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 .

See you there!

Monday, October 16, 2017

In Pakistan, students teach professor about peace, media
(Sukkur, Pakistan)--Last week, I had the opportunity to discuss peace with those who know best—two classes of university students, about 50 total, most of whom come from conflict-ravaged areas of Pakistan.

These students are part of a program sponsored by Sukkur IBA University (SIBAU) called “Talent Search” wherein 300 disadvantaged students are brought to SIBAU every year and educated for free. Since many of these students come from substandard secondary schools, SIBAU even provides them with a “zero semester” to get them up to speed in English, math, and basic computer skills. It is an admirable program indeed.

During my visit with these students, I asked them directly, “what is peace?” Among their responses:

Live without violence

Freedom of Speech
Friendly relations between people
Love, not hatred
Freedom of Action
Self independence
When people can live independently, without interference
When law and order are maintained

Conference: Peace Through Education and Journalism.
I used these definitions to kick off my keynote speech last Thursday at SIBAU’s conference titled, “Peace Through Education and Journalism.” The conference participants, a mix of journalists, educators, and students, mostly agreed with the principles of peace articulated by the Talent Search students. I added my own definition of positive peace—where each individuall has an opportunity to self-actualize without discrimination or inequality of opportunity—as a way of framing our discussion about peace journalism.

We followed our analysis of peace with a presentation on the basics of peace journalism. This began with a discussion about Pakistani media: Do they inflame conflict? Once again, I began with input from SIBAU’s Talent Search students:

Media encourage conflict because they support only one party
Media report false information to get ratings
Pakistani media divide people (with the help of politicians)
Media highlight Pakistan as a terrorist country
Media make a bad situation worse by showing bad images again and again
On Social Media, no, media do not inflame conflicts

Conference: Peace Through Education and Journalism.
The conference audience again generally agreed with the students, adding the important ingredients of economic and competitive pressure as a way of explaining why media here sensationalize and sometimes inflame conflict.

We finished by discussing whether peace journalism is possible in Pakistan. One journalist pointed out that many PJ style stories are already being reported here, so perhaps the question is not “if” but rather “to what extent.” As with other places I’ve lectured, I recommended an incremental approach, a few steps at a time, combined with an effort to teach PJ at universities.

My visit to SIBAU was educational and fulfilling. I look forward to returning to Pakistan to continue this vibrant discussion.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Experts discuss media, gender, peace in Pakistan
(Sukkur, Pakistan)--Can media be a force for peace in Pakistan?

That question, among others, was on the table today at a conference titled “Peace Through Education and Journalism” today at Sukkur IBA University in Sukkur, Pakistan.

I was honored to be the keynote speaker at the event. But before my speech, four Pakistani journalists gave their own takes on the subject.

Naz Sehto (bureau chief, KTN-Pakistan) started the day by noting that “something is wrong” with education and journalism in Pakistan. He cited examples of how hate speech still proliferates in Pakistani textbooks. For example, he quoted several texts that said, “Islam is superior to all other religions;” and “Many other religions claim equality but do not act on it.”

Sehto noted that current media reporting “creates hate,” and that the lack of openness and freedom in media fuels conflict and “makes people easy to manipulate.”

Mahim Maher
Picking up this theme, Mahim Maher (news editor, Friday Times) presented data that demonstrated the marginalization of and hostility towards women in Pakistani media. A 2013 study analyzed 21,949 TV and newspaper stories, and found that women were used as sources only 74 times—hence the title of Maher’s presentation, “Silence of the Lambs.”

She also discussed language and framing of stories. Maher said women are portrayed only in limited narratives—as poor, sick, or victims. She analyzed terms like “allegedly” and ”domestic dispute,” noting that they are used by Pakistani media to sanitize or misrepresent violence against women.

Hira Siddiqui (Center for Excellence in Journalism, IBA Karachi) discussed language and diversity in media. She noted that newsrooms have failed when it comes to diversity, and indeed, that Pakistanis generally think about diversity in only “a limited way.” Siddiqui also led an interesting discussion about language, including the use of the term “enemy” to denote Indians.

These excellent speakers set the stage, and a high bar, for my keynote address. I’ll discuss that presentation in my next blog on Monday.