So much has changed since Media Party Africa

Media Party Africa registration desk. Photo by Jodi Windvogel

It’s been three weeks since the inaugural Media Party Africa, and three days since Donald Trump became president of the United States. And while our focus here is firmly on Africa, the impact of the new POTUS serves as a warning call to all of us. The most important takeaway for me is the arrogance and one-sidedness of the media. From where I was reading, there was a definite and strong lean towards Hilary. And an unwavering and naïve belief that surely she would win because we all, or at least most of us, believe in progressiveness, inclusivity, and we’re anti all the bad stuff like bigotism. It’s easy to forget that rational thought, the ability to makes sense of politics, and navigating media is something learnt and still reserved for a privileged few. You have to have a certain level of literacy to traverse news media. And what I have seen in the reporting over the last few months leading up to the US elections is a lot of pontificating, journalists writing for other journalists.

Lauren Rabaino from Vox Storytelling Studio, Tweeted about her uneducated family who are Trump supporters.


Which brings me to the importance of events like Media Party Africa. The conference brought together media pioneers, civic technologists, and the best digital, drone, and data storytellers for a three-day conference in Cape Town. But I’m most delighted that there was a strong lean toward inclusivity and an overall awareness that as media professionals, you are only doing your job well if you can reach and empower everyone. This is what the event was all about, looking at why existing models of journalism no longer work and how we can improve the system to be more meaningful, impactful, and truly inclusive. The theme of this year’s conference was Disruption, Democracies and Digital Media. And I’m thrilled to say people were outchea to disrupt!

“Let’s not do news for and by one kind of person.”

Kainaz Amaria, the Design Director of Vox Storytelling Studio, spoke about creating good Internet, together. That means including the audience in your testing and keeping your reader top-of-mind. The sentiment of diversifying and up-skilling newsrooms was reiterated by Latoya Peterson who spoke on how newsrooms can gamify stories by employing a range of different skills. “You want somebody in your newsroom who thinks differently about stories.”

Kainaz Amaria during her presentation.

Verashni Pillay, the Editor-in-Chief of the about-to-launch, Huffington Post South Africa, spoke about reaching new audiences; “Let’s not do news for and by one kind of person.” And her Deputy Editor, Deshnee Subramany, gave an impassioned speech about having new voices come through in media, “We need black African women telling black African stories.” There were a lot of great female speakers like Catherine Gicheru, the first woman Editor- in-Chief of a newspaper in Kenya and Nigerian journalist, Chika Oduah who gave a first-hand account of what it’s like reporting on Boko Haram, “Boko harma is our greatest fear. It is [made of] young men who don’t believe they belong in secular society.”

Not only do we need more women and more people of colour telling their own stories, but there’s also a greater need for diversity within platforms like Media Party. The conference was made up of 67% male speakers and 59% white speakers. Not great. So next year, we will improve on this.

I hope we never have to relive the cringe-y speeches of white men and women mansplaining and whitesplaining our lived experiences. I hope we can create a space where there is room for all types of voices and opinions to be heard without the risk of being berated. And I especially hope that we meet people wherever they are, that we create content for all people, and not just about them.

I wanted to work in a Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie quote, but I can’t figure out how. So I’m just going to slap it here: The Danger of a Single Story. Now go watch it.

If you attended Media Party Africa, please take a moment to complete this survey to help us improve on the event in 2017.

To all journalists, Code for Africa is running a fund to help newsrooms innovate and leapfrog digital challenges. Have a look at innovateAfrica.fund and submit your application before 1 December 2016.

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See you next year!