Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Two frames tell different tales on Comey's firing
I saw this yesterday on Twitter, and had to share. It speaks to the importance of framing--how we tell stories. Comey's firing was framed by Fox News as justified and having nothing to do with the Russia investigation, which Fox doesn't even recognize as legitimate. CNN, on the other hand, framed the firing only as an attempt to interfere with the Russia investigation, and seemed to paper over real concerns about Comey's competence.

Peace journalists--good journalists--would report both narratives, and provide context and analysis of both points of view. As usual, the truth probably lies somewhere between these polar positions.


Monday, May 1, 2017

The long road to peace and reconciliation in Colombia
--Vea a continuación, este artículo traducido al Español.--

ARAUCA, COLOMBIA—Before the day-long peace journalism workshop even started, the 50-year war that just ended here became much less abstract to me thanks to two stories shared by an attendee, a distinguished older man wearing a 10-gallon hat. He almost brought me to tears as he described his anguish as his family exhumed his sister’s remains from a mass grave of victims killed by the rebels. Then, he shared a terrifying story about surviving an explosion so nearby that his ears bled.

Ten minutes later, I was asked to talk about peace. What I really wanted to do was sit down and listen to these Colombians educate me about the real meaning of peace.

However, not wanting to disappoint the event’s sponsors, the Fulbright Association of Colombia, the Colombian president’s office of human rights, and the Universidad National in Arauca, I delivered my keynote address to an overflow crowd. I discussed different constructs of peace, and explained the basics of peace journalism, especially concentrating on journalism’s role in reconciliation processes. These roles include creating platforms for societal discussions; ensuring transparency in reconciliation processes; producing counter-narrative reporting that humanizes the other side; and providing a voice for all citizens, and not just elites.
After the keynote speech, I led a workshop where we analyzed two key questions. The first: What are the challenges to implementing peace journalism in Colombia? The 110 participants, former Fulbrighters, journalists, students and academics, discussed these in small groups, then reported back to the larger gathering. The challenges they listed include:
  • Media overly commercial/ratings driven
  • Factions in territories can make reporting dangerous
  • Corruption in media/lack of professional values for journalists
  • Monopoly of media ownership
  • Politicized media/media owners
  • Sensationalism
  • Distorted information
  • Use of inflammatory language
Note the four legged participant, lower right.
If this list looks familiar, it should. How many of these accurately describe U.S. media?
Then, I asked the attendees to create their own suggestions for improving Colombian media using peace journalism principles. These suggestions included:
  • Use moderate language
  • Give a voice to the voiceless, especially those in rural areas
  • Be truthful and precise
  • Provide context
  • Report more stories from outside major cities (from Colombian “flyover” regions)
  • Train students and professionals in peace journalism/journalism ethics
  • Report about solutions
  • Use media as a bridge to connect disparate groups
I closed the session by asking the attendees, especially the journalists present, to

begin spreading the word about peace journalism, and about their crucial role in the reconciliation processes that are just underway in Colombia.
Achieving peace and reconciliation will be a long and difficult road, but nonetheless a trip worth taking. Just ask the hombre with the 10-gallon hat.


El largo camino hacia la paz y la reconciliación en Colombia
--Aquí está el artículo de abajo, traducido usando Google Translate. Por favor perdone cualquier error. Necesito mejorar mi Español! Gracias, Esteban

ARAUCA, COLOMBIA-Antes de que comenzara el taller de periodismo de paz de un día, la guerra de 50 años que terminó aquí se volvió mucho menos abstracta gracias a dos historias compartidas por un asistente, un distinguido hombre mayor que llevaba un sombrero de 10 galones. Casi me llenó de lágrimas mientras describía su angustia mientras su familia exhumaba los restos de su hermana de una fosa común de víctimas asesinadas por los rebeldes. Luego, compartió una aterradora historia sobre sobrevivir a una explosión tan cerca que sus orejas sangraron.

Diez minutos más tarde me pidieron que hablara sobre la paz. Lo que realmente quería hacer era sentarme y escuchar a estos colombianos que me educaran sobre el verdadero significado de la paz.
Sin embargo, no queriendo decepcionar a los patrocinadores del evento, a la Asociación Fulbright de Colombia, a la oficina de derechos humanos del colombiano ya la Universidad Nacional en Arauca, entregué mi discurso a un público desbordado. Discutieron diferentes constructos de paz, y expuse los fundamentos del periodismo de paz, especialmente concentrándome en el papel del periodismo en los procesos de reconciliación. Estas funciones incluyen la creación de plataformas para discusiones sociales; Asegurar la transparencia en los procesos de reconciliación; Producir informes contra-narrativos que humanizan al otro lado; Y dar voz a todos los ciudadanos, y no sólo a las élites.

