Thursday, October 7, 2021

Kansas City Star project reflects the best of peace journalism
The truth can be painful. Just ask the Kansas City Star’s Mara Rose Williams, who “many times sat at my desk and cried because I knew these things happened. It made me so sad that I just cried.”

Mara Rose Williams
“These things” are a century of neglect of and racism directed at Kansas City’s African American community by the Kansas City Star newspaper. In 2020, Williams decided that the newspaper needed to expose "these things." She developed, pitched, and led a project at the Star called “The Truth in Black and White” that offered an examination of and apology for the Star’s mistreatment of  African Americans. 

This project is exemplary, textbook peace journalism.

Williams’ presentation, part of the Greater Kansas City Peacebuilding Conference, was given yesterday at Park University. The event, co-sponsored by Park’s Center for Global Peace Journalism and Johnson County Community College, was held both in person and on Zoom.

“The Truth in Black and White” analyzed the paper’s coverage of crime, education, civil rights, the 1977 flood, education, redlining, and culture. “It wasn’t enough to write an apology,” Williams said, “(so we) put together a team to research past stories and re-write them they way they should’ve been written in the first place.”

For example, in analyzing the Star's coverage of the civil rights movement, her team found that protests were framed by the paper as riots. Protesters, she said, were framed negatively, and when nothing substantive was found to smear individuals, some tiny negative tidbit was mentioned. For example, it was noted in the Star that a 16-year old black protester had bad grades, or that another black civil rights protester was divorced.

Many other times, African Americans and their achievements and struggles were simply ignored by the Star.

The goal of the project was pure peace journalism—to give a voice to the voiceless, to “transform the way the Kansas City Star attacks journalism, and deals with and writes about its marginalized communities going forward.” Williams believes “The Truth in Black and White” is doing just that—"changing the Star’s DNA.” In response to the project, the paper has formed an advisory committee and hired a race and equity editor, and has begun running African American obituaries.

Another peace journalism element embraced by the project is to “build bridges and break down silos,” according to Williams. “If a newspaper can polarize, it can also unite,” she observed.

Williams told the audience she considers herself a peace journalist. She is not alone in this assessment. Her groundbreaking work provides a blueprint for media of all kinds to reach out to marginalized communities, to give a voice to these marginalized voiceless, to build bridges between seemingly disparate communities, and to give agency to these voices as solutions to societal problems are discussed and decided.

“I wanted to be a part of peace journalism, as a journalist who perpetuated peace,” Williams said. “It’s why I got into this business. I’m happy to be a peace journalist.”

Yesterday’s session at Park was moderated by journalist and educator Lewis Diuguid. The third and final session of the peacebuilding conference is Wednesday, Oct. 27. For more details and to register for free, see https://www.jccc.edu/conferences/peacebuilding/.

 

 


Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Zimbabwean journalists discuss Uganda, Nigeria, polarization
The second of four peace journalism training sessions for Zimbabwean journalists was held last Friday via Zoom.

This presentation featured Prof. Samuel Odobo discussing the state of journalism in Nigeria, and the difficulty of practicing peace journalism while sandwiched between a censorship-prone government and the Boko Haram terrorist group, which intimidates and threatens journalists.

The second presenter, Gloria Laker from Uganda, related her extraordinary experiences reporting the LRA war in Northern Uganda. She confessed that some of the reporting about the conflict done by her and her colleagues helped to fuel the war. Laker said she “took it as a personal responsibility” to improve reporting about the conflict. Since the war, Laker has been instrumental in spreading peace journalism in Uganda, including launching the Peace Journalism Foundation and Refugees Online Network. The Zimbabwean participants found her presentation fascinating, and inspiring.

I concluded the session by talking about polarization and peace journalism. I discussed a study by Afrobarometer (disputed by one participant) that Zimbabwe is the most polarized country among those surveyed. I gave examples of media fueling polarization around the world in reporting about politics, civil unrest, and even the pandemic. I closed by discussing how PJ might reduce polarizing Covid coverage. These tips included not intruding on victims or their families; not sensationalizing; giving voice to the voiceless poor and marginalized who have been most impacted by the pandemic; and using real experts (virologists, epidemiologists, public health workers) as sources rather than politicians and faux-experts.

