New News Out of Africa: A Conversation with Charlayne Hunter-Gault
Charlayne Hunter-Gault, Emmy and Peabody-winning Journalist, Civil Rights Crusader
Gayle Smith, Senior Fellow, the Center for American Progress
With better media coverage, the United States and the world would realize that there is more to Africa than death, disease, disaster, and despair. Charlayne Hunter-Gault delivered that message in a discussion Friday at the Center for American Progress.
Hunter-Gault, an award winning journalist currently working for NPR, talked about her new book, New News Out of Africa, with Gayle Smith, senior fellow at the Center. Touching on a wide range of African issues, the event focused on the impact of how Africa is treated in the American media.
“We don’t know enough about Africa,” Smith said, because our current media coverage is reactionary and piecemeal, suffering from the “if it bleeds, it leads” syndrome. As a consequence, the American public has become apathetic to the continent. The perception, according to Hunter-Gault, is that if conditions never change than the issues are not a good investment of time, emotions, and money.
The lack of consistent media attention is obscuring important positive developments in Africa. The most interesting stories, for Hunter-Gault, are not Africa’s problems but the hope and heroism throughout the continent in the face of those problems. “Today there is a second wind of change blowing across Africa,” she said. Pointing to tentative but consistent democratic progress and a growing confidence that Africa can be active in improving itself, Hunter-Gault expressed hope that a more positive image of Africa in the media could emerge.
Hunter-Gault emphasized that understanding the day-to-day stories of Africa means abandoning preconceived notions. Reporters covering Africa should “try to portray people in ways that are recognizable” to Africans. To gain the right perspective, she said, “You have to go there to know there.” With that message, Hunter-Gault’s new book hopes to bring the right kind of media coverage to a dynamically growing continent.
from left: Gayle Smith, Charlayne Hunter-Gault
Note: All video provided in QuickTime (MPEG-4) format.
Friday, June 30, 2006
Program: 10:30 AM – 11:30 AM
Admission is free
Center for American Progress
1333 H Street NW, 10th Floor
Washington, DC 20005
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Nearest Metro: Blue/Orange Line to McPherson Square or Red Line to Metro Center
Charlayne Hunter-Gault is an award-winning journalist with more than 40 years in the industry, extending her work at various times to all media. In 2005, she returned to NPR as a Special Correspondent after six years as CNN’s Johannesburg bureau chief and correspondent. She joined CNN in April 1999 from National Public Radio, where she worked as the network’s chief correspondent in Africa. Hunter-Gault joined NPR in 1997 after 20 years with PBS, where she worked as a national correspondent for The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. She began her journalism career as a reporter for The New Yorker; then worked as a local news anchor for WRC-TV in Washington, D.C.; and as the Harlem bureau chief for The New York Times. Her numerous honors include two Emmy awards and two Peabody awards — one for her work on “Apartheid’s People”, a “NewsHour” series about South African life during apartheid and the other for general coverage of Africa in 1998. Hunter-Gault also was the recipient of the 1986 Journalist of the Year Award from the National Association of Black Journalists, the 1990 Sidney Hillman Award, the American Women in Radio and Television award, the Good Housekeeping Broadcast Personality of the Year Award, and a 2004 National Association of Black Journalists Award for her CNN series on Zimbabwe. She has also received awards from Amnesty International for her Human Rights reporting, especially her PBS Series, Rights and Wrongs, a Human Rights Television magazine. In August 2005, she was inducted in the National Association of Black Journalists Hall of Fame. She is a sought after public speaker, holds more almost three dozen honorary degrees, is on the board of the Committee to Protect Journalists and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. She is married to banker Ronald T. Gault and has two adult children, Suesan and Chuma. She is the author of In My Place, a memoir of the civil rights movement, fashioned around her experiences as the first black woman to attend the University of Georgia.
A Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress, Gayle Smith has spent much of her career in international affairs in the field. Smith served as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for African Affairs at the National Security Council from 1998-2001, and as Senior Advisor to the Administrator and Chief of Staff of the U.S. Agency for International Development from 1994-1998. In 1999, she won the National Security Council’s Samuel Nelson Drew Award for Distinguished Contribution in Pursuit of Global Peace for her role in the successful negotiation of a peace agreement between Eritrea and Ethiopia. Smith was based in Africa for almost 20 years as a journalist covering military, economic and political affairs for the BBC, Associated Press, Reuters, Boston Globe, Christian Science Monitor, Toronto Globe & Mail, London Observer and Financial Times. Smith has also consulted for a wide range of NGOs, foundations and governmental organizations including UNICEF, the World Bank, Dutch Interchurch Aid, Norwegian Church Relief, and the Canadian Council for International Cooperation. She won the World Journalism Award from the World Affairs Council and the World Hunger Year Award in 1991. Smith is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and served as a member of the Commission on Capital Flows, the Commission on Weak States and National Security and the Council on Foreign Relation’s Africa Task Force. She is a Guest Scholar at the Brookings Institution, where she co-authored The Other War: Global Poverty and the Millennium Challenge Account. In 2005, she served as Director of the Global Poverty track of the Clinton Global Initiative.