Jeffrey Gettleman, Our Man in Kenya

Is the New York Times' correspondent in East Africa, a journalist or just someone relaying stereotypes?

Jeffrey Gettleman's Twitter profile pic.

Jeffrey Gettleman of the New York Times strikes again. Last month anger resounded across the blogosphere after a bizarre rant by Gettleman appeared in Foreign Policy. In the piece, “Africa’s Forever Wars: Why the continent’s conflicts never end,” the New York Times East Africa bureau chief gave us his opinion on ending these forever wars: “capture or kill their leaders.” There have been many excellent responses to his piece, such as the Wronging Rights discussion. This blog has also documented serious inaccuracies in Gettleman’s reporting before.

Now Gettleman tries to cover the Millenium Villages project in Kenya, and he can’t resist adding his own opinion into the mix. When asking whether the project could become national or regional if successful, Gettleman writes:

“For example, one can easily picture what would happen in Kenya, where corruption is essentially a national pastime [my emphasis] if there were a free, donor-supported fertilizer program for the entire nation.”

Oh right, it would all get stolen! No one disputes that there is political corruption in Kenya, as in many countries. But there’s also no need to make sweeping generalizations. The last time I checked Gettleman was a journalist, but maybe he’s secretly a genie who can see into the future. Or just someone who likes to rely on stereotypes instead of reporting.

Gettleman also focuses on the infamous Jeffrey Sachs- Bill Easterly face-off in discussing the Millenium Villages, as does pretty much any Western reporter who covers them. I have to wonder: what might happen if reporters actually took the time to interview community leaders and Kenyan development experts? Might we expand the bland discussion to one that’s worth having, or should we only include opinions from US think tanks like Gettleman does? Of course there is one Kenyan, Judith Onyango, included in the beginning of the article — but she’s not asked her opinion on the ethics of using “control villages” for evaluation. That question is left to the “experts.”

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