Today’s thought: leave the Ark, enjoy the procession.

Most times we think that God needs us to save His seemingly diminishing reputation… 

So like Uzzah we fail to look away when the Ark slides from the cart. Instead of holding our place in the glorious procession, we are hasty to intervene. Hasty to put the Ark back on the cart, failing to understand that the cart was only a means to an end, and not an end in itself.

Like the Pharisees, we fail to see that the tides have changed, and a new day has dawned. 

Like the older brother in the story of the prodigal son, we are bugged down with old paradigms, instead of lifting our heads like the father to embrace the new. To embrace the new generation. Not to judge or condemn, but to see them as equals; working towards the same goal – the redemption of fallen humanity. 

Like Martha we complain about Mary, after we have voluntarily put ourselves forward for the task.

Friends, the Ark will get to Judah, with or without us. It is simply destined to do so.

This Sunday’s lecture | Call of Duty: we build together

In the 31st chapter of the book of Exodus, we are introduced to a God that: calls, equips, and linkup people with unique talents and skills; towards a common purpose. 

This pattern provides us with a blueprint which can be used in the fulfilment God’s purpose. One that provides leaders and disciples with: wisdom, knowledge and understanding for everyday life and the work of the ministry. 

So join us tonight: (6:00-7:30) pm

Art Centre, Drama Room, Bexleyheath Academy, Woolwich Rd, Bexleyheath, Kent DA6 7DA 

(Free parking in front of the school and adjacent streets)

This Sunday’s lecture | The parable of the talents: a lesson in praxis

Last Sunday we looked at aspects of Jesus’ life through Gramsci’s concept of the Organic Intellectual. Tomorrow we build upon that foundation, bringing it home, and reflecting on our lives as believers in the 21st century.

In 1944, while Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s was in prison by the Nazi regime, he wrote a letter a friend. In this letter he asked some profound questions with regards to the trajectory of Christianity. He presciently said:

We are moving towards a completely religionless time; people as they are now simply cannot be religious anymore. Even those who honestly describe themselves as ‘religious’ do not in the least act up to it, and so they presumably mean something quite different by ‘religious’

To this end, the following questions come to mind:
– How can we live out our faith effectively within our communities?

  • How can the church remain relevant now and in the next generation?
  • What does the parable of the talents mean to us today?

So join us tomorrow as we explore themes around these questions.

(6:00-7:30) pm
Art Centre, Drama Room, Bexleyheath Academy, Woolwich Rd, Bexleyheath, Kent DA6 7DA

(Free parking in front of the school and adjacent streets)

Tonight’s lecture: Jesus as an organic intellectual

When Jesus read from the scroll at the synagogue, he crystallised it by saying:

“Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” – (Luke 4:21).

So dear friends Jesus did not just read and talked about scriptures, but rather he lived and breathed them. He brought them alive through active participation and engagement with the messiness of humanity.

So join us tonight as we explore themes along this thought.

(6:00-7:30) pm
Art Centre, Drama Room, Bexleyheath Academy, Woolwich Rd, Bexleyheath, Kent DA6 7DA
(Free parking in front of the school and adjacent streets)

What does Jesus have to say about social justice in Luke’s Gospel?

Introduction

In giving consideration to the concept of Social Justice, let us have a look at the Oxford English Dictionary definition and John Rawls’ pivotal work on the subject, aptly entitled Principles of Justice. First, the Oxford English Dictionary: justice in terms of the distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges within a society.

For Rawls (1971) there were two key principles: ‘The first principle: each person is to have an equal right to the most extensive total system of equal basic liberties compatible with similar system of liberty for all. The second principle: social and economic inequalities are to be arranged so that they are both: (a) to the greatest benefit of the least advantaged, consistent with the just savings principle, and, (b) attached to offices and positions open to all under the conditions of fair and equality of opportunity’.

With these as backdrop, this essay seeks to explore cross cuttings themes on Social Justice from Luke’s account of Jesus, as consolidated in the verses of Isaiah 61:1–2a, recorded in the gospel of Luke 4:16–30.

