President Obama and South African President Jacob Zume speak at a news conference in Pretoria on Saturday. Click image to enlarge.
President Barack Obama continued to play second fiddle to Nelson Mandela in the South African press on Saturday.
But, his visit was the lead story in international media like the BBC and The New York Times.
Obama, speaking at a news conference with South African President Jacob Zuma in Pretoria on Saturday, was full of praise for the ailing Nobel Peace Prize co-winner.
“Madiba’s historic courage, [and] this country’s historical transition to a free and democratic nation has been a personal inspiration to me,” he said.
“And it has been an inspiration to the world … and it continues to be.”
The afternoon daily newspaper in Cape Town The Argus plays the Obama story second; the Mandela story is at the top of the page.
The morning daily Cape Times, buried its only story about the U.S. president on Saturday in the Business Section. It was headlined: Obama hits out at unfair deals with Africa (scroll down to the bottom of the page.)
It was not even staff-written. It was an Agence France Presse wire story. For a direct link to the piece, click here.
This is how it begins: “JOHANNESBURG – US President Barack Obama urged Africans on Saturday to ask more questions about lop-sided deals with some foreign investors, while dismissing talk of a Chinese and US scramble for influence on the continent.
“During a landmark visit to the continent of his father’s birth, Obama said he welcomed renewed interest from larger emerging markets.”
Meanwhile the daily newspaper Mail and Guardian in Johannesburg lead its website at around 2 p.m PDT with a story about both men. Obama meets privately with Nelson Mandela’s relativeswas written by Stephen Collinson: “US President Barack Obama on Saturday met the family of former president Nelson Mandela but was unable to visit the anti-apartheid legend who remains critically ill in hospital,” Collinson wrote.
“Despite tentative signs of an improvement in the condition of Mandela, Obama decided not to visit Mandela out of fear for disturbing his “peace and comfort”.
“Instead Obama met privately with some relatives of the revered leader, including two daughters and several grandchildren and spoke by telephone with Mandela’s wife Graça Machel.”
The front page of the national edition of The New York Times today had a headline remarkably similar to the one on this blog on Friday. Did we beat them on a big story?
In the U.S., The New York Times had as its front page lead story on Saturday one remarkably similar to the one published on this blog on Friday. Visit by Obama is overshadowed by Mandela Vigil was the headline
The In the (K)now headline the day before was: U.S. president’s visit not big news in South Africa.
A coincidence? Or did we beat The New York Times on a story of major international significance? Perhaps editors at the paper are following the blog? That’s our guess, but we don’t know for sure.
Across the pond, around 2 p.m. PDT the BBC news web site lead story was: Obama praises Mandela ‘inspiration’
“US President Barack Obama has praised Nelson Mandela as “an inspiration to the world” while visiting South Africa,” was the lead to the story, focusing on the news conference.
The difference in the way different news outlets treat the same story is instructive. All the news is presented from a particular perspective, emphasizing those matters of importance to the outlet’s readers or viewers.
Editors at the South African newspapers clearly believe the Mandela story is more important than the Obama story – because, to their readers, it is.
But readers of The New York Times place a higher priority on the U.S. president, so the paper leads with that perspective.
Only the BBC has a truly global perspective, possibly because it has more “boots on the ground” in more locations around the world than almost any other media organization. However, everything is filtered through headquarters in London, so if there is a U.K. angle – like an appearance of Prime Minister David Cameron – that is usually the focus of the BBC story.
Don’t let anyone fool you the media is not “biased.” Every outlet filters what it covers and how much prominence it is given by its own perspective. The only way to know the complete story is to consult more than one news source – like I do.