Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Planning for Ethiopia
I'm honored to announce my selection as a U.S. Department of State as the U.S. Senior Subject Specialist for Peace Journalism in Ethiopia. In this capacity, I'll be spending the spring, 2018 semester in Ethiopia working on various peace journalism projects.

My partners and I are still ironing out some details. In early January, I'll write with more details about what I'll be doing, where, and why. Of course, I'll be blogging regularly from Ethiopia, so stay tuned!

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Center for Global Peace Journalism: Map of activities
As the year winds down, I thought it would be interesting to see where peace journalism has taken me. I'm sure I missed a place or two, but you get the idea. I'll be adding a few new spots in 2018.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Journalists, professor ponder journalism ethics
When does a journalist cross the line that divides telling an important story and exploiting a victim?

This essential question was front and center yesterday as I met with the staffs of the Global Sisters Report (GSR) and the National Catholic Reporter (NCR) here in Kansas City.

One young journalist told of her recent reporting trip to Uganda where she reported on South Sudanese refugees.

While the journalist saw the need to interview and tell the story of this refugee, she wondered aloud if she had instead traumatized the refugees by asking them to retell their harrowing stories. We discussed, collectively, whether one article about one refugee can make a difference in their lives, and if it can’t, should we be asking them to relive their traumas?

I responded with similar concerns I had while reporting the story of a South Sudanese journalist who had fled his home with his mother and sister. I played my audio report about this man, and asked rhetorically if I had behaved ethically.

We followed this up with a discussion about potentially exploitative images. Should journalists have used the photo of Aylan Kurdi, the 3-year old Syrian boy whose body washed ashore in Turkey? In another example, should Turkish journalists have used a heart wrenching photo of a toddler with his hands in the air, raised because he mistook the journalist’s camera for a gun? The consensus on the toddler photo is that it would’ve been ethical to use it, as long as the photo included an accompanying contextual story.

These important discussions occurred during my presentation on the fundamentals of peace journalism. Before my talk, as I researched both publications, I discovered that they have a lot to teach their fellow journalists. In fact, much of their content (like stories on how Catholic sisters are working on environmental, migration, and trafficking issues; and reports about the pitfalls of capitalism, net neutrality’s impact on faith communities, and on advocacy for Haitian immigrants) already reflect peace journalism best practices.

I hope to continue working with, and learning from, my GSR and NCR colleagues.

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.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Seminars launch tomorrow in Pakistan
Tomorrow--the first of two Peace Journalism seminars in Sukkur, Pakistan. Tomorrow's event will draw journalists from throughout Pakistan, as well as faculty and students from Sukkur IBA University. Based on discussions in two classes today, tomorrow should be lively.

Stay tuned for details!

Monday, October 2, 2017

The October Peace Journalism magazine has arrived!
The October edition features stories from Cameroon, Ethiopia, Fiji, Pakistan, and elsewhere.

You can get a .pdf copy using this link. Or, if you prefer a flip through format, see the magazine posted on Issuu.

The next edition of The Peace Journalist will be published in April, 2018. Submissions are welcome from all. We seek submissions from 300 to 1500 words, as well as photos. The copy deadline will be March 3, 2018. Please see page 3 of the magazine for more details.

Thank you,
 Steven L. Youngblood
Editor, The Peace Journalist
Author, Peace Journalism Principles and Practices (Routledge/Taylor and Francis)
Director, Center for Global Peace Journalism

Park University

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

PJ: A valuable tool to battle fake news
Today in Peace Journalism class at Park University, we're discussing fake news and the role of peace journalism in counteracting it. Below are the elements of peace journalism, and a discussion afterwards of how these apply to fake news.
Peace Journalism Elements and Fake News
1. PJ is proactive, examining the causes of conflict, and leading discussions about solutions. FAKE NEWS SEEKS BIASED SOLUTIONS TO FAKE/DISTORTED PROBLEMS

2. PJ looks to unite parties, rather than divide them, and eschews oversimplified “us vs. them” and “good guy vs. bad guy” reporting. –FAKE NEWS PITS US VS THEM; SO PJ EXPOSES THIS AND PROVIDES CONTEXT
3. Peace reporters reject official propaganda, and instead seek facts from all sources. FAKE NEWS IS PROPAGANDA
4. PJ is balanced, covering issues/suffering/peace proposals from all sides of a conflict. . FAKE NEWS IS ALWAYS ONE SIDED/BIASED
5. PJ gives voice to the voiceless, instead of just reporting for and about elites –FAKE NEWS DOESN'T EMPOWER THE VOICELESS, IT MANIPULATES THEM


