Monday, December 5, 2016

Sierra Leone journalists share lessons from Ebola reporting
FREETOWN, SIERRA LEONE--Journalism during times of extreme crisis can literally be a matter of life and death. Just ask the 30 journalists who attended my peace journalism workshop last Thursday in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

When discussing their coverage of the Ebola crisis, which officially ended just one year ago here in Sierra Leone, several reporters shared stories of extraordinary peace journalism. A producer/reporter team talked about the lengths they went to insure that their listeners got accurate information about the disease and how it is spread. One women reporter said that on many days, there were actually hourly updates. Journalists here risked their lives bringing reports from hospitals, treatment centers, and Ebola-endemic areas.

We all agreed on the importance of the work the journalists did during the crisis, and on the fact that incorrect information could have literally cost lives.
The producer/reporter team agreed, incidentally, to produce a longer article about their Ebola reporting for the April, 2017 Peace Journalist magazine.

In addition to Ebola reporting, we also discussed how peace journalism might apply to electoral and reconciliation journalism here. Though the civil war here ended in 2002, the reconciliation process is ongoing. This process, I suggested, could be assisted by news reports about peacebuilders and through the use of media platforms as forums for ongoing discussions.


I was impressed by my Sierra Leonese colleagues’ commitment to their profession, and look forward to working with them in the future.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Peace Journalism Perspectives podcast/radio program debuts
A new radio program, Peace Journalism Perspectives, debuts Dec. 1 at 7:00 pm on KKFI 90.1 FM in the Kansas City area. The inaugural show features stories from South Sudan, and a discussion about the media and the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

The program is also archived on a podcast available at http://slyoungblood.podbean.com/ .

PJ takes stage in Sierra Leone
At the International Peace Research Assn conference this week in Sierra Leone, peace journalism is taking a prominent role. Some highlights:

At a peace journalism commission session, Prof. Jake Lynch from the University of Sydney discussed his proposed agenda for future peace journalism research. Lynch, largely considered the father of PJ, posed the following questions to the overflow crowd:
1. Does PJ exist, and if it does, it is a byproduct of “normal” news?
2. Where is PJ practiced?
3. What is its impact? Do readers notice the difference, and does it prompt them to take different meanings (from the news they’ve consumed)?
4. Could it be expanded? Could journalists implement it?
5. Is it consistent with objectivity?

Prof. Brian Wilson from the University of  British Colombia discussed sports journalism for peace. He cited research that shows that sports media promotes xenophobia, violence, and militarism. Wilson recommends that sports coverage applies to other areas of peace discourse. His research into peace sports media will identify best practices in peace and sports journalism, and develop pedagogical tools to teach peace sports media.

Prof. Gloria Ooko from Moi University in Kenya discussed how Kenyan media have covered terrorism. Her findings, illustrated with examples like the West Gate Mall attack, showed that news media use a war journalism construct; dehumanize terrorists; use “us vs. them” narratives and profile Somalis as “them”; and adopt a “government mentality” in their coverage. She said the Kenyan public gets only a one dimensional view on terrorism and how to deal with it. Ooko recommended that media re-think their current approaches.

In another session, Prof. Jacob Udo-Udo Jacob of the American University of Nigeria talked about peace journalism efforts underway in Nigeria. He discussed a recent peace journalism project at AUN (highlighted in the Oct. 2016 Peace Journalist magazine), and the establishment of the Peace Journalist’s Network. There are 78 journalists active in the network, many of whom work in areas afflicted by Boko Haram. Prof. Jacob noted that PJ is needed in Nigeria because press coverage has been episodic, “moving from one theater of violence to the next.” He noted that press has a responsibility to treat all sides fairly; to be community-driven; to open up community engagement for peace; and to provide a platform for solutions that come from all sides.

I also made a presentation about our Reporting Syrian Refugees in Turkey project. Tomorrow, I'll be giving a PJ workshop for Sierra Leonese journalists.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Intl Peace Research Conference begins in Sierra Leone
We're underway today in Freetown, SL with a presentation on conscientious development. Later today, I'm looking forward to presentations on media's role in peacebuilding and peace journalism and objectivity. Tomorrow, I moderate a panel on media and peace, and later give a break out session on responsible reporting about refugees.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Fake news and propaganda
Did fake news fuel Donald Trump’s rise to the presidency?