Después del discurso inaugural, dirigí un taller en el que analizamos dos preguntas clave. La primera: ¿Cuáles son los desafíos para implementar el periodismo de paz en Colombia? Los 110 participantes, antiguos Fulbrighters, periodistas, estudiantes y académicos, discutieron estos temas en pequeños grupos, luego informaron a la reunión más amplia. Los desafíos que enumeran incluyen:
  • Medios excesivamente comerciales / evaluados
  • Las facciones en territorios pueden hacer peligroso la presentación de informes
  • Corrupción en los medios / falta de valores profesionales para los periodistas
  • Monopolio de la propiedad de los medios
  • Medios de comunicación politizados / propietarios de medios
  • Sensacionalismo
  • Información distorsionada
  • Uso de lenguaje inflamatorio

Si esta lista parece familiar, debería. ¿Cuántos de estos describen con precisión los medios de comunicación estadounidenses?

Luego, les pedí a los asistentes que crearan sus propias sugerencias para mejorar los medios colombianos usando los principios del periodismo de paz. Estas sugerencias incluyeron:
  • Usar un lenguaje moderado
  • Dar voz a los sin voz, especialmente a los que viven en zonas rurales
  • Sea sincero y preciso
  • Proporcionar contexto
  • Reporta más historias de fuera de las principales ciudades (de las regiones colombianas "flyover")
  • Capacitar a estudiantes y profesionales en periodismo de paz / ética periodística
  • Informe sobre las soluciones
  • Usar medios como puente para conectar grupos dispares

Cerré la sesión pidiendo a los asistentes, especialmente a los periodistas presentes, que comiencen a difundir la noticia sobre el periodismo de paz y sobre su papel crucial en los procesos de reconciliación que están en curso en Colombia.


Lograr la paz y la reconciliación será un camino largo y difícil, pero sin embargo un viaje vale la pena tomar. Pregúntale al hombre con el sombrero de 10 galones.


Saturday, April 29, 2017

Peace and Journalism
in Colombia

I was honored to present at a peace journalism workshop (right) Friday in Aruaca, Colombia. There was standing room only. Stay tuned for more on the workshop on Monday.

Saturday, I toured Bogota--beautiful, especially from the vantage point atop Mount Monserrate (below). Then, I toured the area around Bolivar Square, and went to two fabulous museums.


Friday, April 21, 2017

PJ may assist reconciliation in Colombia
Where can peace journalism do the most good? Certainly, countries currently torn by war (South Sudan) can benefit, as can nations where journalistic credibility and fake news are a problem (U.S.) and countries where refugees and immigrants are negatively portrayed by the media (Turkey and Germany, among others).

However, I believe that the places where peace journalism can have the most positive impact are those countries where violent conflicts have ended and reconciliation is underway. I have seen first-hand the positive influence of peace journalism on reconciliation processes in Uganda. I believe this positive role may also be possible in my destination later this week, Colombia, where the healing from a 50-year guerilla war is just getting underway.

At the kind invitation of the Colombia Fulbright Association and the Colombian Presidential Human Rights Council, I will be in Arauca, in the north, discussing peace and reconciliation journalism. In my keynote address, I’ll talk about media’s role in reconciliation. Taking a chapter (literally) from my textbook Peace Journalism Principles and Practices, I’ll outline the ways media can make a positive impact in post-conflict settings. In post conflict settings, the media can: 
  • Dissipate rumors and propaganda;   
  • Create spaces for expressing diverse (and sometimes conflicting) viewpoints;
  • Report to ensure transparency and accountability;
  • Educate the public about reconciliation processes;
  • Produce counter-narrative reporting that makes “the other side human”, thus rejecting “us vs. them” stories;
  • Produce counter-narrative reporting that offers positive examples of tolerance, cooperation, and collaboration across boundaries; 
  • Produce counter-narrative reporting that presents stories about commonalities across boundaries; 
  • Report stories that give a voice to the voiceless (victims and those seeking solutions).
Then, in a workshop with academics, Fulbrighters, students, and journalists, we’ll list the obstacles to implementing peace journalism in Colombia, as well as brainstorm ideas for specifically how PJ principles might be applied to reconciliation in Colombia.

