Staff Editorial: Short-term coverage of long-term problems

When covering horrific events, the media has a tendency to fixate on details that provoke public interest rather than take an accurate, holistic and long-term approach to the situation. For example, media outlets focused on Boko Haram’s abduction of 276 girls from their Nigerian school and the recent massacre of students at Kenya’s Garissa University College for a relatively short time.

When we neglect to cover these topics in the long term, we support a fear of groups such as Boko Haram by only referring to them in situations of terror. A more long-term, holistic approach to these topics would encourage a more informed and involved populace, which might lead to more action on these issues.

Emphasizing short term coverage and then refocusing attention onto the next big story is a good way to sell newspapers, but it is not a good way to make sure citizens have accurate information on what is happening. If sustained media attention was given to such issues, it would encourage people to focus on wider, less attention-grabbing aspects of these events, such as their origins, effects and possible ways to change the situation for the better.

However, some people worry that the push for follow-up journalism is an effort to advance activist opinions. We agree that the media should remain neutral and not attempt to affect the public’s opinion. It is the emphasis on brief, sensationalized news stories that produces an ill-informed and possibly biased audience. It is holistic, long-term coverage that would objectively inform people, giving them the information they need to form their own opinions.

In the future, media should focus more on follow-up coverage, the recovery efforts and plans to address the existing problems. This will go beyond publicizing sensational and tragic events, and focus the public eye on how the relevant authorities deal with the aftermath, giving the public the details they need to stay informed.