Monday, June 19, 2017

CNN really is biased--at least this one story
As part of my presentation at the IVOH Restorative Narratives Summit later this week in New York, I've picked a CNN story at random (16 June 2017) and analyzed it to see if it reflected peace journalism principles. What I learned surprised me: the Trump people might have a point about CNN not giving the president a fair shake. Keep in mind this is just one story, and that to draw any conclusions, we'd have to analyze dozens of stories. Still, what I found (below) is food for thought.

The story is built on a house of cards—on the flimsiest of unnamed sources, and on speculation. It paints (smears?) Trump as angry, emotional, increasingly withdrawn, and out of control, but offers little in the way of proof other than Trump’s use of the term “witch hunt.”

Click on the two photos below to more easily read the story and my comments.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Terrorism coverage distorts reality
When it comes to biased media, one automatically thinks of left-right political bias, of Sean Hannity vs. Media Matters, for example. But there’s another kind of bias that infects our news media—the bias that minimizes victims of terrorism who don’t live in North America or Europe.

By watching the news, one might think that most terror victims were Christians living in the U.S. or Europe. However, “By far the vast majority of victims of terrorist attacks over the past 15 years has been Muslims killed by Muslims…’I understand why the media cover terrorism in the West so closely, and I understand why people who follow these events become so frightened, but objectively speaking the threat of terrorism is not very great,’ said Richard Bulliet, a professor emeritus of history at Columbia University.” (

In my book Peace Journalism Principles and Practices, I cite a 2011 report by the U.S. government's National Counter-Terrorism Center (NCTC) that said, "In cases where the religious affiliation of terrorism casualties could be determined, Muslims suffered between 82 and 97% of terrorism-related fatalities over the past five years." Also, a Washington Post analysis of all terrorist attacks from the beginning of 2015 through the summer of 2016 that shows that the Middle East, Africa and Asia have seen “nearly 50 times more deaths from terrorism than Europe and the Americas.’” (

Two recent examples demonstrate how the volume and tone of terrorism coverage highlights suffering in the West, and marginalizes victims from elsewhere. On May 22, an attack in Manchester killed 23 and injured 116. In the two days following the attack, a Lexis-Nexis search of newspaper articles with the keyword “Manchester” maxed out at 1,000 hits per day, meaning that there were at least 2,000 newspaper stories about Manchester on May 23-24. On May 31, a bomb in Kabul killed 90 and wounded 400. A Lexis-Nexis search of newspaper articles with the keyword “Kabul” got 333 hits on June 1, and 212 hits on June 2—substantially fewer articles than about the Manchester attack.

The tone of coverage between the attacks is also different, according to at least one observer. In Salon, Sophia McClennen writes, “In the Manchester story, there was a deeply human face to the coverage. Audiences became familiar with individual girls who lost their lives and they connected with the mothers who were searching for information about their loved ones.

…In the coverage of the Kabul bombing, a New York Times piece did mention the difficulties loved ones were having in tracking down information on those who were caught in the blast. But that piece also included strangely cold language: ‘In different corners of the city, workers and relatives dug graves for the ones who, with life having become a game of chance, just were not lucky.’ Imagine a reporter referring to those being buried in Manchester with the same sort of detached language.” (

This distorted coverage leads to undue fear in the West about being a terrorist victim, the risk of which is actually about 0.000003 percent, according to Peace Journalism Principles and Practices. This exaggeration empowers those who seek to capitalize on the war on terror for their own gain. This distorted coverage also dehumanizes those outside the West who are most often are victimized by terrorists, leading to indifference about these victims’ plight and fueling anti-terrorism policies that often don’t reflect reality.

Unless media’s coverage of terrorism becomes less hysterical and more proportional, there’s little hope that our society’s discourse about terrorism can become more nuanced and sophisticated.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Fulbright keynote speaker irritates photographer
Juvenile keynote speaker
Got in some new photos from my recent presentation about peace and reconciliation journalism at a Fulbright-Colombia gathering in Arauca, Colombia (see May 1 post below).

Hats off to professional photograher and patient person Natalia Lugo, who took some great shots and endured some torment from me. In keeping with the demeanor of a mature professor, I hid behind people and objects, made faces, etc., leaving her with dozens of pictures of questionable value.
PJ in Arauca, Colombia

Thanks, Nat, for understanding my insanity. I look forward to my next trip to Colombia, even if that feeling many not be unanimous among my Colombian colleagues.
With Natalia Lugo (center) and Greis Cifuentes,
who did a great job organizing the Fulbright conference.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Two frames tell different tales on Comey's firing
I saw this yesterday on Twitter, and had to share. It speaks to the importance of framing--how we tell stories. Comey's firing was framed by Fox News as justified and having nothing to do with the Russia investigation, which Fox doesn't even recognize as legitimate. CNN, on the other hand, framed the firing only as an attempt to interfere with the Russia investigation, and seemed to paper over real concerns about Comey's competence.

Peace journalists--good journalists--would report both narratives, and provide context and analysis of both points of view. As usual, the truth probably lies somewhere between these polar positions.