7. Peace journalists consider the consequences of their reporting—FAKE NEWS IGNORES CONSEQUENCES, AND EVEN SEEKS NEGATIVE CONSEQUENCES

8. Peace journalists carefully choose and analyze the words they use—FAKE NEWS SEEKS INFLAMMATORY AND PROVOCATIVE LANGUAGE

9. Peace journalists thoughtfully select the images they use—FAKE NEWS USES DOCTORED, SENSATIONAL IMAGES; OR IMAGES THAT DISTORT REALITY

10. Peace Journalists offer counter-narratives that debunk media created or perpetuated stereotypes, myths, and misperceptions. FAKE NEWS BUILDS UPON THESE MYTHS AND STEREOTYPES TO MANIPUATE THE PUBLIC

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Hurricane coverage: Hot wind?
Much has been written about the advisability and desirability of positioning reporters in the path of hurricanes. Several insightful articles about this have appeared in Slate and the New York Times .

From a peace journalism perspective, while we might reflexively cringe at the ratings grubbing and sensationalism, I agree with the article above that there is an undeniable need for citizens (potential evacuees) to see and experience the severity of the storm with their own eyes.

That said, I am alarmed at the coverage that draws undue attention to those who choose to ignore evacuation exhortations. These range from the mundane (“I’ve never evacuated before”) to the absurd (“Florida Man Plans to Tie Himself to Pole During Irma”) and (“Man Says He’ll Ride Out Irma on his Boat”).
This coverage often set up a false equivalency—storm experts and local officials on one side of the screen preaching caution or urging evacuations, and hurricane skeptics and thrill seekers on the other. While there is no study data to prove this, I would bet that the constant drum beat of this worn out narrative of the "hurricane maverick" influences those on the fence, people considering whether to stay or evacuate. We don’t know how many stay because they see others ignoring the warnings, but if even one person remains behind and is injured or killed, then that’s one too many.

Perhaps the press should re-think giving storm deniers a platform.

Magazine coming soon
The October edition of the Peace Journalist magazine is coming soon! Stay tuned for details.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Ugandan Peace Journalist to
get vision-saving surgery
I write with wonderful news about our fundraiser for peace journalist Gloria Laker's cataract surgery. (She has cataracts in both eyes, and without surgery, she will go blind.) Thanks to your generosity, we have raised a total of $4350, enough to pay for surgery on one eye. Gloria will have this surgery in early September, and we'll keep you posted.

With my deepest gratitude,

Steven Youngblood

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Charlottesville coverage:
Sometimes responsible, sometimes sensational

News coverage about Charlottesville has been a mixed bag, sometimes responsible, and at other times needlessly sensational.

One bright spot is coverage of the murderer who drove his car through a crowd of anti-hate protesters. In the past, news reports of fatal attacks like the Charleston church murders (2015) and the Kansas City synagogue shooting by an avowed racist (2014) put a disproportionately bright spotlight on the murderer and his twisted beliefs. Oftentimes, this  disproportionate reporting overshadows coverage of the victim(s).

The press’ seeming devotion to covering terrorists and other mass murderers  has led the family members of murder victims to form an organization and website called No Notoriety (  This organization challenges to media to “deprive violent individuals of the media celebrity…they so crave.” The organization recommends limiting the “name and likeness of the (murderer) in reporting after the initial identification” and refusing to publish “self-serving statements” and “manifestos made by the individual (murderer).”

The good news is that No Notoriety’s admonitions were at least partially heeded during the Charlottesville coverage. Lexis Nexis database searches of newspaper and broadcast transcripts between Aug. 13 and Aug. 21 showed the murderer named in 156 of the first 1000 newspaper hits for “Charlottesville,” and 221 of the first 1000 broadcast transcript hits. In both searches, the name of the victim, Heather Heyer, was mentioned more than the murderer-- twice as much in the newspaper search (309 vs. 156), and a bit more in the broadcast transcript search (299 to 221). Recognizing the victim’s relative importance compared to the murderer is a step in the right direction.

What these searches don’t show is how often the murderer’s image was used. If it was used even once after “initial identification, ” that’s one time too many, according to No Notoriety.  I agree.

