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Why this headline bothers me, despite the article contents: ‘Africa is a great country: Photos from a booming land’

The first tweet that popped up on my twitter feed this morning was this one :

FP

                     

                                   

 

It immediately got my hackles up and I tweeted back something appropriately scathing about Africa being 54 countries – without reading the article I will admit.  Factually incorrect headlines tend to provoke such behaviour in me, and since this is generally quite a serious publication, I did not for a second think they were trying to be ironic.

@letlapa37 then tweeted back saying ‘Read the article to the bottom Tracy – it’s not great but it does make a point!’ And so I did (a little begrudgingly)…                                                                                                    I was surprised (and pleased) to find that it was about a photo exhibition aimed at countering this myth of Africa being one country, illustrate the great diversity across the continent and encourage people to look at Africa with new eyes. The headline still really bugs me though.

My issue with it? I have a few.

  1. Since it leads with a series of photos, most people will not read the article below, and so the photos and headline are what the majority of readers will be exposed to. While this may change their view of the continent as simply one of famine and war, it does nothing to further the goal of showing Africa as a diverse continent made up of 54 countries. Nor does it in anyway illustrate that the headline above is ironic. Is the fact that the irony of such a headline is so easily lost sad? Of course, but we know this perception problem exists – hence the need for the exhibition in the first place. These reasons are also the reasons I write this blog, unfortunately not even close to enough people globally understand the reality of Africa as a continent to get the joke.
  2. The exhibition is being held in Sweden and 3 African cities (ironically not specified) so it’s not like all readers will have the opportunity to take time to engage with the issue first hand and be exposed to all its nuances. This again brings us back to point 1, that most people will only see the headline and photos and take these at face value. The exhibition name is not of concern for me exactly because of the time to engage mentioned above. The participant is involved for long enough to create a context that very clearly underscores the name’s irony. It’s this lack of context that makes the headline irresponsible for me.
  3. On a slightly more technical note, the text of this article appears under only the first photo. So if at some stage during your viewing of the slideshow you do happen to scroll down (and let’s be honest that’s most likely at the end, if at all) unless you’re on photo 1, the only things that will appear on your screen are the misleading headline and a photo. Refer back to point 1.

So sadly while the intention of the exhibition exposure may have been good, this piece (specifically its headline) is for me counterproductive to the goals of the exhibition. Perhaps even guilty of a little of the behaviour they describe in the article…

 
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Posted by on April 12, 2013 in Opinion