Luke’s Jesus

The gospel of Luke opens up Jesus’ ministry with an event recorded in Luke 4:16–30, just after his temptation by devil (the god of this world). However, before we delve into this event it is important to touch briefly on the key battlegrounds with the devil during his temptation. First he was tested for: his devotion (If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread); then his love for power and wealth (To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours); and finally his desire for fame (If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone) (Luke 4:1–13).

Unlike Adam who fell for the lure of the derivatives of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, Jesus matched each of the devil’s assault with scriptural texts. He emptied himself of the desires of the material world, emerging victorious — ‘filled with the spirit and his fame spread through all the surrounding country’ (Luke 4:14–15).

Going back to Luke 4:16–30, we see an account in which Jesus visits the local synagogue in Nazareth (the town he had been brought up), and a scroll was presented to him for reading — perhaps based on his new found fame the leaders decided to honour him. As fate would have it, this scroll was the book of Isaiah, so he unrolled it and read to the congregation:

‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’ (Luke 4:18–19)

I believe this proclamation echoed though the structures of the synagogue just like a prophetic manifesto of the kingdom of God, which he began to express through his: actions, lifestyle, preaching and teaching over the course of his ministry.

According to Cone (2012), ‘This reversal of expectations and conventional values is the unmistakable theme of the gospel’. Cone went on to use the term transvaluation of values in explaining this phenomena, a term he borrowed from Niebuhr, citing examples from: Luke 16:15, ‘What is prized by human beings is an abomination in the sight of God.’; and Luke 18:14, ‘All who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.’ In line with this thought, Torre (2014) noted that, ‘Justice begins with the plight of the poor, the oppressed, the marginalised, the outcast, and the disenfranchised. To engage in justice is to do with it, and from, the perspective of those whom society considers (no) bodies.’ (p. 86).

Grassi (2003, p. 172) and Stanton (2002, p.79) highlight that the word manyin Luke’s prologue denotes that other writers had embarked on a written account of Jesus’ life. They both agree that Mark was a primary source for Matthew and Luke, and, the possibility of another source which was not accessible to Mark. According to Stanton (2002), ‘Luke’s portrait of Jesus seems to stress his human qualities. Even more than Matthew and Mark, Luke emphasizes the concern of Jesus for women, for tax collectors and sinners, and for those at the fringes of society’ (p. 79).

The book of Luke takes its readers on a journey which can be summarised in three stages: Jesus’ ministry in Galilee (Luke 4:14–9:50); his journey to Jerusalem (Luke 9:51–19:48); and, his arrest, trial, death, resurrection, instructions and promise of power — through the Holy Spirit (Luke 20–24:53).

Through Luke’s writing, we are privy to seminal parables like: the Prodigal son and the Good Samaritan. The latter inspired Martin Luther King’s last speech to a crowd of striking sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee, popularly known as ‘I’ve Been to the Mountaintop’. The crescendo of this piece being the moral dilemma he presents to his audience, and the ethical question he leaves them to muse over:

‘…In the days of Jesus it came to be known as the ‘Bloody Pass.’ And you know, it’s possible that the priest and the Levite looked over that man on the ground and wondered if the robbers were still around. Or it’s possible that they felt that the man on the ground was merely faking, and he was acting like he had been robbed and hurt in order to seize them over there, lure them there for quick and easy seizure. And so the first question that the priest asked, the first question that the Levite asked was, ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?’ “But then the Good Samaritan came by, and he reversed the question: ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?’

Through the threads of key events and key personalities, Luke unravels the mystery of the incarnation, presenting a beautiful tapestry of spiritual liberation and social justice for humanity. I can hear the reverberations of God’s thoughts through the pages of this gospel — I hear God pondering ‘If I do not stop to help humanity, what will happen?’ For the rich young ruler was as poor and vulnerable, as the widow in the earlier parable who was seeking justice from the unjust judge. Perhaps both accounts were craftily juxtaposed by Luke for reflection by his audience. Reflection on the social dilemmas they were faced with on a daily basis (Luke 18:1–14).