Monday, May 1, 2017

The long road to peace and reconciliation in Colombia
--Vea a continuación, este artículo traducido al Español.--

ARAUCA, COLOMBIA—Before the day-long peace journalism workshop even started, the 50-year war that just ended here became much less abstract to me thanks to two stories shared by an attendee, a distinguished older man wearing a 10-gallon hat. He almost brought me to tears as he described his anguish as his family exhumed his sister’s remains from a mass grave of victims killed by the rebels. Then, he shared a terrifying story about surviving an explosion so nearby that his ears bled.

Ten minutes later, I was asked to talk about peace. What I really wanted to do was sit down and listen to these Colombians educate me about the real meaning of peace.

However, not wanting to disappoint the event’s sponsors, the Fulbright Association of Colombia, the Colombian president’s office of human rights, and the Universidad National in Arauca, I delivered my keynote address to an overflow crowd. I discussed different constructs of peace, and explained the basics of peace journalism, especially concentrating on journalism’s role in reconciliation processes. These roles include creating platforms for societal discussions; ensuring transparency in reconciliation processes; producing counter-narrative reporting that humanizes the other side; and providing a voice for all citizens, and not just elites.
After the keynote speech, I led a workshop where we analyzed two key questions. The first: What are the challenges to implementing peace journalism in Colombia? The 110 participants, former Fulbrighters, journalists, students and academics, discussed these in small groups, then reported back to the larger gathering. The challenges they listed include:
  • Media overly commercial/ratings driven
  • Factions in territories can make reporting dangerous
  • Corruption in media/lack of professional values for journalists
  • Monopoly of media ownership
  • Politicized media/media owners
  • Sensationalism
  • Distorted information
  • Use of inflammatory language
Note the four legged participant, lower right.
If this list looks familiar, it should. How many of these accurately describe U.S. media?
Then, I asked the attendees to create their own suggestions for improving Colombian media using peace journalism principles. These suggestions included:
  • Use moderate language
  • Give a voice to the voiceless, especially those in rural areas
  • Be truthful and precise
  • Provide context
  • Report more stories from outside major cities (from Colombian “flyover” regions)
  • Train students and professionals in peace journalism/journalism ethics
  • Report about solutions
  • Use media as a bridge to connect disparate groups
I closed the session by asking the attendees, especially the journalists present, to

begin spreading the word about peace journalism, and about their crucial role in the reconciliation processes that are just underway in Colombia.
Achieving peace and reconciliation will be a long and difficult road, but nonetheless a trip worth taking. Just ask the hombre with the 10-gallon hat.

El largo camino hacia la paz y la reconciliación en Colombia
--Aquí está el artículo de abajo, traducido usando Google Translate. Por favor perdone cualquier error. Necesito mejorar mi Español! Gracias, Esteban

ARAUCA, COLOMBIA-Antes de que comenzara el taller de periodismo de paz de un día, la guerra de 50 años que terminó aquí se volvió mucho menos abstracta gracias a dos historias compartidas por un asistente, un distinguido hombre mayor que llevaba un sombrero de 10 galones. Casi me llenó de lágrimas mientras describía su angustia mientras su familia exhumaba los restos de su hermana de una fosa común de víctimas asesinadas por los rebeldes. Luego, compartió una aterradora historia sobre sobrevivir a una explosión tan cerca que sus orejas sangraron.

Diez minutos más tarde me pidieron que hablara sobre la paz. Lo que realmente quería hacer era sentarme y escuchar a estos colombianos que me educaran sobre el verdadero significado de la paz.
Sin embargo, no queriendo decepcionar a los patrocinadores del evento, a la Asociación Fulbright de Colombia, a la oficina de derechos humanos del colombiano ya la Universidad Nacional en Arauca, entregué mi discurso a un público desbordado. Discutieron diferentes constructos de paz, y expuse los fundamentos del periodismo de paz, especialmente concentrándome en el papel del periodismo en los procesos de reconciliación. Estas funciones incluyen la creación de plataformas para discusiones sociales; Asegurar la transparencia en los procesos de reconciliación; Producir informes contra-narrativos que humanizan al otro lado; Y dar voz a todos los ciudadanos, y no sólo a las élites.

Después del discurso inaugural, dirigí un taller en el que analizamos dos preguntas clave. La primera: ¿Cuáles son los desafíos para implementar el periodismo de paz en Colombia? Los 110 participantes, antiguos Fulbrighters, periodistas, estudiantes y académicos, discutieron estos temas en pequeños grupos, luego informaron a la reunión más amplia. Los desafíos que enumeran incluyen:
  • Medios excesivamente comerciales / evaluados
  • Las facciones en territorios pueden hacer peligroso la presentación de informes
  • Corrupción en los medios / falta de valores profesionales para los periodistas
  • Monopolio de la propiedad de los medios
  • Medios de comunicación politizados / propietarios de medios
  • Sensacionalismo
  • Información distorsionada
  • Uso de lenguaje inflamatorio

Si esta lista parece familiar, debería. ¿Cuántos de estos describen con precisión los medios de comunicación estadounidenses?

