East African Diaspora New Media Orgs in U.S. Receive Attention

Flourishing New media organizations run by the East African Diaspora in the United States are getting broader coverage. (Photo credit: Alpha Abebe/Focus on the Horn)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Updated: Monday, May 28, 2012

New York (TADIAS) – The growing and vibrant African Diaspora media in the United States is helping to disseminate the ‘hopeful’ and in some ways more nuanced stories about Africa. The new trend is receiving steadily increasing coverage. In a recent article entitled Ethiopian Diaspora Media Compete Over Message, VOA featured radio and satellite TV shows based in Washington, D.C. metro area including The Nunu Wako Show on EBS and Abebe Belew’s Addis Dimts radio. Nico Colombant at VOA noted that during the much publicized G8 meeting at Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland last week, several media crew including “citizen-journalists” taking photos and videos of demonstrations in nearby towns were members of the Ethiopian Diaspora.

A post entitled Generations of East African Diasporas in Cyberspace on Focus on the Horn — a website run by graduate students at Oxford University — also highlights the growing Africa-focused new-media organizations.

“As a new generation emerges from the offspring of East African migrants, they too have created online spaces to negotiate their relationships to their countries of heritage,” writes Alpha Abebe, a PhD student at Oxford. “In many respects, they have entered into this scene far more equipped –- more access to resources, more tech savvy, and more platforms.” She adds: “However, their social, political and economic ties to these countries would appear to be less direct, begging the question –- what does their web presence look like?”

“As you would imagine, it is quite diverse,” Alpha says. “There is Bernos.com, where one can buy a stylish Horn-of-Afro-centric tshirt and share dating advice on the same website.” She continues: “Then there is OPride.com, an aggregator of Oromo and regionally related news stories. Tadias.com is an online magazine often profiling the stories of Ethiopian-Americans who have found mainstream success. Abesha.com (currently on hiatus) was a pioneer in many respects, and created platforms for political debate, showcasing of art, and building community among young Ethiopians and Eritreans in the diaspora. Add to this the vast number of virtual spaces, including websites, facebook pages, twitter feeds, etc. that mobilized a rapid humanitarian response to the recent famine in Somalia, among a generation of people in the Somali diaspora – many of whom have never stepped foot on the continent. Finally, there is HornLight.org, a new player on scene, created to challenge mainstream narratives about the Horn through the stories and contributions from people in the diaspora.”

Social media networks are also playing an important role. The Twitter handle @afritwit with over 3,700 followers, for example, publishes stories that portray the complexities of the African continent by “pooling African Twitter users.” This trend in ‘tweeting from an African perspective’ and curating a pool of African Twitters has also caught the attention of international news agencies such as France 24, which claimed to have published the first Twitter map of Africa. The technology news site, Siliconafrica.com, also published its research online focusing on how Africans are utilizing Twitter, and found that “60% of the continent’s most active Twitter users are aged 21 to 29.”

Diaspora Africans are adopting the idea of press freedom and have developed organizations for African journalists. The Association of African Journalists and Writers (AAJW) on Facebook is one such organization that is newly minted in New York. AAJW describes its role as developing “a unified platform for African media and writers to connect, network, collaborate, and promote better reporting and understanding of Africa and African communities.”

It seems that the old post-colonial tinged discourse on Africa is on its way out as mass media embraces the diversity of voices from the African continent and among Diaspora Africans.

Ethiopian Diaspora Media Compete Over Message (VOA)
Generations of East African diasporas in cyberspace (Focus on the Horn)
Alexandria News Outlet Loosens Shackles of Censorship for Ethiopians (The Alexandria Times)
Less Emphasis on Digital, More Emphasis on People for D.C. Ethio­pians (The Washington Post)

9 Responses to “East African Diaspora New Media Orgs in U.S. Receive Attention”

  1. 1 Mama Ethiopia May 27th, 2012 at 6:23 pm

    This begs the question, will Africa follow with privatizing of telecom, information technology, radio, tv, and newspapers to take advantage of the changing global media landscape?

  2. 2 Guest May 27th, 2012 at 9:03 pm

    Diaspora communities historically have played an important role in the economic development of their countries and the establishment of long-lasting institutions and democratic culture – i.e. The Jewish Diaspora, The Itlaian Diaspora, The Irish Diaspora, and so on. – and the African Diaspora is relatively new but is following in the same inevitable route.

  3. 3 u street neighbor May 28th, 2012 at 12:00 am

    Good news for Africa! As an African American journalist based in DC I can attest to the vibrancy of the Ethiopian community and the general East African diaspora here. We need more news training and exchange opportunities between African and African American media, as well as development of an organization that will syndicate broadcast journalism programs catering to the African and African American communities. I frequent most of these sites and others, including this one, find them very informative!

  4. 4 Dr. May 28th, 2012 at 8:31 am

    Western mass media organizations have now changed their minds about the prospects of the African continent. hope we can keep it.

  5. 5 Observer May 28th, 2012 at 11:16 am

    What both the voa report and the researcher missed is the larger so called Diaspora media field is infested with unprofessionalism where Opinionators with phone cameras are considered journalists. Media comes with responsibility.

  6. 6 woygud May 28th, 2012 at 2:10 pm

    There are more Ethiopian websites which is not mentioned, better for her to have a thorough search

  7. 7 TESFA May 28th, 2012 at 9:17 pm

    How Africa is portrayed in media is an interesting topic for many reasons. From the Western Media perspective Africa as a continent was considered largely a place of poverty and hopelessness, coupled with images of famine, violence and natural disasters. Media shapes the way we see ourselves and the way the world sees us.

  8. 8 Estifanos Tekle May 28th, 2012 at 11:51 pm

    the right to pursue personal happiness, life, liberty, and trade through freedom of thought and its expression are god given.

  9. 9 Tazabi Student May 29th, 2012 at 3:51 am

    Really observer? would you consider Nicholas Kristof not a journalist? He his “opinionator,” to use your own vocab.

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