Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Bronx students initiate important peace discussions

My students today are asking New Yorkers if they can forgive Osama Bin Laden.

Editing peace soundbites at BronxNet
This seemingly bizarre, and possibly dangerous, assignment is part of a peace journalism seminar I’m leading in the Bronx. The seminar, offered by the Center for Global Peace Journalism in conjunction with Lehman College and BronxNet, is teaching students about peace journalism, and the notion that media should always consider the consequences of what they report and how they report it.
Toward that end, we discussed today a peace journalist’s responsibility to both give peacemakers a voice and to lead community conversations about peace, development, and reconciliation. Reconciliation, for purpose of my presentation today, was broken down into concepts like vengeance, justice, truth, and forgiveness. At the end of a brief lecture this morning, I sent students out in the field to record soundbite montages on peace issues. One group chose to ask the question, “Do you forgive Osama Bin Laden?” While the soundbite montage is half yes and half no, the students reported that the vast majority, off camera, said that they could absolutely not forgive him. (See video embedded below).
Getting ready to shoot soundbites

I never suggested that Bin Laden should be forgiven, but only that a media-generated dialogue about this matter would be a healthy thing.

Two other groups of students asked passers-by about the impact of sensational crime coverage and the role of media in promoting peace. (To see that video, click here).

The point of the soundbite exercise was to get the students/BronxNet interns to understand the importance of initiating discussions about peace and reconciliation issues, even if those discussions are uncomfortable.

This exercise was the capstone project in our two-day peace journalism seminar, which was co-sponsored by BronxNet and Lehman College. I feel good about what we accomplished in such a short time, and was gratified by the post-seminar thanks doled out by the grateful students.

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