Luego, les pedí a los asistentes que crearan sus propias sugerencias para mejorar los medios colombianos usando los principios del periodismo de paz. Estas sugerencias incluyeron:
  • Usar un lenguaje moderado
  • Dar voz a los sin voz, especialmente a los que viven en zonas rurales
  • Sea sincero y preciso
  • Proporcionar contexto
  • Reporta más historias de fuera de las principales ciudades (de las regiones colombianas "flyover")
  • Capacitar a estudiantes y profesionales en periodismo de paz / ética periodística
  • Informe sobre las soluciones
  • Usar medios como puente para conectar grupos dispares

Cerré la sesión pidiendo a los asistentes, especialmente a los periodistas presentes, que comiencen a difundir la noticia sobre el periodismo de paz y sobre su papel crucial en los procesos de reconciliación que están en curso en Colombia.

Lograr la paz y la reconciliación será un camino largo y difícil, pero sin embargo un viaje vale la pena tomar. Pregúntale al hombre con el sombrero de 10 galones.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Peace and Journalism
in Colombia

I was honored to present at a peace journalism workshop (right) Friday in Aruaca, Colombia. There was standing room only. Stay tuned for more on the workshop on Monday.

Saturday, I toured Bogota--beautiful, especially from the vantage point atop Mount Monserrate (below). Then, I toured the area around Bolivar Square, and went to two fabulous museums.

Friday, April 21, 2017

PJ may assist reconciliation in Colombia
Where can peace journalism do the most good? Certainly, countries currently torn by war (South Sudan) can benefit, as can nations where journalistic credibility and fake news are a problem (U.S.) and countries where refugees and immigrants are negatively portrayed by the media (Turkey and Germany, among others).

However, I believe that the places where peace journalism can have the most positive impact are those countries where violent conflicts have ended and reconciliation is underway. I have seen first-hand the positive influence of peace journalism on reconciliation processes in Uganda. I believe this positive role may also be possible in my destination later this week, Colombia, where the healing from a 50-year guerilla war is just getting underway.

At the kind invitation of the Colombia Fulbright Association and the Colombian Presidential Human Rights Council, I will be in Arauca, in the north, discussing peace and reconciliation journalism. In my keynote address, I’ll talk about media’s role in reconciliation. Taking a chapter (literally) from my textbook Peace Journalism Principles and Practices, I’ll outline the ways media can make a positive impact in post-conflict settings. In post conflict settings, the media can: 
  • Dissipate rumors and propaganda;   
  • Create spaces for expressing diverse (and sometimes conflicting) viewpoints;
  • Report to ensure transparency and accountability;
  • Educate the public about reconciliation processes;
  • Produce counter-narrative reporting that makes “the other side human”, thus rejecting “us vs. them” stories;
  • Produce counter-narrative reporting that offers positive examples of tolerance, cooperation, and collaboration across boundaries; 
  • Produce counter-narrative reporting that presents stories about commonalities across boundaries; 
  • Report stories that give a voice to the voiceless (victims and those seeking solutions).
Then, in a workshop with academics, Fulbrighters, students, and journalists, we’ll list the obstacles to implementing peace journalism in Colombia, as well as brainstorm ideas for specifically how PJ principles might be applied to reconciliation in Colombia.

I’m looking forward to meeting my Colombian colleagues and learning more about their unique opportunities and challenges. Also, I can’t wait to try some authentic arepas con aguacates (avocados). 

Stay tuned.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Media's Iraq Mistakes Repeated

Unfortunately, 14 years after the beginning of the Iraq war, many of the same patterns of war-mongering traditional media coverage can be found in reporting about last Thursday’s missile strike on a Syrian airbase.

In Peace Journalism Principles and Practices, I lay out a strong indictment against “war journalism” practiced in the months before the Iraq war. Specifically, I wrote that media in 2003 was pro-war, and ignored anti-war voices; featured hyped, false stories that justified the administration’s case for intervention; depended almost entirely on official sources, giving the public a narrow, distorted view of the conflict; and waved the flag instead of critically analyzing the case for war.

While each of these elements has been present in the missile strike coverage, let’s concentrate on two—the lack of anti-intervention voices; and waving the flag.

The coverage, as anyone who watched cable TV during the last week can testify, was decidedly pro-missile strike, and largely ignored voices calling for non-violent options.  An examination of broadcast news transcripts from April 8-10, using the search term “Syria Trump missiles,” shows there has been little discussion of peace and non-violent responses to Assad’s gas attack. Of the search’s 989 hits on Lexis-Nexis, only 76 mentioned peace negotiations (7.7%) and 31 peace talks (3%). A total of 31 mentioned “compromise,” “peace agreement,” “peace deal,” “truce,” and “reconciliation” combined (3%).  Only 34 of the 989 broadcast stories mentioned “settlement” (3.4%).

The study shows that not only are peaceful options being ignored, so, too are those advocating peace and non-violence. The military terms “general,” “colonel,” and “lieutenant” were mentioned in 240 of the 989 stories, mostly to identify expert talking heads. So in about one in four reports, experts presented were military or ex-military. Contrast this to the almost complete lack of peace-promoting voices on-air. There were only a combined 17 hits for “peace activist,” “peacebuilder,” “peace negotiator,” and “mediator” (appearing in 1.7% of the total number of stories broadcast). There were 40 hits for “diplomat” (4%). Even if you add up all the peace voices, it totals less than 6% of all stories—about four times less than the military voices.

