Monday, August 28, 2006
ALL HAIL 'UNCLE JEFF'
This post has been long over due. I am sure you all know who this gentle man is on the left and if you don't, then you're not very current on your news and current affairs. As in if Oprah Winfrey knows who Jeff Koinange is and you don't, then you berra 'axe' somborri. So let me tell you about Uncle Jeff as I have begun to call him since his 'reporting live from Liberia' days. Jeff Koinange is the Africa correspondent for CNN (while Alphonso Van Marsh is the video-correspondent..why they have ONLY two guys assigned to a whole continent of 50 countries and over 1000 ethnicities beats me, but it's better than the other networks that have none at all). This guy is by far and hands down one of the most talented and fantastic reporters to join CNN, and there are many of them in that place that it is hard to pick one over the other, but I have to tip my hat off higher to Uncle Jeff. May be I am just biased because he is from Africa and because of 'other factors'. The guy is a Ninja when it comes to covering the happenings of the continent. His news packages are heartfelt, sincere and tear jerking to say the least. I know the Nigerian government had a bitter sweet relationship with him when he was the bureau chief in Lagos (guess CNN got too much grief that they scrapped that spot. That I think was a loss for Nigeria but I am sure no one was wise enough to see the gain in having a CNN bureau in your country) and claim he exaggerates, but I'll rather be over sold on the severity of the news than to get nothing at all which is usually what happens if you leave it to the likes of NTA or Mister Minister of Misinformation. At the sound of a pin, you can trust Jeff to be reporting live from any point on the Continent at anytime just like an African-jujuman. One day he is in Cape, and before you blink he is in Cairo. Last time I checked my history books Cecil Rhodes never completed that particular rail line, which makes me wonder how the hell does he do it all, he and his photographer.
Since Jeff came on board, I have noticed a big difference in the way CNN covers Africa on their national airwaves. I don't get to watch CNN International so I am sure the coverage must be a bit different there with Femi Oke and Isha Sesay holding down the forte (Zain Verjee is from Kenya and is representing too on the national channel). Jeff brings a variety of stories about the continent. When it comes to the normal and very typical 'Africans are hopeless', 'Africans are always hungry or sick' or 'Africans are always killing each other' he is sure to tell it as it is without sugar coating. When it comes to the other touching stories about people that stirs up emotions, about positive things happening he manages to not just 'pitch' but 'sell' his stories to the 'powers-that-be' and brings it to us like I haven't seen before. And as I have observed, anything that has to do with a 'good' side of Africa needs a used-car salesman or a 'celebrity' attachment to be sold.
I am definitely not saying that my icon Christiane Amanpour has not done a great job covering Africa. Are you kidding me, she is the very reason I am broke and struggling journalist. I'm almost amazed that I don't have a shrine for her in the corner of my closet, or a locket with her picture hanging over my neck. I am also not saying that Charlyne Hunter-Gault didn't do a great job as Africa Bureau Chief in Jo'burg either. In fact they both set the pace and paved the way for Jeff to come in and shine as he is doing right now. But I think what makes Jeff different is that he is African himself and knows where the shoe pinches 'US' more than a foreign reporter thrown into the mix just because he or she can speak 'french' or joined the Peace Corp after college . (That's Addy being sarcastic.) When Jeff reports I hear an African man telling the story of his people and with passion, authority and command in his voice saying 'Stop, Look and Listen because what I am about to tell you is important to me and should be to you as well'.
You must be wondering why I am raving about Jeff all of a sudden. Well I was really excited about Oprah but couldn't help but notice how impressive Jeff's news package about Oprah's Academy was. You can see the segment as it appeared on Wolf Blitzer's Situation Room below.
It was such a good story that it brought tears to my eyes. Let me not even get into that alliteration and assonance of his writing that just sounds like something out of Wole Soyinka's anthology. At first I brushed it off as part of the Oprah effect,because everything Oprah does brings tears of joy and happiness to ones eyes. I wish she would run for President so that I can join her campaign. Lol. When the same thing happened this past weekend with the Barack Obama 'Back to My Roots' story below, I was like 'WOW!!! This dude is awesome and where the hell did CNN find this guy'. I don't think any body else could have told those stories better(I couldn't find the other story I saw on Monday with the Senator taking the test).
Anyways I just thought I'd point it out just in case y'all didn't notice or just missed it. What do you guys think about Jeff's reporting if you have seen it in the past. Do y'all remember him on Katrina Aftermath. I think he did a superb job reporting on that because he was basically one of a few reporters at CNN with 'that kind of reporting' experience if you know what I mean. Who's your absolute favorite on CNN and why? My list is long but here it is in random order; Christian Amanpour, Anderson Cooper, Kyra Phillips, Jeff Koinange, Femi Oke, Soledad O'brien (missed her since I got out west, she comes on at 3am), Lou Dobbs, Wolf Blitzer, Ben Wedeman, Richard Quest, Tony Harris. (Adaora Udoji for sentimental reasons but she's now on Court Tv)... OH WHAT THE HECK I LOVE ALL OF THEM!!!THEY ARE JUST THE BEST!!!!
Also I know the answer to the question of why Africa doesn't get any coverage will be because the American Government has no interest there. But is that TRULY the case? Why don't we see positive stories about lifestyle, politics and reform coming out of Africa in American media. With the exception of the weekly program Inside Africa on CNN, which by the way is a very very good and eye opening program, why aren't there any others of the sort on American TV (I won't even get into the racism on National Geographic and Discovery Channel with their shows on animals and African tribes, as if the tribesmen too are some exotic animals. What is up with that? Has anyone seen that new reality show about the black natives on some Pacific Island. Not sure which channel or what it is called, tried searching but no luck. Anyways what exploitation. I am all for science and teaching about the worlds people and diversity but I abhor the demeaning and derogatory manner in which it is done. Where are the NAACP, Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson when they need to be useful) . I am even upset that in the 24 hour round programming the only special regular attention Africa gets is a 30 minute program that only airs on the East Coast. I guess what we really need is for MNET to get a space on Comcast, Direct TV or TimeWarner and start beaming to the American audience or can you call and request it someone school me? And does anyone have the African Channel, what's that like. Anyways too many WHYS so I'll let you answer these and comment away already.