So he cites that Jesus was born in the days of the decree by Emperor Augustus, and John the Baptist began preaching in the fifteenth year of the reign of the emperor Tiberius. Stanton (2002) noted that the dedication of both volumes (Luke and Acts), to most excellent Theophilus, strengthens the case that Luke’s writing was geared towards the intelligentsia of his era (p. 80). Perhaps with a view not to alienate this group, he omits ‘the day of vengeance of our God’ (Isaiah 61:2b) in his account of Jesus’ reading of the text in the synagogue — our God denoting the God of the Hebrews — as to Jesus, the saviour of both Jews and gentiles. However I hasten to clarify that some scholars take the literal meaning of Theophilus, (lover of God, or friend of God) , underscoring that the letter was not written to any individual, but rather, a body of believers.

Furthermore Grassi (2003) also noted Luke’s purpose for writing as detailed in his prologue of his Gospel, with emphasis on the events fulfilled among; indicating the promises of God found in the scriptures. He further highlights the quote by Jesus towards the end Luke’s Gospel, (Luke 24:44): ‘these are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you — that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled’ (pp.172–173).

Jesus and social justice according to Luke

Hanson and Oakman (1998) mentioned that the ruling elites during Jesus’ era sought out the backing of either the Seleucids, Ptolemies, Parthians or the Romans; for protection, access to power, religious control, and inducement (p.87). These families protected their interest through very strong family ties and allegiance, making economic and social mobility very difficult for the peasantry. Like the widow in the parable (Luke 18:1–8), the peasants were entirely dependent on the ruling elites for justice on issues regarding: unfair tax bills, the dispossession of their land and property, the oppression by their employers or slave masters, the arrest or enslavement of their children… In the absence of equity some resulted to banditry. As a result Jesus’ association and identification with these groups, made him an enemy of the establishment (Luke 7:36–38). He was seen as a renegade preacher, a non-conformist, one with a contrary agenda, one who was gathering a following, one who might lead an insurrection. And because they had too much at stake, they sought to get rid of him, with a view to maintain the status quo and protect their interest. In some quarters he was even seen to be an arbitrator, hence he replied the man who demanded his intervention over a family dispute: ‘Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?’ (Luke 12:14).

Luke recorded thirteen parables by Jesus. These parables can be best described as allegories or simple stories, some from oral tradition; which he used to illustrate moral or spiritual lessons to his audience. As well as spiritual and ethical slants, these parables also carried along themes of social justice, and clear links Jesus’ messianic manifesto as recorded in Luke 4:18–19. They include: the parable of the Sower (8:4–15); the parable of the Good Samaritan (10:25–37); the parable of the Rich Fool (12:13–21); the parable of the Mustard Seed (13:18–19); the parable of the Great Dinner (14:15–24), the parable of the Lost Sheep (15:1–7); the parable of the Lost coin (15:8–10); the parable of the Prodigal Son (15:11–32); the parable of the Dishonest Manager (16:1–9); the parable of the Widow and Unjust Judge (18:1–8); the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (18:9–14); the parable of the Ten Pounds (19:11–27); and, the parable of the Wicked Tenants (20:9–19).

As with his teaching and lifestyle, Jesus’ call to repentance is far more emphasised in Luke’s writing in comparison to the other gospels. His desire was for change, and for the people to become agents of change — hence he cried over Jerusalem in disappointment before entering the city (Luke 19:41). We see later in the Book of Acts, and through history, these catalysts (disciples) causing sea change in the way people do: business, politics, relationship, worship, law, race-relations, diplomacy, education, government; across the Roman Empire — incarnating God’s will and kingdominto communities as they fled persecution from the authorities.

It is also important to note that Luke highlights Jesus’ dealings with non-Jews and the ruling elites of his era. For instance, the story of the centurion whose servant was gravely ill comes to mind (Luke 7:1–10). This senior Roman soldier’s social and political status is brought to light to us through the testimony of the Jewish elders he sent to solicit Jesus’ help. They spoke of some of his good deeds — including his contribution to the building of a synagogue. The centurion’s sphere of military authority was also underscored by the statement of faith he conveyed through his friends to Jesus:

“Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; therefore I did not presume to come to you. But only speak the word, and let my servant be healed. For I also am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and the slave does it.” (Luke 7:6–7 NRSV).

