But in the end, it will probably take sustained economic progress to break the current mold. Sunny Bindra, the Kenyan management consultant, recalls that in the 1980s, “Japan got attention because it was whacking the US. It’s the same with India and China now.” Until that happens, a sick African woman in labor will continue to be treated as poverty porn, and most Africans will have to starve in order to make it onto the evening news.

This article was adapted from a paper (pdf) written for Harvard’s Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy.


Karen Rothmyer (karen.rothmyer@gmail.com) has lived in Kenya since 2007. Starting in April she will be a visiting fellow at Cambridge University, researching the value of news ombudsman.