My session today was part of a peace journalism training program sponsored by the Rotary Peace Center at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda. The project is headed up by Rotary Peace Fellow Patience Rusare. The project will continue with a session November 1, then conclude with a December 1 seminar.


Friday, October 1, 2021

The Peace Journalist magazine has arrived
The October 2021 edition celebrates the magazine’s 20th issue with a study from Dr. Jake Lynch analyzing coverage of peace journalism seminars, as well as reports from Zimbabwe, Spain, India-Pakistan, and elsewhere.

To see the magazine--

View/download PDF- https://tinyurl.com/sxmh7hvv

Issuu- https://tinyurl.com/eh5rstnj

My editor's notebook, on page 3, is pasted below. Thanks for reading!

EDITOR'S NOTEBOOK
As I celebrate 20 issues of The Peace Journalist, I do so amazed and thrilled that the magazine has done what I intended it to do—create a sense of community among peace journalists and PJ academics and students, and provide a forum to disseminate information about our research and projects. I’m gratified as well that articles from The Peace Journalist have been cited in numerous papers, and that the magazine itself has proven a valuable tool for researchers like Dr. Jake Lynch (see page 4).

I am also amazed by the breadth of coverage since that first issue in October 2012. There have been 268 articles in these 20 issues from 67 different countries, literally from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. An equally amazing 175 different writers have contributed their wisdom to the publication. Special recognition goes to the Five Club—those who have contributed five or more articles to the magazine.
These talented authors are Gloria Laker (Uganda); Vanessa Bassil (Lebanon); and Dr. Jake Lynch (UK/Australia). The Three Club (three articles) includes Monica Curca; Mohid Ifikhar; Innocent Iroaganachi: Kirthi Jayakumar; Mayra Ambrosio Laredo; Masoud Momin; Rosaline Obah; Fredrick Ogenga; Marianne Perez de Fransius; Giuliana Tiripelli; and Alexander Vojvoda.

As we move forward to the next 20 issues, it’s my hope that the magazine can expand and offer more space for your articles, commentaries, and letters from readers. Thank you, dear authors and readers, for your continued support and encouragement.

--Steven Youngblood, editor


Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Celebrating Peace Day
On this most auspicious occasion, International Peace Day, I was thrilled to be invited to speak with my colleagues at Peace Radio in Yemen.

We discussed the importance of peace day, and the potentially significant impact that their work which includes launching a radio station in Yemen called Peace Radio. I shared the words of UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, who observed that radio, still the dominant media platform worldwide, is a powerful tool for "dialogue, tolerance, and peace." (See article).

I congratulated my colleagues on the launch of Peace Radio, and offered several suggestions, including using their radio platform to empower women and to build bridges between communities and people in Yemen.

Their work is admirable, even brave, considering the desperate circumstances in Yemen. I am proud of my association with Peace Radio. The example set by my Yemeni colleagues inspires me.



Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Rotary Peace Center event targets Zimbabwean journalists
I had a great time today talking with 30 Zimbabwean reporters about peace journalism, and the state of media in their country.

After my presentation about the deficits of traditional reporting and the principles of peace journalism, we held an interesting question and answer session. One theme was repeated several times—the difficulty of practicing any journalism (let alone peace journalism) in a country where media are only partially free.

Zimbabwe is ranked 130th in the world in press freedom, according to Reporters Without Borders (RSF). In their country report, RSF writes that Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa “was notorious for suppressing dissent when he was national security minister and his first steps with regard to press freedom have been marked more by promises than anything like the concrete progress for which that journalists had hoped. Access to information has improved and self-censorship has declined, but journalists are still often attacked or arrested.” 

My response, to seek as much incremental change as possible, is always the same when I am teaching in restrictive environments, whether in Zimbabwe, Kuwait, or Sudan. I see peace journalism as an ideal, something to strive for. There are obstacles to PJ in every country, though these vary in number and severity. Even in Zimbabwe, I said, small steps can be taken that reflect peace journalism principles that will be perceived as non-threatening by the government. These PJ steps include giving a voice to the voiceless, leading societal discussions about solutions, rejecting inflammatory language, and offering counternarratives that build bridges between groups, rather than exacerbating societal divisions.

My session today was part of a peace journalism training program sponsored by the Rotary Peace Center at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda. The project is headed up by Rotary Peace Fellow Patience Rusare. The project will continue until December. My next presentation, on media polarization and PJ, will be Oct. 1.