At least one writer of fake news, Paul Horner, thinks so. He told the Washington Post, “I think Trump is in the White House because of me. His followers don’t fact-check anything — they’ll post everything, believe anything. His campaign manager posted my story about a protester getting paid $3,500 as fact. Like, I made that up. I posted a fake ad on Craigslist.” (http://tinyurl.com/zoed6lr).


Another example is a false story about buses packed with paid anti-Trump protesters that was shared 16,000 times on Twitter and more than 350,000 times on Facebook. A New York Times article yesterday de-constructed exactly how this lie went viral.

On CNN’s Reliable Sources yesterday, media critic Brian Stelter ruminated about fake news, noting “the evidence indicates this is more of a problem on the right, among some, not all, but some Trump supporters.” Stelter’s essay on the subject is worthwhile viewing. (http://tinyurl.com/j6h48t8)

As I’ve thought about fake news, I’ve referred back to the chapter on propaganda in my new textbook Peace Journalism Principles and Practices. The link between fake news and propaganda is clear given the definition of propaganda: information designed and used to influence opinion. During this election, consumers were inundated with false information designed to change or reinforce opinions about the candidate, and ultimately, to sway votes.

The emergence of fake news presents yet another challenge to journalists, as well as one more justification for peace journalism. A look at PJ’s principles shows that it is built to battle fake news. These principles include verifying claims/propaganda from all sources; seeking and verifying facts from multiple sources, and not just official ones; and offering counter-narratives that debunk propaganda and fake news that create stereotypes, myths, and misperceptions.

The prevalence of fake news means that responsible journalism is more important than ever.

Reconciliation journalism
Two recent stories show the power of media to tell reconciliation-themed stories. The first is a story on a Kansas City TV station that discusses how a Syrian student at Park University, where I teach, is dispelling negative myths about Syrians and Muslims.

The second is a fine BBC story about how Tunisian victims of abuse are speaking out on live TV as part of their country’s “truth and dignity” reconciliation process.

Next: Sierra Leone and IndiaIn the next month, I’ll be in Freetown, Sierra Leona (Intl Peace Research Assn and PJ seminar) and Chennai, India (PJ seminar at Anna University). I’ll keep you posted.

Fake news and propaganda
Did fake news fuel Donald Trump’s rise to the presidency?

At least one writer of fake news, Paul Horner, thinks so. He told the Washington Post, “I think Trump is in the White House because of me. His followers don’t fact-check anything — they’ll post everything, believe anything. His campaign manager posted my story about a protester getting paid $3,500 as fact. Like, I made that up. I posted a fake ad on Craigslist.” (http://tinyurl.com/zoed6lr).

On CNN’s Reliable Sources yesterday, media critic Brian Stelter ruminated about fake news, noting “the evidence indicates this is more of a problem on the right, among some, not all, but some Trump supporters.” Stelter’s essay on the subject is worthwhile viewing. (http://tinyurl.com/j6h48t8)

As I’ve thought about fake news, I’ve referred back to the chapter on propaganda in my new textbook Peace Journalism Principles andPractices. The link between fake news and propaganda is clear given the definition of propaganda: information designed and used to influence opinion. During this election, consumers were inundated with false information designed to change or reinforce opinions about the candidate, and ultimately, to sway votes.

The emergence of fake news presents yet another challenge to journalists, as well as one more justification for peace journalism. A look at PJ’s principles shows that it is built to battle fake news. These principles include verifying claims/propaganda from all sources; seeking and verifying facts from multiple sources, and not just official ones; and offering counter-narratives that debunk propaganda and fake news that create stereotypes, myths, and misperceptions.

The prevalence of fake news means that responsible journalism may be more important than ever.

Reconciliation journalism
Two recent stories show the power of media to tell reconciliation-themed stories. The first is a story on a Kansas City TV station that discusses how a Syrian student at Park University, where I teach, is dispelling negative myths about Syrians and Muslims.

The second is a fine BBC story about how Tunisian victims of abuse are speaking out on live TV as part of their country’s “truth and dignity” reconciliation process.

Next: Sierra Leone and India

In the next month, I’ll be in Freetown, Sierra Leona (Intl Peace Research Assn and PJ seminar) and Chennai, India (PJ seminar at Anna University). I’ll keep you posted.