Conclusion

Grassi (2003) noted that ‘If one word were to sum up a dominant concern of Luke, it would be metanoia, meaning ‘repentance’ — literally, a change of mind and heart. The beginning and end of Luke’s two volumes focus on this word.’ (p. 173).

For Luke, repentance was a precursor to forgiveness. There needed to be a conscious effort on the part of the recipients of God’s love; to effect a lasting change. Perhaps a process not dissimilar to the exegesis of the different landscapes, and their corresponding response to the seeds scattered by the sower, in the parable of the sower.

So in closing, I return again to Luke 4:18–19, this time with a view to amplify the text using John Rawls’ Principles of Justice.

Jesus said: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’

And John Rawls encapsulates the spirit of these words in two enduring principles: ‘The first principle: each person is to have an equal right to the most extensive total system of equal basic liberties compatible with similar system of liberty for all. The second principle: social and economic inequalities are to be arranged so that they are both: (a) to the greatest benefit of the least advantaged, consistent with the just savings principle, and, (b) attached to offices and positions open to all under the conditions of fair and equality of opportunity’ (p.302).

Bibliography

Cone, J. (2012) The Cross and the Lynching Tree. United States: Orbis Books

Grassi, J. (2002) Informing the Future: Social Justice in the New Testament.United States: Paulist Press International, U.S.

Hanson, K. and Oakman, D. (1998) Palestine in the Time of Jesus: Social Structures and Social Conflicts. United States: Minneapolis : Fortress Press, c1998.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (April 3, 1968). “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” (Transcript). American Rhetoric.

Rawls, J. (1971) Theory of Justice. United States: Belknap

Stanton, G. (2002) The Gospels and Jesus. 2nd edn. United Kingdom: Oxford University Press, USA.

 

News values: Is the African voice suppressed?

A content analysis of six newspaper reports on Ebola in Nigeria in the Telegraph and the Mirror from July 20th 2014 to October 20th 2014; with particular focus on the adjectives used, and sources cited.

In the words of Jawaharlal Nehru (the first Prime Minister of independent India):

A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new; when an age ends; and when the soul of a nation longsuppressed finds utterance.

This quote will form the basis of my inquiry into whether the voice of Nigeria was suppressed in the coverage of the Ebola crisis. In addressing my hypothesis I have selected six reports, three articles from each newspaper from the day the virus entered Nigeria (July 20th 2014), to the day the country was declared Ebola free by the World Health Organisation (WHO) — 20th October 2014. Both newspapers were selected by their market segment and political inclination: the Telegraph being a broadsheet right of centre newspaper, while the Daily Mirror is a tabloid newspaper with inclination to the left of the political spectrum.

Content Analysis

In addressing Content Analysis I am reminded of a statement by Robson (2002) on making enquiry, a term he borrowed from detectives to describe the process of ascertaining the best research method. In his words,

Put in more usual research language, watching becomes observation; asking becomes interviewing, using questionnaires and administering tests (Robson 2002: p. 223).

Some definitions:

  1. “is a research technique for the objective, systematic, and quantitative description of the manifest content of communication” (Berelson, 1952: 18).
  2. “the systematic and replicable examination of symbols of communication, which have been assigned numeric values according to valid measurement rules, and the analysis of the relationships involving those values using statistical methods, in order to describe the communication to its context, both of production and consumption” (Riffe et al, 1998: 20).
  3. “In one sense, all qualitative data analysis is content analysis in that it is the content of interviews, field notes, and documents that is analysed. Although this content can be analysed qualitatively for themes and recurring patterns of meaning, content analysis historically has been very quantitative in nature” (Merriam, 1998: 160)

All three definitions allude to the fact that it is systematic and quantitative. Within the toolkit for researching texts and distinctive in its own right, content analysis has its place with other methods like: textual analysis, discourse analysis, and semiology. It is systematic in the sense that it uses a fixed research guide; and scientific in the sense that it can be replicated by different individuals with certainty that the interpretation of results correspond with data generated from the process. It is also objective and replicable once the parameters are set using a Coding Sheet, on this point it is important to emphasise that content analysis is as valid as the coding scheme is valid to the enquiry at hand. Therefore, the design of the coding scheme is imperative to a successful research project.

