Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Center for Global Peace Journalism: Map of activities
As the year winds down, I thought it would be interesting to see where peace journalism has taken me. I'm sure I missed a place or two, but you get the idea. I'll be adding a few new spots in 2018.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Journalists, professor ponder journalism ethics
When does a journalist cross the line that divides telling an important story and exploiting a victim?

This essential question was front and center yesterday as I met with the staffs of the Global Sisters Report (GSR) and the National Catholic Reporter (NCR) here in Kansas City.

One young journalist told of her recent reporting trip to Uganda where she reported on South Sudanese refugees.

While the journalist saw the need to interview and tell the story of this refugee, she wondered aloud if she had instead traumatized the refugees by asking them to retell their harrowing stories. We discussed, collectively, whether one article about one refugee can make a difference in their lives, and if it can’t, should we be asking them to relive their traumas?

I responded with similar concerns I had while reporting the story of a South Sudanese journalist who had fled his home with his mother and sister. I played my audio report about this man, and asked rhetorically if I had behaved ethically.

We followed this up with a discussion about potentially exploitative images. Should journalists have used the photo of Aylan Kurdi, the 3-year old Syrian boy whose body washed ashore in Turkey? In another example, should Turkish journalists have used a heart wrenching photo of a toddler with his hands in the air, raised because he mistook the journalist’s camera for a gun? The consensus on the toddler photo is that it would’ve been ethical to use it, as long as the photo included an accompanying contextual story.

These important discussions occurred during my presentation on the fundamentals of peace journalism. Before my talk, as I researched both publications, I discovered that they have a lot to teach their fellow journalists. In fact, much of their content (like stories on how Catholic sisters are working on environmental, migration, and trafficking issues; and reports about the pitfalls of capitalism, net neutrality’s impact on faith communities, and on advocacy for Haitian immigrants) already reflect peace journalism best practices.

I hope to continue working with, and learning from, my GSR and NCR colleagues.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Inadequate coverage underscores need for PJ approach
Studies about press coverage of recent events in Las Vegas and Puerto Rico confirm the inadequacy of traditional news reporting while they underscore the need for peace journalism.

Both studies were conducted by the left-leaning media analysis organization Media Matters.

The first study confirms what every viewer of cable news knows: that coverage of major events essentially ends shortly after these events cease being “breaking news.” The first chart (right) shows how coverage dropped off the table within two weeks of Hurricane Maria, and notes how this is similar to “lackluster” media coverage of Flint soon after reports surfaced about dangerous lead levels in the city’s drinking water.

The second study about coverage of the Las Vegas shooting mirrors the news coverage pattern of Puerto Rico: lots of segments for a seven days or so, followed by almost complete silence a week later. (See chart, left) Even worse, the Las Vegas coverage was dominated by nuts-and-bolts “breaking news,” and featured little reporting about gun policies or other solutions to mass shootings. (See chart, below) 

These studies, and similar studies in the past, confirm several facts that every news consumer knows:  Media have a short attention span, and are quick to move on to the next “breaking” story. Also, news coverage often omits context, and causes and solutions are frequently ignored or marginalized.  We’re good at the superficial, and not as good at the substantive.

Peace journalism offers an antidote. Its principles encourage journalists to lead a societal discussion about not just problems, but about solutions as well. PJ asks reporters to avoid superficial “blow by blow” or “play by play” style coverage, and instead seek context behind the sensational words and images of downed power lines (Puerto Rico) and bloody victims (Las Vegas). 

Monday, November 6, 2017

Peacebuilding conference generates crucial questions
I’ve been to a million conferences (roughly), and the way I judge them is this: Do I come away with more questions than answers? Using this criteria, the just completed Greater Kansas City Peacebuilding Conference was a rousing success.

The peacebuilding conference began at Avila University Thursday with a screening of the brilliant film “Chi Raq” and a discussion with filmmaker and KU professor Kevin Willmott about, among other things, gun violence and gun laws.

Park grad student Olga Paschenko presents Friday
At the Friday session held at Park, students and professors from Park University (Dr. Lora Cohn and Olga Paschenko), Avila (Dr. Nicole Esquibel), and Johnson County Community College (Dr. Marie Paxton and Taylor Smith) discussed aspects of peacebuilding related to political science and communications, as well as lessons from peacebuilding efforts in Guatemala.

As a way of summarizing these discussions, I presented 10 questions that had been generated by Friday’s  presenters. These are:

1. How can we open dialogues with those with whom we disagree?
2. How are audiences manipulated, and how does this manipulation imperil peace?
3. Which approaches to constructive discourse best facilitate peace?
4. Can society use agonistic  approaches as a way of not talking past each other?
5. Does passion have a place in our public discourse, and are passion and peace compatible?
6. How can we move away from “us vs. them” constructs in politics and media?
7. How can media/politics/filmmakers give a voice to the voiceless and marginalized in our societies? And how does giving a voice to the voiceless engender peace?
8. Can peacebuilding lessons from one society be applied to other societies?
9. How are women differentially impacted by conflict, and how can society leverage women to enhance social justice and peace processes?
10. How do environmental issues impact indigenous and marginalized communities, and how does this impact peace?

Many of these important questions were on display Saturday at the conference’s final day at JCCC. Keynote speaker Dr. Sita Ranchod-Nilsson gave examples of how women have been key peacebuilders in Africa (question #9), Raymond Kingfisher talked about the Dakota Access Pipeline protests ( #10), I analyzed media clichés and peace journalism (#2, 6, 7), and Sister Jeannette Londadjim discussed how to overcome Christian and Muslim sectarian violence (#1, 3, 8).
At Friday's peacebuilding conference at Park Univ.

Over the next few months, the conference organizers hope to sustain the momentum established by this event to bring together KC area peacebuilders into a consortium.

The peacebuilding conference was co-sponsored by Park University’s Center for Global Peace Journalism, JCCC, Avila University, and the Kansas City International Relations Council.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Peacebuilders to gather in KC, discuss nonviolence
Nonviolent peacebuilders like a Catholic sister running a halfway house for former inmates and organizers of Dakota Access Pipeline protests will be converging next weekend for a conference co-sponsored by the Center for Global Peace Journalism.

“Peacebuilding and Nonviolence: Beyond the Clichés” is the theme for the Greater Kansas City Peacebuilding Conference. It begins with a film screening Thursday, Nov. 2 at Avila University featuring the movie “Chi-Raq” at 4 p.m., and a panel discussion with filmmaker Kevin Willmott at 6:30 p.m.

The conference continues at Park University on Nov. 3 with presentations from students and faculty (click to see attached program, above) 

“Peacebuilding and Nonviolence: Beyond the Clichés” wraps Nov. 4 with a full day of activities at Johnson County Community College, including two presentations by yours truly-- "What is Peacebuilding"; and "Transcending Media Cliches." (Click on program to view schedule).

The best news is that everything is open to the public and free, even lunch on Saturday (taco bar!). If you are staying for lunch Saturday, we ask that you please register at www.jccc.edu/conferences/peacebuilding .

See you there!