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Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Killing news for sale

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With Aisha Jallow

In 1948 a song became very popular here in Sweden. The lyrics were funny, but the message was serious, it said that you can sell anything with the right kind of advertising. The purpose of the advertising is to make people that curious so they decide to buy the product. Everytime there was a discussion about new products and advertising, people cited the words of the song. I will give you a rough translation of the song title: “Everything can be sold with killing advertising.” Not the best translation, but perhaps you can see my point. The company responsible for the adds wish to make people sacrifice to buy their products. The more attractive the add is making the product, the more people wish to buy it and the company will earn a lot of money on the selling.

The topic of this essay is “killing news for sale.” I always try to find the right vibe for my headline, I try to “sell” my essay to the reader and make the reader curious about what I have to say. For people in the news business, as well as in many other kinds of businesses, this is almost a work of art as it is crucial for them to make people of the public to become interested in their products. News are also products and in these times news become old very fast as we get inputs much faster than before. When I was young our local newspaper came 6 days a week and if something happened on a Saturday or Sunday, it had to wait until the Monday or even Tuesday edition to be spread.

This was before the internet and we managed to live without this constant influence by social media and online news agencies sharing “the latest news” almost every minute. When I say that we managed to live without being updated every minute, I mean that we didn’t have to live in the constant stress of news flashes and certain signals in our smartphones telling that something new has happened. How many times do we get any good news? Doesn’t it really happen anything but bad news out in the world, all the time? Must we know everything? Do we need to become updated all the time? How does it make us feel? In our society, here in Sweden, so many young people suffer from anxiety and a lack of dreams for the future. They are pumped with bad news all the time and it is affecting them.

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This sense of anxiety is shared with so many other young people all over the world. It is normal to begin to ponder the future and wonder how it will become, when you are young, but the constant flow of bad news is depressing. One of the main problems is that news agencies are using our fear and anxiety to sell their news. When we read news online, they are always paired with adds for some kind of product. Subconsciously, we notice the name of the product and it ingraves in our minds, either we want it or not. The news are selling the products as they are placed together, and every time we click on the news, the companies that are advertising are making money.

The way the news are presented are making us eager to read them. The headlines are created in a, many times, dramatical way so we become curious and/or appalled. Many times we can find that when we click on the headline and begin to read, the news are not dramatical at all – they are just presented that way to sell. As the flow of news is constant, it is the headlines that ”screams” loudest that gets the most attention. The problem with these dramatical headlines is that a lot of people only read the headlines and then jump into conclusions. Most people are too lazy, or too busy, to bother reading a lot of text. The news agencies know that, and use that fact.

This knowledge of the human reactions on the headlines is also used when it comes to news about Africa. People here in my part of the world tend to have a rather shallow knowledge about Africa. It is like I heard one person say: Africa is a continent filled with animals that are either dangerous or poisonous, or they wish to eat you up! Well, a part of this is true, but we have some dangerous animals here too – we just know how to avoid them. The other thing people say, when asked about Africa, is that there is always some kind of war going on there. It is also true that there are weaponed conflicts going on in Africa, but what people don’t think of is that the continent is huge and contains of 54 countries. Not all countries are in conflict with each other, thank God, and the countries are different.

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The lack of interest, combined with a lack of knowledge, is a hotbed for prejudice. This prejudice is dangerous and if we allow that to grow the development of Africa goes slower than necessary. Our news agencies here have a huge responsibility in the sharing of the news of Africa. Through the combination of news updates and adds, people get to know small parts of what is going on in Africa, but never the whole story. War, conflicts, starvation, flooding and pandemics are news that sell. For someone like me, I find that many times the news that are spread are old news. They have been re-packed and sold as something new, and for someone who doesn’t have any background knowledge, it is new and they react upon it in a negative way.

As we, in the Western world, seldom hear the good news about Africa, we tend to believe that there are no good news. At the beginning of 2017, we could read about the election in The Gambia and that the former president, Yaya Jammeh left the country for Equatorial Guinea. The tension felt dramatical enough to report, but what has happened after that has lost its interest. It’s sad, but this is not only a case about The Gambia, it is about the whole Africa more or less. There are interesting podcasts that can be found online, and through those we can get a lot of information about Africa. For those of you who have never listened to a podcast it is like a radioshow you can listen to online whenever you want.

I do my best to share my knowledge about The Gambia, here in Sweden. A while ago I was invited to a political event where I told about my essay writing and my voluntary work in The Gambia. The audience were very interested and I love to share what I do and what I know with them. I try to build bridges between our people, instead of widing the gap between us. There are enough bad news that others are sharing. My goal is to show how much we have in common, that we all have the same human needs. Prejudice kills relations, but communication build them up. The choice is yours!

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