According to Robson (2002),

Content Analysis came to prominence in the social sciences at the start of the twentieth century, in a series of quantitative analyses of newspapers, primarily in the United States.’ (p. 351).

It is effective in comparing: representations, contents; and, it can be applied across media and formats e.g. video games, TV programmes, radio programmes, movies, and print. For instance, it could be used to analyse the amount of adverts in a video game, or representation of women in news or a TV drama. Content Analysis can be used to monitor, measure, and count subject matters — as is the case with this research.

However one of its limitation is the fact that resources are finite and our universe is vast, with this in mind the scope and samples size for research needs to be representative in order to allow for generalisation. For example, the first Ebola outbreak in West Africa was reported in Guinea in December 2013, and on 20th July 2014 Mr Sawyer (a Liberian-American diplomat) arrived at the main Nigerian international airport in Lagos with the virus. In terms of news outlet, we have: radio, television, magazines, newspapers, and the internet. In England alone there at least twenty four newspapers, which can be divided into the following segments: broadsheets, tabloid, mid-market broadsheet and freesheets. Clearly the burden on finances, resources and time poses a challenge on a research project of this magnitude. As a result, I am working on a couple of newspapers and six articles.

As part of the quality assurance process, the values need to be clearly thought through and defined; so like a funnel, attributes have to be streamlined to basic units in order to enable computation and analysis. For example, units of analysis (e.g. front page of the Sun), subjects (news about migrants), categories (politics, economics, housing, NHS, Schools), and variables (Africans, EU,).

Robson (2002), listed the following steps in carrying out a content analysis:

  1. Start with a research question;
  2. Decide on sampling strategy;
  3. Define the recording unit;
  4. Construct categories of analysis;
  5. Test the coding on samples of text and assess reliability; and
  6. Carry out the analysis

In comparison to other methods of data collection, Robson (2002) highlighted the following advantages and disadvantages:

Advantages:

  • when based on existing documents, it is unobtrusive. You can ‘observe’ without being observed.
  • the data are in permanent form and hence can be subject to re-analysis, allowing reliability checks and replication studies.
  • it may provide a low cost form of longitudinal analysis when a run of series of documents of a particular type is available.

Disadvantages:

  • the documents available may be limited or partial.
  • the documents have been written for some purpose other than for research, and it is difficult or impossible to allow for the biases or distortions that this introduces (note need for triangulation with other accounts/data sources to address this problem).
  • it is very difficult to assess casual relationships. Are the documents causes of the social phenomena you are interested in, or reflections of them (e.g.in relation to pornography and/or violence in the mass media)? (p. 358)

Coding Sheet and Sample

According to Merriam (1998),

the name of categories can be derived from three main sources: the researcher, the participants, or sources outside the study such as the literature (p. 182).

To this end I arrived at the following headers for my coding sheets (attached as appendices): Article ID, Date, Newspaper, Word count, Adjectives (two subcategories: positive or negative), Sources cited (three subcategories: reliable, vague or none), and Other (for anything that is relevant, but does not fit into any of the headers). I hasten to clarify that reliability of sources is based on either the individual’s proximity to the event or victim, expertise on the subject, or position of power. For example, a relative of the victim, a knowledge expert on the subject, a health professional based in Nigeria, a staff from Medicine San Frontiers (MSF), a WHO official, or a member of the Nigerian government.

Sample size

My search was carried out on LexisNexis using query for ‘Ebola’ and ‘Nigeria’in ‘headlines’. With the start and end dates known, I worked out the total days of the event (93 days) in arriving at a median date. Three articles from each newspaper was selected based on reports on the start-date (July 20th 2014), median-date (4th September 2014), and, end-date (20th October 2014). Where no reports were available on any of these days, an article closest to the date was selected. And if more than one article was available on the same day the one with the most words was used.