The military-heavy coverage is consistent with the flag-waving (or as some call it, cheerleading) evident over the airwaves the previous four days. On April 7, The Washington Post’s Margaret Sullivan wrote, “The cruise missiles struck, and many in the mainstream media fawned.” She cited examples from the New York Times (“On Syria attack, Trump’s heart came first,”); CNN (“’I think Donald Trump became president of the United States last night,’ Fareed Zakaria declared”); and MSNBC (Brian Williams “seemed mesmerized by the images of the strikes provided by the Pentagon. He used the word ‘beautiful’ three times and alluded to a Leonard Cohen lyric — ‘I am guided by the beauty of our weapons’.”) (

Indeed, the coverage, according to the same Lexis-Nexis study, skewed pro-missile strike. Of the 989 total hits, 33 used the term “justified” (vs. 4 “unjustified”); 43 “correct” (1 “incorrect”); 13 “wise” (1 “unwise”); 21 “intelligent” and “prudent” combined (14 “foolish”). There were 43 hits under “success” and 45 under “failure,” a balance that perhaps reflects on-air discussions about whether the attack was a success or a failure.

Why the cheerleading, flag-waving coverage?  What media critic Paul Waldman said about Iraq coverage in 2013 is still true today. “When there's a war in the offing, the flags are waving and dissenters are being called treasonous, the media's courage tends to slip away. Which is particularly regrettable, since the time when the government is pressing for war should be the time when (media) are more aggressive than ever, exploring every possibility and asking every question, over and over again if need be. (Paul Waldman, “Duped on War, Has Press Learned?,” CNN, 2013, March 19, 2013,

It’s distressing that the press seems to have learned so little since the run up to the Iraq war.  The news media must practice peace journalism by broadening, deepening, and balancing its coverage. Reporting shouldn’t skew either pro-missile strike or pro-peace, but must present the public a comprehensive view of all alternatives. Instead, the public is getting the same one-sided flag waving that preceded the disastrous intervention in Iraq.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Protest coverage largely ignores underlying causes
Excerpted from The Peace Journalist magazine, April 2017.

The first tenet of peace journalism implores reporters to examine the causes of conflict, and to lead discussions about solutions. How much of the anti-Trump protest reporting has addressed the reasons behind the protests?

A Lexis-Nexis search of newspaper articles using the search “anti-Trump protests” from Jan. 20 to March 1 showed that only a minority of stories—24.6%-- discussed the root causes of the protests. Of the 548 articles that came up in a search, 91 discussed racism, 21 sexism, 2 Islamophobia, and 21 xenophobia. In total, there were 135 total mentions of these grievances.

Almost identical results were found regarding broadcast news transcripts. During the same time period, for the 227 hits generated by the search, 34 stories mentioned racism, 0 sexism, 1 Islamophobia, and 24 xenophobia. There were 59 total mentions of these root causes that appeared in 25.9% of the total number of broadcast stories.

It is important to note is that in both newspapers and broadcast transcripts, for the purposes of the mini-study, I counted each mention of each word (xenophobia, sexism, etc.) as a separate “hit”, thus it’s possible, even likely, that several of these terms no doubt appeared in the same story.

Thus, no more than one in four news pieces about the protests has gone into detail about the stated grievances behind the protests. Instead, these stories have provided nothing but superficial and sensational “blow by blow” coverage. What did get covered? Most stories provided details about how many attended, whether there were any arrests, etc., along with simple, succinct, superficial quotes
from participants.

Peace journalists, in contrast, would provide depth and context, rather than just superficial and sensational coverage of events like protests, which after all are merely the visible surface manifestations of a roiling sea of underlying discontent.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

The new Peace Journalist magazine has arrived
The April 2017 edition features reports from Afghanistan, Kenya, Sierra Leone, Cameroon, Pakistan, and the U.S. The Peace Journalist is a semi-annual publication of the Center for Global Peace Journalism at Park University in Parkville, Missouri. 

To view the magazine on Issuu, click here.

The next edition of The Peace Journalist is October, 2017. Submissions are welcome from all. We’re looking for submissions of varying lengths (300-1500 words) detailing peace journalism projects, seminars, courses, and proposals, as well as outstanding examples of peace reporting and academic work in the field. We encourage you to send photos as well. The copy deadline will be September 3, 2017

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Workshop: African PJ must offer counternarratives
(Kisumu, Kenya)—The importance of African approaches to peace journalism dominated the agenda of day two of a regional peace journalism workshop in Kisumu.

Dr. Fredrick Ogenga
This African-centered approach is called hybrid peace journalism by Dr. Fredrick Ogenga, founding director of the Center for Media, Democracy, Peace, and Security (CMDPS) at Rongo University in Kenya. This approach takes elements of Western journalism and views them through an African lens. Dr. Ogenga’s hybrid PJ approach features an emphasis on development and on offering counternarratives to traditional Western-style reporting that portrays Africa only in a negative light.

