story and the “giant rodent” thing appear pretty regularly in the papers here, since there aren’t separate tabloid newspapers. Last summer, my colleague Justin Schon often expressed a low opinion of the quality of the news here, compared to the US. I’m not totally in agreement with him on this: the articles do seem to lack some depth and details, especially context for ongoing stories. On the upside, you can get a sense of what’s going on pretty fast, usually just from the headline. I think this is aided by the small size of the country, and the proportionally even smaller size of the number of newsmakers here. The papers tend to cover every turn of a story on a daily basis.

Another strength of the Malawian press, often highlighted by ZCT researcher Pierre Pratley, is their socially-conscious choice of content. US media is dominated by sexy stories that sell (cf. the constant stream of headlines about attractive white girls who have disappeared or been killed). A lot of the news content here, in contrast, seems designed to highlight issues of poverty, female empowerment, and so forth, particularly on the inside pages of the papers. On net the news here may be better and less exploitative than the product we get in the US, even if the quality of the writing and the depth on any given piece is lower.

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