Stereotype and News Values: Is the African voice being suppressed?

Using the analogy of the mechanical press to explain the impact of a negative image and the stereotype it leaves in the minds of people, Downing and Husband (2005), mentioned that:

a figurative stereotypes becomes a social and psychological definition of an ethnic or other social group, as something produced as a result of enormous, irresistible pressure that in consequence is completely fixed, ‘carved in stone’ so to speak, totally resistant to change or adaptation. (p. 32).

These images and stereotypes are likely to be evident in the types of words (especially adjectives) used and sources cited in the coverage of this news. By way of background the Nigerian government was able to track victims and contain the Ebola virus; using local expertise, innovative ideas and a fit-for-purpose strategy. Sadly, the country, its volunteers and health professionals did not get the praise and coverage they deserved — especially after all the negative publicity the nation and nationals have suffered from the English press over the years.

In preparing for this research, I read through a broad range of online materials, sources include: the BBC, Aljazeera, Bloomberg, CNN, BBC, British Medical Council, Vanguard (Nigeria), Guardian, The Independent, CBS, Huffington Post, The Atlantic, Walls Street Journal, The Times, Mail online, Daily Express; with a view to spot trends and observe themes.

During the course of my reading exercise, I was surprised to know that following the success by the Nigerian authorities, a contingent was sent to lead the African Union task force against Ebola in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. This team comprised of medical epidemiologist, field epidemiologist, physicians, nurses, laboratory technologists, laboratory scientist, data managers, and psycho-social professionals. Armed with this information, I turned to Galtung and Ruge’s (1965) seminal work on News Values, for answers. They defined news values

as specific standards adhered to by media professionals in the structuring, selection and production of news stories worthy of reporting to the audience by news reporter, journalist, and broadcasting media professionals also as a general guidelines and criteria that determines the worth of news and how much prominence is given by newspapers, radio, or television reporters.

They listed twelve factors responsible for the construction and reporting decisions in newspapers and broadcast news — a term they coined‘newsworthiness’. Therefore, an event is as worthy as the amount of criteria it addresses among these twelve factors. Through their research they worked through three basic hypotheses:

(1.) additivity hypothesis: the more factors an event satisfies, the higher the probability that it becomes news; (2.) complementarity hypothesis: the factors will tend to exclude each other; (3.) exclusion hypothesis: events that satisfy none or very few factors will not become news (pp. 64–91).

Application of Galtung and Ruge’s (1965) twelve factors:

  1. Frequency: the events occurred unexpectedly, and with Lagos State being densely populated, it was feared to be a disaster. However as the authorities stepped in to bring a speedy end to the virus, the news suddenly died out;
  2. Threshold: the threshold value witnessed a diminishing return once no new incidents were reported by the World Health Organisation (WHO);
  3. Negativity: the negativity factor quickly dried out as the virus was curbed through the efforts of the government of Lagos State and the joint task force delegated to deal with the outbreak of the virus;
  4. Unexpectedness: It was an extra-ordinary event when it was known that Mr Sawyer travelled via plane with seventy two other passengers to Nigeria, infected with the virus;
  5. Unambiguity: because of the negative perception of Nigeria, and the shock factor, the press were hesitant to report about the turn of events in Nigeria even after the WHO had given the country the all clear;
  6. Meaningfulness: other than the fact that Nigeria is an ex-colony and a member of the common wealth, the cultural proximity is quite wide in distance; as a result once the course of the story became positive, its news value dropped significantly;
  7. Personalisation: the outbreak could not be personalised beyond the death of the doctor Dr Stella Adadevoh who diagnosed and alerted the authorities in Nigeria of the first victim. After her death the personalisation factor dropped moved to her family, then it faded;
  8. Reference to elite nations: although an oil rich elite nation in an African context, Nigeria is not a global power. As a result there wasn’t much attention once the infection was curbed;
  9. Reference to elite persons: similar to the point raised with regards to personalisation, the virus did not affect any rich, powerful, famous and infamous get more coverage;
  10. Consonance: the initial outbreak fitted with the media’s expectations so it received a lot of coverage, but as time passed the media’s readiness to report on the Nigeria dwindled;
  11. Continuity: with the population, and perceived hygiene and educational level of the masses, the story gathered momentum. However, this changed very quickly as the outbreak was contained through effective public information and mass mobilisation of volunteers and government officials;
  12. Composition: stories from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea took centre stage as Nigeria contained the virus.