At Rongo University, hybrid PJ is manifested through a master’s program in Media, Democracy, Peace, and Security. The university also has a hybrid PJ club, made up of peacebuilding students. Also, Rongo U. will launch soon a campus/community radio station dedicated to peacebuilding. “We’re giving students an opportunity to tell their own narratives,” Ogenga said.

Other presenters on day two included Dr. Jacinta Mwende 
of the University of Nairobi, who discussed media, human rights, and social justice. She articulated several suggestions for reporting human rights, including: 1. No ‘us vs. them’; 2. No worthy or unworthy victims; 3. Report humanely during conflicts; 4. Explore all sides.
Dr. Jacinta Mwende

Professor John Oluoch of Rongo University then discussed how local (vernacular) language radio stations can enhance peace in Kenya. He suggests that media operate objectively, and embrace a model that stresses social responsibility.

The workshop, sponsored by Rongo University CMPDS, The Social Science Research Council, The African Peacebuilding Network, and the Center for Global Peace Journalism at Park University,  concluded with a presentation by Victor Bwire of the Media Council of Kenya. He led a spirited discussion about media ethics and responsibilities. He said ethics, objectivity, and sound journalistic practice are needed if Kenyan journalists are to rebuild trust with the public. I closed the proceedings with a discussion of next steps, including uniting to form a PJ press club in East Africa.

For me, this workshop was a much-needed reminder that local contexts are vital if peace journalism is to take root. I hope this is the first of many such local-context regional workshops in East Africa and elsewhere.

--For more on the first day of the workshop, see the blog post below.--SY

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Workshop puts East African perspective on peace journalism
(Kisumu, Kenya)--“Do you want to make conflict worse or make it better?”

With that question, Dr. Fredrick Ogenga from Rongo University opened today’s  Peace Journalism Training Workshop. Attendees are from five East African countries—Kenya, Uganda, South Sudan, Rwanda, and Tanzania.

I had the privilege of giving the first presentation about the fundamentals of peace journalism, including how peace journalists frame stories as well as the importance of avoiding inflammatory language. Then, the 15 participants and I discussed PJ’s utility in reporting elections (like the upcoming presidential election in Kenya in August) and in leading societal discourse about reconciliation.

Gloria Laker, founding director of the Peace Journalism Foundation of East Africa, followed my presentation with an insightful discussion of PJ and the LRA war (1988-2006) in Northern Uganda. She gave background about the war, and discussed the genesis of peace media in Northern Uganda. It began, ironically, with a military-founded outlet called “Radio Freedom.” Eventually, Radio Freedom morphed into a much larger, and much stronger signaled, station called Mega FM, which is widely lauded with sowing the seeds of peace in Northern Uganda. Laker said media-led peace efforts during and after the LRA war included feature reporting, teaming with NGO’s to offer peace journalism training, offering programs that discussed peace, and fostering cooperation among local, national, and international media.

Dr. Duncan Omanga
The last presenter of the day, Dr. Duncan Omanga from Moi University in Kenya, gave an excellent speech about PJ and terrorism. He analyzed terrorists’ goals vis-à-vis the media, and in the process introduced the audience to the term “violence as a form of communication.” A brisk discussion followed about what constituted terrorism, and about if journalists should use terms like “separatist” or “gunman” instead. Emphasizing the importance of this choice, Dr. Omanga said, “Labels have consequences.”

He concluded with four suggestions for journalists in covering terrorism:

1. Understand the logic of terror
2. Create media policies for covering terrorism
3. Understand the context of terrorism
4. Be sensitive to labels

The workshop is sponsored by Rongo University, The Social Science Research Council, The African Peacebuilder’s Network, and the Center for Global Peace Journalism at Park University. Day two of the event is tomorrow. 

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

PJ pioneer Dr. Johan Galtung on short list for Nobel Peace Prize
According to Nobel Peace Prize Watch, peace journalism and peace studies pioneer, professor, and founder of Transcend Media Service Dr. Johan Galtung has made the short list of 32 individuals and organizations being considered for the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize.

His nomination, from Prof. Richard Falk of Princeton University and the Univ. of California-Santa Barbara, states, “Johan Galtung has been the sort of dedicated warrior for peace that it seems to me the Nobel Prize was created to honor. By so doing, (this will) raise public consciousness of what must happen if we are to overcome the war system and enjoy the material, political, and spiritual benefits of living in a world of peace premised on the nonviolent resolution of disputes among sovereign states and respect for the authority of international law.

"For decades Johan Galtung has been an inspirational presence in the field of peace studies broadly conceived. His exceptional vitality and mobility has brought this message of understanding and insight into peace with justice to the four corners of the planet in a remarkable fashion that is truly unique in its educational and activist impact. It is no exaggeration to write that he invented and established the field of peace studies as a respected subject of study in institutions of higher learning throughout the world. As a consequence of his charismatic speaking ability and seminal writing Johan Galtung has reached the hearts and minds of thousands of people throughout the world, conveying the belief above all that peace is possible through the dedicated efforts of ordinary people..”

