Writing during the Donald Trump Era: It was critical for those who advocated on behalf of the African continent, African bloggers and journalists especially, to take a stand and fight for the continent we believe in.
African bloggers need to have a voice on the internet, just as the military has a voice on the military affairs of a nation, or as doctors have a voice on medical and patient issues.
By African bloggers and journalists, I mean professional people who use the internet, radio, and TV, to transmit news and information about the continent.
This is important because increasingly blogging, rather than traditional journalism, now plays a critical role in the dissemination of global news and information. And, for good or for bad, you don’t need a degree to blog or to practice journalism.
With Donald Trump still in the White House, the task of writing to defend the truth about the continent has become even more urgent. With every Trump lie that goes unchallenged the more, he adds to the cacophony of stereotypes about the African continent. Just as professional people would like to be respected for what they do, we don’t need to and don’t have to listen to those who make the African continent and its people look bad because of a big, fat lie from Donald Trump ex-president of the United States.
In addition, Trump has been roundly criticized for his assault on the free press in the U.S. and around the world. As a rebuke to Trump, newspapers and media organizations in America, in a coordinated process, organized a day in which they all stood up to the Trump administration. The reason, they said, was to defend the U.S. First Amendment, the right to free speech.
In 2014 I wrote on our sister website Africa Agenda that Africans in the diaspora need to help tell the African story, beat its beat and dance its dance. For those of us who have seen the Black Panther movie, the acting may have made you feel good about your homeland, but that is not enough. There is plenty of work that remains to be done, which is why I am writing this post.
Unfortunately, a lot of those who say they are advocating for the continent usually do so to benefit them. Many of our bloggers have failed to do justice to the continent. They have fallen into the trap set by people who want to fool them into believing that they are serving the community with their online activities. They have put money and cheap publicity above the goal to have a conviction to fight for a cause.
As the continent faces challenges use these recommendations to guide your blogging.
Don’t let others talk you out of your convictions
Donald Trump is presumed to have lied about the African continent being a s##hole? Are you one of those adding injury to the insult Trump made about the continent by agreeing that it is a s##hole?
Always remember there are two sides to the African story. We need a complete picture of the continent, not just what some people may like or not like about it.
What are your beliefs as a blogger? What kind of blogger are you? Are you blogging just because you want to make money? If that’s your only goal perhaps you don’t need to read this.
Do you agree that for every news story there is another side to it? Are you the kind who would sacrifice the integrity of an entire continent to encourage lies about it?
I am always stunned when well-meaning friends and family members send me links to videos and other information from bloggers and activists on the internet who spend so much time denigrating the continent and its leaders through their activism. While it may be entertaining most of what I’ve come across are one-sided monologues filled with disgusting stories about corruption and mismanagement.
But I have to ask where is the other side to corruption and mismanagement—good governance. Do you care that there is good governance taking place in many African nations? Do you care that the continent has a great historical heritage that is wonderful. Why not highlight it?
If you are too focused on just one side of an issue, you are missing the other side. This is not activism. It is called bias.
In The Elements of Journalism, Bill Kovach and Tom Rosentiel make an important point by stating that “A journalist who leaves out so much of the other news in the process is like the mapmaker who failed to tell the traveler of all the other roads along the way.” Kovack and Rosentiel elucidate this by recommending for journalists to “make the news proportional and comprehensive.”
Even with shrinking resources for newsrooms this proportionality and comprehensiveness they talk about can be covered through the proper representation of the community in the coverage of the news.
If you don’t understand this then you need to read my next point.
Know the difference between blogging and journalism
Just as there is a difference between an opinion piece, commentary, analysis, and the news, there is a clear line between being a blogger and being a journalist.
Many of those who pass for bloggers today sometimes call themselves journalists. Yes, there are bloggers who double as journalists. With the blurring of the line between blogging and journalism, real journalists, the ones who practice journalism, are taught in school or on the job, to adhere to the tenets of journalism. Meanwhile, many who simply blog, for blogging’s sake, and those who blog just to make a quick buck, don’t adhere to the same standards.
This has led to many questionable practices we see among African bloggers. We’ve seen many bloggers who spout a lot of stuff, garner huge internet following, and yet flaunt the ethics of blogging or basic journalism.
But they are believed by their followers, further sinking the image of the African continent with their jokes and lies.
If you cannot separate your personal opinions and properly label the material you are putting out, at the very least you should not fool your audience into thinking you are doing business on behalf of the people you are supposed to represent.