Applying Content Analysis

From Table 1 (see appendices), we can deduce that all the articles had at least one source cited, and they were all experts. However nine (64%) were likely to be close to the event in the sense that they were either in Nigeria, West Africa or directly responsible for staff on the ground; while (36%) were unlikely.

The total word count for both sets of articles was close; the telegraph was 2,177 and the Mirror 2,263; this was a surprise as I was expecting the coverage from a broadsheet newspaper to be bigger than that of a tabloid newspaper. I didn’t find any report on 24th September 2014 (the median date).

The Telegraph reported on 20th October (the day Nigeria was declared Ebola free), however the report was very condescending. The success was down to luck and the competence of a British trained doctor — directing the success to the UK. Within the same article, an unrelated news about the Boko Haram insurgency also stole this rare opportunity for the country to shine. The people involved were detached from the country in the report, they were praised almost as if they were not Nigerians — which I found bizarre.

For a nation that is a former colony and member of the common wealth, the reports lacked depth and width, as a result, I suspect that most Nigerians and others concerned about this epidemic would have had to look to else for in-depth coverage.

Very few adjectives were used as reporters seemed very distant from the event. A couple of the Mirror’s reports came across as alarmist, and they did not reflect the content of their headlines. In one case, a report with a headline on Nigeria suddenly switched to Sierra Leone half-way through with clearly no direct link within the story.

Conclusion

This exercise has been an eye opener for me, as I grappled with different theories around race and gender reporting.

With Nigeria’s recent history, a statement by Downing and Husband (2005), comes to mind,

It may be hostile or it may be held supportive — White people over the past millennium have often held supportive stereotypes of themselves and negative stereotypes of those they colonized — but it is rigid. (p. 32).

This line of thought was also highlighted recently in Blurs’ Damon Albarn’s criticism of the image of Africa portrayed in the Band Aid 30 song. In an interview with Cathy Newman (Channel 4) he said:

“Having been to many countries and gotten to know many people, it always seems that we have only one view of it,”

In reflection content analysis is a very effective tool, standing to its name as a method of analysing the contents of a piece of information.

There was evidence of little or no competition from newspapers to report on the subject, in fact most of the newspaper coverage were hardly dissimilar.

There were likely to have been logistical challenges especially to do with health and safety of reporters and their crew, however the risk factors are not different from the risks of war — perhaps this accounts for the lack of depth and width of coverage.

Perhaps advertisers were not likely to be associated with poor disease ridden Africans. This leads us to another salient point: where and how people in diaspora access news. In recent times we have seen a big drift to internet sources; TV channels like CNN and AL Jazeera; and radio programmes like BBC’s World Service. So, may be news from Africa is no longer financially viable for newspapers. May be we are not interested in news from the continent, may be we have exhausted our emotional capital, may be the newspapers have left that share of the business to bigger news companies…

Finally, for an event that ran for ninety three days, a seven percent sample is insufficient for thorough analysis, but sufficient enough for testing the hypothesis, and providing scope for further work on some of the questions raised in this report.

Bibliography

Balnaves, M., Shoesmith, B., and Donald, S. (2009) Media Theories and Approaches: A Global Perspective. Palgrave Macmillan.

Berelson, B. (1952). Content Analysis in Communication Research. Glencoe, Ill: Free Press.

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Appendices

Table 1: Data from Coding Sheet

6 completed coding sheets

3 Newspaper articles from The Telegraph

3 Newspaper articles from The Mirror

Meditation: Economics and Social Change

‘Social change doesn’t always have to be political, cutural or spiritual; it could also be economical. Economical change rewards providers financially, and in return consumers get value for money. Let this statement change the way we think or do business’ ~ Clement Akran