I’m looking forward to meeting my Colombian colleagues and learning more about their unique opportunities and challenges. Also, I can’t wait to try some authentic arepas con aguacates (avocados). 

Stay tuned.


Monday, April 10, 2017

Media's Iraq Mistakes Repeated

Unfortunately, 14 years after the beginning of the Iraq war, many of the same patterns of war-mongering traditional media coverage can be found in reporting about last Thursday’s missile strike on a Syrian airbase.

In Peace Journalism Principles and Practices, I lay out a strong indictment against “war journalism” practiced in the months before the Iraq war. Specifically, I wrote that media in 2003 was pro-war, and ignored anti-war voices; featured hyped, false stories that justified the administration’s case for intervention; depended almost entirely on official sources, giving the public a narrow, distorted view of the conflict; and waved the flag instead of critically analyzing the case for war.

While each of these elements has been present in the missile strike coverage, let’s concentrate on two—the lack of anti-intervention voices; and waving the flag.

The coverage, as anyone who watched cable TV during the last week can testify, was decidedly pro-missile strike, and largely ignored voices calling for non-violent options.  An examination of broadcast news transcripts from April 8-10, using the search term “Syria Trump missiles,” shows there has been little discussion of peace and non-violent responses to Assad’s gas attack. Of the search’s 989 hits on Lexis-Nexis, only 76 mentioned peace negotiations (7.7%) and 31 peace talks (3%). A total of 31 mentioned “compromise,” “peace agreement,” “peace deal,” “truce,” and “reconciliation” combined (3%).  Only 34 of the 989 broadcast stories mentioned “settlement” (3.4%).

The study shows that not only are peaceful options being ignored, so, too are those advocating peace and non-violence. The military terms “general,” “colonel,” and “lieutenant” were mentioned in 240 of the 989 stories, mostly to identify expert talking heads. So in about one in four reports, experts presented were military or ex-military. Contrast this to the almost complete lack of peace-promoting voices on-air. There were only a combined 17 hits for “peace activist,” “peacebuilder,” “peace negotiator,” and “mediator” (appearing in 1.7% of the total number of stories broadcast). There were 40 hits for “diplomat” (4%). Even if you add up all the peace voices, it totals less than 6% of all stories—about four times less than the military voices.

The military-heavy coverage is consistent with the flag-waving (or as some call it, cheerleading) evident over the airwaves the previous four days. On April 7, The Washington Post’s Margaret Sullivan wrote, “The cruise missiles struck, and many in the mainstream media fawned.” She cited examples from the New York Times (“On Syria attack, Trump’s heart came first,”); CNN (“’I think Donald Trump became president of the United States last night,’ Fareed Zakaria declared”); and MSNBC (Brian Williams “seemed mesmerized by the images of the strikes provided by the Pentagon. He used the word ‘beautiful’ three times and alluded to a Leonard Cohen lyric — ‘I am guided by the beauty of our weapons’.”) (http://tinyurl.com/mkghfmv)

Indeed, the coverage, according to the same Lexis-Nexis study, skewed pro-missile strike. Of the 989 total hits, 33 used the term “justified” (vs. 4 “unjustified”); 43 “correct” (1 “incorrect”); 13 “wise” (1 “unwise”); 21 “intelligent” and “prudent” combined (14 “foolish”). There were 43 hits under “success” and 45 under “failure,” a balance that perhaps reflects on-air discussions about whether the attack was a success or a failure.

Why the cheerleading, flag-waving coverage?  What media critic Paul Waldman said about Iraq coverage in 2013 is still true today. “When there's a war in the offing, the flags are waving and dissenters are being called treasonous, the media's courage tends to slip away. Which is particularly regrettable, since the time when the government is pressing for war should be the time when (media) are more aggressive than ever, exploring every possibility and asking every question, over and over again if need be. (Paul Waldman, “Duped on War, Has Press Learned?,” CNN, 2013, March 19, 2013, http://www.cnn.com/2013/03/19/opinion/waldman-media-iraq/.)

It’s distressing that the press seems to have learned so little since the run up to the Iraq war.  The news media must practice peace journalism by broadening, deepening, and balancing its coverage. Reporting shouldn’t skew either pro-missile strike or pro-peace, but must present the public a comprehensive view of all alternatives. Instead, the public is getting the same one-sided flag waving that preceded the disastrous intervention in Iraq.