Because of this and the many threats posed by citizen journalists, Scott Gant, writing in We’re All Journalists Now (The Transformation of the Press and the Reshaping of the Law in the Internet Age) states: “Many traditional media organizations and other businesses will resist conferring citizen journalists with the kinds of rights and privileges extended to professionals.” He says the way this happens is often subtle, quiet, and behind the scenes. The way I’ve seen this happen personally in professional circles is through a lack of recognition or acknowledgment from others that someone is even a journalist.
So beware of why some journalists and bloggers may be ignoring or dismissing your work, no matter how good you think it is. Take the time to find out the reasons why they are doing so. The fact is that there is often a display of a “superiority complex” by many journalists who think that because they are professional journalists, bloggers or other journalists, who may be doing their best, don’t measure up.
My next point takes this issue further.
Just because you write stuff online does not make you an expert on everything
You might ask who cares if I am an expert or an authority on a particular area but that only adds to the display of your public stupidity when reasonable people read your stuff.
The idea of people pretending that they know something when they don’t or ignoring expert counsel is not just an African problem. This affects the U.S. and other developed nations as well.
Writing in his introduction to The Death of Expertise, scholar Tom Nichols says we live in dangerous times. “Never have so many people had so much access to so much knowledge and yet have been so resistant to learning anything.”
Write in clear English if you want to be taken seriously
If English is not your preferred language of communication, then whatever language you use make sure you communicate your points clearly.
The use of language is one of the hallmarks of great bloggers and journalists. Your language skills determine to what degree you can succeed in the field.
Any time a blogger or journalist writes in a language that seems muddled there is a tendency for miscommunication or confusion to occur. Miscommunication comes through misleading statements and misleading statements come from the misuse of information.
What is the solution? Study better punctuation; practice the use of the AP style if you are a professional journalist. Otherwise learn the tools of your craft. If you profess to the public that you are a professional blogger or journalist you better have something to show for it. Else cut it and stop fooling your audience with a copy that is riddled with too many errors.
Do not copy the works of others and claim them to be yours
A clear sign of fake bloggers and journalists on the internet is their ability to mimic the work of others. Besides the rush to be successful and prove something to others, is a tendency, seen mostly in budding journalists and bloggers, of wanting to be like everyone else. I call it the “I can do that too syndrome.”
Why is this a problem? To be a successful journalist, writer, or blogger you need to follow a sense of calling. In The Writer’s Manifesto writer Jeff Goins states, “A calling is what you have when you look back at your life and make sense of what it’s been trying to teach you all along.” Goins says finding your calling takes work and requires a “fear-facing journey” that lasts for a lifetime.
Do you feel a sense of calling as a journalist or blogger when you write? Otherwise, there won’t be a need to copy others because your unique self will spur you to be you and not someone else.
The craft of journalism, and by extension professional blogging, is an art rather than science. It’s an art because it comes with gifting which translates into your calling. Meanwhile, it is not merely science that needs to be studied and approved by others.
The idea that you’ll start a blog, copy other people’s ideas, and act like they are yours is not an admirable thing. In other words, it is fraudulent. This does not mean you can’t be inspired by the words or the works of others, but at least you ought to acknowledge others who have inspired you or give credit when you borrow ideas from others. I’ve seen a lot of bloggers or people who claim to be bloggers who boast about everything they’ve done as the world revolves around them. A lack of humility is a step toward cowardice.
Avoid the use of deceit in your blogging or writing. In other words, avoid the use of language that masks deceit by every means. Don’t be like Donald Trump. Trump has been described as a coward both by the political left and right because of his deceptive and intimidating tactics. The previous U.S President has been accused of saying one thing and then denying he said so the next minute.
Blog with a purpose in mind
I covered part of this in the introduction. Are you blogging to make money, or are you writing because you are passionate about an issue and want to get your point across to a wider audience? Are you doing this for short-term gain or long-term profit?
Are you blogging for fame or are you blogging because of a cause you hold dearly at heart? The way you respond to these questions determines how you’ll approach professional blogging or journalism. It also will determine how much time and commitment you give to it.
Sadly I’ve seen too many Africa-related blogs where the only purpose is to please friends and family. A lot of such blogs quickly turn into gossip chambers where the bloggers engage in folly and silliness to outshine each other. What is the end result?
I’ve seen far too many blogs that sprout in a day or two, yet are filled with wonderfully ridiculous commentary. It is entirely OK for everyone to do their own thing and to seek publicity on the web. But it’s not OK to fool the community by using fake dissent, innuendo, and lies to make a point that does not exist.
What is the point and what is the purpose one might ask when you read through them. Where do some of these people come from?
Thank goodness we’ve seen many of the blogs that rise fast, quickly disappear because of the authors’ lack of stamina. Stamina in the business of blogging is the ability to outlast your competition. You have to ask yourself the question, what is your mission from the start?
In closing, everyone is going to make mistakes. But let them be honest mistakes.