I have had the privilege of interviewing Dr. Galtung for my peace journalism book in 2015. We spent an afternoon eating pizza, sipping tea, and talking about peace, peace journalism, and the state of media. It's among the most fascinating three hours I've ever spent in my life. Dr. Galtung was polite, gracious, and humble. Even well into his 80's, Dr. Galtung is an intellectual giant. In fact, there were times during our visit that I noticed Dr. Galtung slowing down to explain things to me, not in a condescending way, but as a colleague and friend. His observations were insightful and profound, and integral to the success of my book. 

Whether he gets the peace prize or not, Dr. Galtung's work will continue to provide a much-need beacon to light our way through these dark times.

Upon posting this blog, I got a nice tweet from Dr. Galtung. Thank you, kind sir.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Peace Journalism approach needed in protest coverage
As the resistance to the Trump administration continues, with major protests seemingly every few days, some media outlets, faced with how to cover the resistance, seem to be lapsing into familiar patterns of coverage.

A recent mini content analysis of news about the anti-Trump protests shows most notably a gap among different media in the way the cover the grievances that underlie the protests.

A Lexis-Nexis search of newspaper articles about the anti-Trump protests from Jan. 20 to Feb. 20 showed that many stories discussed the root causes of the protests. Of the first 1000 articles that came up in a search, 389 discussed racism, 63 sexism, 44 Islamophobia, and 373 xenophobia. Thus, there were 869 total mentions of these grievances. Fox News coverage was different. During the same time period, for the first 1000 hits generated by the search, 157 stories mentioned racism, 16 sexism, 6 Islamophobia, and 125 xenophobia.   The total Fox mentions of these grievances fueling the protests were 304—much less than half the 869 mentions in the same number of newspaper stories.

This result, while not surprising, provides yet another justification for peace journalism, the first tenet of which implores journalists to examine the causes of conflict, and to lead discussions about solutions.

Also, media of all stripes seem intent on labeling the protests and protesters. The newspaper search showed mentions of protesters as angry (125), violent  (137), and bitter (14).  Fox also reinforced the stereotype of protesters as angry (158), violent  (165), and bitter (27).

Peace journalism encourages journalists to reject such superficial labels that reinforce stereotypes, myths, and misperceptions. Are the protesters more than just bitter losers, angry that their candidate lost the election last fall? Are isolated incidences of violence being overplayed and exaggerated, creating negative misperceptions about 99.9% of the protesters?

Indeed, peace journalists must provide depth and context, rather than just superficial and sensational “play by play” of events like protests, which after all are merely the visible surface manifestations of a roiling sea of underlying discontent.

In my book Peace Journalism Principles and Practices, I encourage journalists to report counter-narratives that provide different perspectives on the protesters. One such example can be found in the Kansas City Star.

The Star’s article (Feb. 16) on the “Day without Immigrants” protest, for example, centered on Marisol Cervantes, who crossed a desert to enter the U.S. but now “lives in fear” of the Trump administration. 

In another example,, which features articles from three Alabama newspapers, profiles undocumented immigrant Cesar Mata and his impressions about Trump’s plan to build a border wall. 

If journalists are really interested in rebuilding their wobbly credibility, a good place to start would be with articles like these that offer stereotype-busting, contextual counternarratives that go beyond superficial labels and breathless “play by play” descriptions of protests and protesters.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Baldwin or Trump? Dominican newspaper can't tell difference
Call for proposals-Regional Peace Journalism Workshop

Center for Media, Democracy, Peace and Security, Rongo University in collaboration with the Social Science Research Council’s African Peacebuilding Network program

The Center for Media, Democracy, Peace and Security (CMDPS), Rongo University in partnership with The African Peacebuilding Network (APN) of the Social Science Research Council (SSRC) is organizing a two day Regional Peace Journalism Workshop for Eastern Africa to be held at the Center for Media, Democracy, Peace and Security (Rongo University, Kenya). The workshop will provide training for between 12-15 media practitioners, journalists, and editors from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Ethiopia, and Burundi (radio, TV, print, and digital) in the key concepts and issues in peace journalism, including reflections on the role of the media in conflict mediation and peacebuilding in East African countries.

The workshop will include topics such as essentials of hybrid journalism, conflict, justice, and reconciliation. Part of the training will promote better understanding of three African philosophies of Umoja or unity, Harambee or togetherness, and Utu or humanity. It will also sensitize them to best practices in the adoption of a peace journalism approach as well as the ethics of reporting about sensitive issues, including acts of terrorism. Proposals of about 500 words should be sent to the project coordinator Dr. Fredrick Ogenga: before 25 February 2017. The local organizer will meet all the costs related to the workshop for successful applicants, which will include return air tickets, accommodation, and meals for the entire duration of the workshop.

Participants are expected to come to the workshop with samples of their work/reports, which will be discussed in a practical training session.

Dates: 16 -17 March 2017

Expected Output(s)

PThe final output from the workshop will be an edited e-book titled “African Peace Journalism - A Guide for Scholars and Practitioners” consisting of six chapters. Contributions will be expected from each of the instructors which include one practitioner.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Call for Papers—The Peace Journalist magazine;
Call for audio clips—Peace Journalism Perspectives Podcast

The Peace Journalist magazine is seeking submissions for our April, 2017 edition. The Peace Journalist is a semi-annual publication (print and .pdf) of the Center for Global Peace Journalism at Park University in Parkville, Missouri. The Peace Journalist is dedicated to disseminating news and information for and about teachers, students, and practitioners of peace and conflict sensitive journalism.

