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Boston attack: an international perspective

Ashley Terry is a senior producer with globalnews.ca. In the spring of 2013, she served as an expert trainer with Journalists for Human Rights in Ghana as part of the Shaw Africa Project.

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Deep in conversation with a group of Ghanaians and Canadians at a restaurant in Accra on Monday night, I was interrupted by a question from one of my Canadian colleagues: “There was a bombing in Boston?”

I looked over at the television on the wall of the smoothie joint in the expat neighbourhood of Osu, and saw the image of the smoke and pandemonium through the soot-covered lens on CNN.

The other Canadians at the table started to discuss the story – we speculated on what may have happened and whether anyone had died.

The Ghanaians at the table mostly ignored the television, preferring to continue with the previous conversation.

I asked a Ghanaian friend sitting next to me whether she knew of the Newtown shootings in Connecticut, and she said no, looking confused.

It wasn’t out of ignorance – I would learn that major American stories in this country are only brief items in news coverage, and don’t attract a large audience here.

The radio station where I am working for the next three weeks, CitiFM, ran brief mentions of the story during news bulletins.

But it was a big news day in Ghana for other reasons – a petition to annul votes from the 2012 election was being submitted to the Supreme Court and the newsroom was ensconced in national news

But I still decided to ask some colleagues their thoughts on the bombings.

“If a bomb went off here, would Americans know about it?” says Gary Al-Smith who works on the sports desk at CitiFM radio in Accra.

He had a point.

The Ghanaian president John Atta Mills died last year while another Global News/JHR trainer, Sean O’Shea, was in the country.

Sean submitted a report to Global National – which would become a rare mention of Ghana in North American news.

Al-Smith points to the department store collapse in the middle of Accra last year that killed 18 people, which ran mostly as a tiny news item in Canada and the U.S., or not at all.

He says there is some curiosity on the part of Ghanaians about North American stories, which is why most news outlets briefly mention the Boston bombings, but that it “doesn’t capture the imagination” of people here.

“Imagine people waking up in Syria every day with bombs flying over their heads,” says Philip Kofi Ashon of CitiFM online.

While he acknowledges it is a terrible story, he says that unfortunately, there are other world news stories every day with much higher death tolls.

This post was originally written on April 16th, 2013. You can also view it via Global News.

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