Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Moving videos inspire, instruct

I ran across two very powerful videos last week. The first, from the New York Times, is a simple, short video that follows families fleeing from violence in The Democratic Republic of Congo in 2012. 
Since last year, the situation has deteriorated in DRC. I'm especially concerned about families like these who have been scattered by a recent surge in the violence in eastern and southeastern Congo. Some 66,000 refugees have surged into western Uganda in the last week, including an estimated 2,000 pregnant women. In fact, five have given birth while fleeing. (For more, see an excellent article in today's Guardian-UK).

The second video, produced by UNHCR, tells the inspirational story of a Lebanese woman who has taken in a family of Syrian refugees. See:  http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=p9i1EjPUcgU&sns=tw&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3Dp9i1EjPUcgU%26sns%3Dtw
This video is vintage peace journalism, in that it both empowers the voiceless (refugees) while seeking to bring communities together. During my trip to Lebanon earlier this summer, I learned first hand about animosity between Syrian refugees and their Lebanese hosts, so it was great to see some journalism that seeks to build bridges rather than destroy them. I will use this video in my classes.
Following my trip to Lebanon, I have become especially interested in Syria's refugees, and how they are treated by media in their host countries. In Lebanon, my students and I produced stories designed to fight stereotypes about refugees. To hear my audio report about Syrian refugees scraping by in Beirut, click here

In partnership with Lebanese and Turkish partners, I am currently working on a grant request for a peace journalism project that has a strong emphasis on coverage of Syrian refugees. I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Thinking about un-royal babies

I'm thinking about Ugandan, Syrian, Congolese, and yes, American babies who aren't fortunate enough to be born into royal privilege. I'm especially worried about Congolese refugee children barely scraping by in western Uganda, and Syrian refugee children living in squalid camps in Lebanon and elsewhere.

As peace journalists, our role is to tell their story, and keep telling their story, so that these babies might get what they need to survive. I only wish the story of the world's most vulnerable refugees could somehow command just 1/50th of the coverage of the royal baby.

Incidentally, I'd love to do a comprehensive peace journalism project that focuses on reporting refugees in places like Uganda, Jordan, Turkey, and Lebanon. Any funders out there?

Chapter one free--no strings attached, or at least, visible strings

For a limited time only (well, not really, but it sounds more urgent this way), you can get a free download of chapter one of my book, Professor Komagum: Teaching peace journalism and battling insanity in Uganda. Click here to download or just to read chapter one. The entire book is also available on Amazon either in print form or in e-book form.

I have asked the NSA not to track your consumption/purchase of my book. Keep your fingers crossed.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Zimmerman coverage: The antithesis of Peace Journalism
By Steven Youngblood, Center for Global Peace Journalism

Whether it’s the Lindbergh baby kidnapping trial (1935), the Jody Arias trial, the O.J. Simpson debacle, or the just completed George Zimmerman trial, there’s nothing quite like a courtroom drama to bring out the very worst in America’s press.

During the Zimmerman trial, both the extent and tone of the coverage reflect little more than shameful pandering.

The extent of the coverage was practically wall-to-wall on CNN and the other cable networks, and non-stop on HLN. This flood of coverage is all about ratings, of course, and sadly, is virtually unconnected to any sense of actual newsworthiness.

The tone of the coverage—speculative, breathlessly sensational, incendiary—may be even more reprehensible than its overwhelming volume.

Several conservative pundits, who are typically correct .001% of the time, were actually right when they pointed out how the mainstream media swallowed and then regurgitated the politically correct, prosecutor-planted narratives about Zimmerman and about the racial elements in the case. The portrayal of Zimmerman was one dimensional, while the racial elements in the case were sensationalized, if not outright exaggerated. 

Naturally, Fox News balanced being correct on this issue with eager speculation by its pundits about a possible violent reaction to the verdict; speculation fed by and feeding into a stereotypical, negative media narrative about violent African-Americans.

Both the tone and extent of the Zimmerman trial coverage represent the antithesis of peace journalism. A peace journalist (and a peace journalism media outlet) would have covered the trial, but not wall-to-wall. We would have sought always to put the trial into the proper perspective—that while tragic, Trayvon Martin is just one of 6,100 U.S. gun victims since the Newtown shootings last December. Peace journalists would have given much less airtime to racial demagogues from both ends of the political spectrum, and instead sought to hear from those who seek a middle ground. Peace journalists would have speculated less, and tried to stick much more to the facts. After the verdict, peace journalists would be busy exploring how incidents like these can be prevented in the future, starting with a persistent analysis of gun availability and stand your ground laws. Finally, peace journalists would lead an ongoing discussion about race in the U.S.—a discussion that doesn’t just occur during a crisis, but an ongoing dialogue giving voice to moderates and peacemakers.

Until peace journalism approaches become standard practice, America’s press will continue to soil themselves every time there is a sensational trial, particularly when race is involved."

--Follow me on Twitter @peacejourn

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Peace Journalism Center spotlighted in KC Star

An excellent column by Mara Rose Williams highlights the Center for Global Peace Journalism at Park University. See: http://www.kansascity.com/2013/07/03/4324504/professor-carries-peace-journalism.html