Submissions are welcome from all. For the next edition of The Peace Journalist, we are seeking short submissions (300-550 words) detailing peace journalism projects, classes, proposals, academic works in the field, etc. We also welcome longer submissions (800-1200 words) about peace or conflict sensitive journalism projects or program.

Please submit your article via email to Also send a 2-3 sentence biography of the author, as well as a small head and shoulders photo of the author. In addition, please submit photos and graphics that could accompany your article.s, as well as academic works from the field. The Peace Journalist will not run general articles about peace initiatives or projects, but rather seeks only articles with a strong peace media/peace journalism/conflict sensitive journalism angle.
The magazine submission deadline is March 7. However, given the limited space available in this issue, it’s advisable to submit your article early.

To see a .pdf of the October, 2016 edition, go to:

Similarly, the Peace Journalism Perspectives Podcast ( is seeking audio clips related to PJ—short PJ-style radio stories; short interviews with PJ practitioners/teachers; audio clips from PJ events, etc. Please keep your clips to under 3 minutes, and submit to me (mp3) by email. The podcast deadline is February 20.

Thank you in advance for your interest in the Peace Journalist and the PJ podcast.

Steven L. Youngblood, Editor, The Peace Journalist
Director, Center for Global Peace Journalism
Author, “Peace Journalism Principles and Practices”

Park University, Parkville, MO USA

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Public needs truth about "threatening" refugees
Donald Trump’s “extreme vetting” is underway, revealed yesterday in a draft executive order that calls for a 30-day halt to entry of travelers from certain countries, like Syria and Iraq, whose citizens “would be detrimental to the interests of the United States.” (New York Times, Jan. 25)

As discouraging as the ignorance and xenophobia reflected in this order may be, we can still be comforted by much of the reporting about these restrictions.

A number of news outlets, like the Guardian, Slate, and the Washington Post, have run pieces that reflect the truth about refugees—that they are not a threat. The Migration Policy Institute in 2015 noted that the U.S. “has resettled 784,000 refugees since September 11, 2001. In those 14 years, exactly three resettled refugees have been arrested for planning terrorist activities—and it is worth noting two were not planning an attack in the United States and the plans of the third were barely credible.”

Expanding on this, the Washington Post ran an insightful video yesterday titled “Syrian Refugees to Trump: We are not terrorists.” It follows the heart-wrenching story of how a family escaped the war back home and now wants nothing more than to live their lives peacefully.

A similar story was told in a Jan. 26 Kansas City Star article titled, "KC refugee's message to Trump: We are good people." The article quotes one refugee resettlement official who said, "This is devastating to refugees both here and overseas who will be deprived the opportunity to have a safe life and future for their children."

A Jan. 6 "This American Life" public radio story tells a related tale, but this time about Iraqis who are seeking refuge in the U.S. The catch—these would-be immigrants all helped U.S. military forces during their occupation of Iraq. As a result, these Iraqis are being targeted and killed by extremists. Do we owe them something? One interviewee said, “They risked our lives to keep me and our Marines safe.” Should these Iraqis be “extremely vetted?”

In Slate, Joshua Keating reports about the deplorable conditions that the would-be refugees are fleeing. He writes, “This (executive order) will do far less to deter violence, extremism, and terrorism than punish victims of those forces. In fact, many of those needing asylum are fleeing some of the very same groups the U.S. is fighting.” The article goes on to cite statistics from the seven banned countries. This includes: “more than 2.5 million people in Libya are in need of protection or assistance; how in Somalia, there are alarming rates of malnutrition and food insecurity, exacerbated by a crippling ongoing drought; and how hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced in Sudan by armed conflicts.”

In fact, these examples all reflect the principles of peace journalism, the idea that reporters and editors should make choices that create an atmosphere more conducive to peace, and, in this instance, produce more balanced and sensitive refugee reporting.

In my book “Peace Journalism Principles and Practices,” I’ve included a chapter about covering refugees and other displaced persons. I list these guidelines for covering refugees:

--Avoid spreading propaganda, regardless of the source.
--Don’t use language or images that rely on or reinforce stereotypes, racism, sexism, or xenophobia.
--Humanize individuals and their stories. Look for examples that illustrate larger statistics or trends.
--Proactively investigate and report refugee stories that offer counter-narratives that debunk stereotypes and challenge exclusively negative narratives.

The American public, regardless of their political leanings, needs objective, comprehensive, truthful information about refugees. We have seen the consequences when the public instead is fed a diet of misinformation, lies, and hysteria.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Alternative facts?

Friday, January 20, 2017

Journalists brace for Trump administration
The post below previews some of my presentation Tuesday night, Jan. 24 at 6:30 pm at the National Archives in Kansas City titled, First Amendment Under Fire: Global Challenges to Press Freedom. While I will discuss Trump, as I do below, I’ll also cover press freedom more broadly in the U.S. and the world, and analyze at length the impact of the erosion of trust in the news media. Hope to see you there.

