Sunday, April 22, 2012

Sensational photo unnecessary

In peace journalism, we’re always asking ourselves if the story can be told in a less-inflammatory way. I was left wondering this week if this notion ever entered the minds of the editors of the Los Angeles Times.

In case you missed it, last week brought the latest in a seemingly endless stream of offensive pictures of U.S. troops in Afghanistan. This time, the photos showed service people mugging it up with dismembered “enemy” corpses and body parts. It’s noteworthy, and perhaps discouraging, that there was a discussion about the grizzly photos at the Poynter website. Unfortunately, the discussion centered only on the placement of a photo of soldiers with dismembered legs on the LA Times website (top, dominant) vs. the printed version (smaller photo but still above the fold).

This discussion, it seems to me, missed the point, which is not placement of the photo, but instead the desirability of using the picture in the first place. As one of my Park University students astutely asked, could the story have been told without the photo? In what way did the photo add to the reader’s understanding of the story? As peace journalists, we always consider the consequences of the choices we make as journalists. Using sensational photos and stories in the past has led to riots in Afghanistan which have literally led to the loss of lives, both Afghan and American. The same could have happened in this instance, although fortunately it has not (thus far). I believe a description of the photo would have been sufficient to gain an understanding of what happened.

By using the photo, the Los Angeles Times chose sensationalism over prudence. It’s fortunate that their decision did not cost lives.

Peace Journalist magazine--get yours free

The first edition of "The Peace Journalist" has been published. Click here for free download. See previous post for more details.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Inaugural "Peace Journalist" magazine launched

The first edition of "The Peace Journalist" has been published. Click here for free download.

The magazine, a publication of the Center for Global Peace Journalism, features articles from India, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Uganda, among other places. When I sent out a call for submissions, I was shocked and delighted by the response from literally around the world.

As the magazine has been distributed (print and digital) during the last week, the response has been beyond enthusiastic. In fact, I already have materials submitted to me from South Africa and Kenya for the next edition in the fall. Based on the early response, I'd say "The Peace Journalist" will fill an important niche.

The second edition will be published in October, 2012. I hadn't planned on asking for submissions yet, but if you have something...

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Vignettes: The last refuge of the thematically challenged

Random thoughts, complaints, musings, etc., condensed for your safety and convenience to a maximum of three sentences each:

1. As peace journalists, we need to become increasingly watchful of social media. While SM have proven to be a powerful tool for positive change (Arab Spring), they also have an unprecedented potential to spread official propaganda and incite hatred and even violence. Remember, ““Social Media is mightiest for the mightiest, not the oppressed.” (Morozov, The Net Delusion)

2. There are two Americas, white and black, according to a recent Newsweek/Daily Beast poll that finds that an overwhelming majority of whites (72%) and blacks (89%) believe the country is divided by race. Tellingly, only 19 percent of whites say that racism is a “big problem” in the U.S., while 60 percent of blacks say it is. The Trayvon Martin case is exposing those racial fissures, as 35% of whites say Martin’s death was racially motivated, while 80% of blacks think race motivated the shooting.

3. Shallow, pointless consumerism isn’t limited to the West. A 17-year old Chinese high school student recently sold a kidney so that he could buy an iPad and iPhone. (see story) Question: what role did the media play in inciting this insanity?

4. Since we now have an unofficial Republican presidential nominee, let the mud-slinging begin. As media, we can’t control what the candidates and their surrogates say, but we can control how we do our jobs. This year, as peace journalists, let’s avoid reporting especially hateful mudslinging. But if we must report inflammatory language, let’s at least hold the candidates accountable for language that divides, incites, inflames passions, or appeals to the lowest common denominator.