I was lying on the rug in the living room, watching flashpoint, then a message came to my sister’s BlackBerry saying something about a bombing somewhere in the US.
So we saw it….BREAKING NEWS…….2 bombs had gone off simultaneously at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. It was shocking and you just kinda freeze for a moment and take it all in.
A torrent of questions come in at once: why,how, what motive, who did it, what do they want, how many people are dead? This is why we’ve got the media right? So I began to comb through social media, while watching news reports for an hour plus.
Now when you’ve never been to Boston Massachusetts and never run a marathon before, imagining the scenario may be hard. But when you see live pictures from the scene, view pictures and listen to all of what has just taken place, it’s a lot easier, you draw parallels as the story begins to unfold and appeal to your humanity.
That’s why these stories are called Human Interest stories.
When you think and imagine losing your life or a loved one in such circumstances, you get the story at once and begin to feel bad. The emotion makes you demand justice and it suddenly doesn’t matter if you are American, Nigerian, Australian or polish, lives have been lost, victims would never remain the same, fear has been instilled into a nation, and overall there is a sense of loss. This infuriates you all the more and drives you to react or respond all the more as the media stays with the story.
One of the first things I observed from the Nigerian ‘Tweetosphere’ was that so many people were thrilled about how quickly victims were rescued from the scene. It was just glaring: lives are valued.
Then it didn’t take long before an estimated number of casualties was released. Just like that? Wow!
Of course Nigerians began to compare the response and organization around the tragic Boston incident against the multiple Boko Haram incidents that happen in Northern Nigeria almost everyday.
Needless to say that the difference is clear, WE ALL KNOW THAT! But what is the difference? The quickest answer anyone would give is that the US government is committed to its people, while the Nigerian government appears not to care at all.
Perhaps we need to add one more answer: the US media coverage of a tragedy is excellent and realistic enough to make the world listen, that has not been the case for the Boko Haram incidents.
The power of the media in these matters is priceless. Earlier I tried to establish that human interest i.e. putting a human face on the story and presenting it in excellent fashion would draw attention to the situation. This attention makes everyone sit up. Public officials perform, medical people perform but most importantly the government is not at rest until answers are provided and justice brings some form of closure to the incident.
That may very well be one of the things we need in the Boko Haram situation.
It is clearly not enough to report for example, that 100 people were killed in a Bomb blast, but to tell us who these 100 people are. if a Bode, Yusuf or Eze was killed, telling us how old they are, being on the scene to re-enact the incident and a deep analysis of the issue, all done excellently brings attention to an issue.
In the wee hours of the morning, I Tweeted an opinion of mine around this issue, mentioning Japheth Omojuwa, one of Nigeria’s most influential Twitter personalities:
“The media in the United States would stay on the Boston bombings story for a very LONG time. In Nigeria, we move away from such stories too quickly.”
I got an interesting frank response:
“We move away too quickly because terrorist attacks are no longer a novelty here. It’s a novelty in America.”
Gbam! This is very true. perhaps that’s why our media might be losing some steam over the Boko Haram issue, but we need to get a concrete stories on the issue with a human face on it.
It might be extremely risky to put our journalists in the face of danger, but there is a story there, and we need to get the attention of the world. Perhaps we might all just sit up with the attention of the world fixed on us rather than the glare we get every now and then.