The inauguration of President Trump has created palpable fear among many Americans, including women, LGBTQ individuals, and Obamacare recipients. But perhaps no single group has been as concerned with Trump’s ascension to power than journalists.

In October, the chairman of the board of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Sandra Mims Rowe, issued the following statement on behalf of the organization:

“Guaranteeing the free flow of information to citizens through a robust, independent press is essential to American democracy. For more than 200 years this founding principle has protected journalists in the United States and inspired those around the world, including brave journalists facing violence, censorship, and government repression.

Donald Trump, through his words and actions as a candidate for president of the United States, has consistently betrayed First Amendment values. On October 6, CPJ's board of directors passed a resolution declaring Trump an unprecedented threat to the rights of journalists and to CPJ's ability to advocate for press freedom around the world.” 

Specifically, CPJ and other journalism organizations see four Trump administration threats to free speech.

1. Insulting, vilifying, and thus marginalizing the press
One need look no further than Trump’s many direct attacks on journalists. He has regularly called them “dishonest”, “scum”, and “sleaze.” He has directed supporters at his rallies to threateningly jeer at journalists covering the rallies. This was also on display at Trump’s Jan. 11 pressconference where he labeled CNN and Buzzfeed “fake news."

On his first day in office, while speaking at the CIA, he said, "I have a running war with the media. They are the most dishonest human beings on earth."

The impact of this is a public more skeptical of media, and less likely to believe facts and fact-checking. A Rasumussen poll finds that that “just 29% of all Likely U.S. Voters trust media fact-checking of candidates’ comments. Sixty-two percent (62%) believe instead that news organizations skew the facts to help candidates they support.” 

2. Denying press credentials to media outlets
Trump’s campaign systematically denied press credentials to outlets that have covered him critically, including The Washington Post, BuzzFeed, Politico, The Huffington Post, The Daily Beast, Univision, and The Des Moines Register. (CPJ)

The impact is two-fold: making some journalists more reluctant to criticize the president, and restricting access to events and information that have traditionally been subject to public scrutiny.

3. Threats to tighten libel laws
According to CPJ, throughout his campaign, “Trump has routinely made vague proposals to limit basic elements of press and internet freedom. At a rally in February, Trump declared that if elected president he would ‘open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money.’ In September, Trump tweeted: ‘My lawyers want to sue the failing @nytimes so badly for irresponsible intent. I said no (for now), but they are watching. Really disgusting.’ While some have suggested that these statements are rhetorical, we take Trump at his word. His intent and his disregard for the constitutional free press principle are clear.’”

Will this have a chilling effect on the media during the next four years?

4. Threat to remove press from the West Wing
According to, "Routine media access to the White House could be a thing of the past under Donald Trump's presidency, with top officials saying...that they're exploring more spacious options nearby. Vice President-elect Mike Pence cast the idea as a response to increased interest in the new administration, saying they’re ‘giving some consideration to finding a larger venue on the 18 acres in the White House complex to accommodate the extraordinary interest…’

The White House Correspondents’ Association board said last week it “will fight to keep the briefing room and West Wing access to senior administration officials open,” in a statement from association president Jeff Mason…“We object strenuously to any move that would shield the president and his advisers from the scrutiny of an on-site White House press corps,” Mason said. 

What can journalists and journalism organizations do to combat these threats?

In no small part, the answer lies in improving our work, and reestablishing our credibility with the public, which has a record-low 32% level of trust in media, according to a recent Gallup poll. It doesn't help when the media give its critics, including President Trump, ammunition, like when one report erroneously stated that the bust of Martin Luther King had been removed from the Oval Office.

One prescription for improving our work is peace journalism and its embrace of balance and objectivity; examining and reporting about solutions; giving voice to the voiceless; rejecting sensationalism; and giving non violent responses to conflict a proportionate voice.

The public can also buttress quality journalism by subscribing to their local newspaper or news websites, and by donating to not-for-profit public service journalism organizations like Propublica, PBS, and NPR. News consumers can also do their part by communicating their support for the first amendment to their elected representatives, especially during those times when anti-press appointees or judges are being considered for confirmation.

The worst nightmares of the journalism community don’t have to come to fruition. We must improve our profession, and, in so doing, begin to build both our lost credibility and our own wall of professionalism that will help shield us from capricious politicians.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Peace Journalism Insights blog listed among 50 best
The Peace Journalism Insights blog has been listed in the Top 50 Journalism Blogs and Websites for Journalists by Feedspot, a leading online content platform and aggregator.

The blog, featuring commentary and news from the Center for Global Peace Journalism at Park University and around the world, is written and edited by Steven Youngblood, Park professor and director of the center.

"To be on the same list as the New York Times, the Society of Professional Journalists' blog, and the Nieman Center at Harvard University's website is quite an honor," Youngblood said. "I think it's a commentary on the important work being done by the Center for Global Peace Journalism, and reflects an uptick in interest in peace journalism generally."

Feedspot selected the winning websites and blogs based upon these criteria: Google reputation and search ranking; influence and popularity on Facebook, twitter, and other social media; quality and consistency of posts; and Feedspot's editorial team and expert review.