An interesting aside: the same two searches showed a majority of the coverage centered on President Trump and his response to Charlottesville (576/1000 newspaper hits; and 835/1000 broadcast transcript hits). An in-depth content analysis is needed to determine if this flood of Trump coverage eclipsed more important reports about the victim and the hatred and societal dysfunction that were embodied by the rally in Charlottesville.

The bad news on the Charlottesville coverage, from a peace journalism perspective, was the widespread usage of the nauseating footage and/or still photos of the murderer’s car plowing into the protesters. I saw the footage myself at least 10 times on CNN, and still images from the car attack were used on many newspaper front pages.

The most sensational, egregious front page, to no one’s surprise, was the New York Daily News, with a zoomed-in photo showing victims flying through the air, their faces, and looks of horror, clearly visible.

As peace journalists, we should be thoughtful about the images we use, always asking these questions:
1. Are these images merely sensational, or are they necessary for a complete understanding of the story?
2. Will these images needlessly inflame passions against the suspect, scuttling his right to a fair trial?
3. What about the families of the victims? If this was your loved one, would you want the photo or video published?
4. Do the pictures in any way glorify the perpetrator, his crime, or his cause? Do the images encourage copycats?

Whether  it’s images or words, responsible journalists should always consider the consequences of their reporting, and their minimum responsibility to not make a bad situation worse.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Call for Papers—The Peace Journalist magazine
The Peace Journalist magazine is seeking submissions for our October, 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 September 4. However, given the limited space available, it’s advisable to submit your article early.

To see or download a .pdf of the April 2017 edition, go to:

Finally, the peace journalism community is still coming together to support one of our own—Uganda’s peace journalist extraordinaire Gloria Laker, who urgently needs cataract surgery to avoid
going blind. Please help if you can, or at least, share this link with those who might be able to support her:

Thank you.

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

Twitter: @PeaceJourn

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Reflections on 3 weeks in Ethiopia and Cameroon
Random observations as I reflect back on the previous three weeks in Ethiopia and Cameroon:

1. In both places, everyone was extremely eager to find out about and learn peace journalism. In fact, of the 30 or so countries where I’ve taught, I can say that nowhere have I found journalists, academics, and students more interested and curious about PJ. Lecture halls were full, and, in Ethiopia, 19,000 people even watched one of my presentations on Facebook Live.
Press conference, Kumba, Cameroon

2. In both places, the journalists are aware of the many obstacles they face, starting with heavy handed governments. Although I did encounter a few reporters who threw their hands up and basically said that they were powerless to change things, most others saw in peace journalism an opportunity to change the harsh situation for journalists, and to improve their profession.

3. Ethiopians and Cameroonians are keen to continue learning about peace journalism. In Ethiopia, my colleagues are working on a proposal for a long term (6 months or so) project that would entail teaching and developing PJ curriculum at one or more universities. In Cameroon, the community media network is putting together a plan for a peace and electoral journalism project to head off media-induced election related violence in 2018.

At the American Center in Addis Ababa.
My sponsors during the weeks were tremendous. I was on a State Dept. program in Ethiopia, and my colleagues at the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa did a tremendous job setting up meetings, handling logistics, and so on. It’s always a pleasure to work with embassy personnel. 

In Cameroon, Alexander Vojvoda of the Cameroon Media Network nearly worked me to death meeting nearly everyone in Cameroon, but I would have died a happy man since the meetings, and workshops and lectures, were uniformly interesting and satisfying. Handling logistics in Cameroon can be challenging, yet Alex had the whole project running like a finely tuned Swiss clock. I look forward to our continuing collaborations.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

CBS radio, Buea
Audio report: Is PJ needed in Cameroon? Can it be practiced here?
As our in-house trainings wrapped up today, I got a chance to sit down the the organizer of the Cameroon Community Media Network and several journalists at CBS Radio in Buea about the potential for peace journalism here. My audio report can be found here.

Please also check out the great insights about this peace journalism project from Alex Vojvoda on the Cameroon Community Media Network website/blog.

I wrap up my two weeks in Cameroon with a two day workshop beginning tomorrow in Buea.
Training seminar, CBS, Buea

Monday, July 24, 2017

Discussion, radio show focus on PJ in Cameroon
LIMBE, CAMEROON-One of my favorite parts of our peace journalism project here are the “in house trainings” that we’ve been conducting over the last several days. Today, we visited Eden Radio and Newspaper and the Cameroon Association of Media Professionals and Advocate Newspaper in Limbe, on the Atlantic coast.

At Eden radio/newspaper, journalists talked about the need for short courses in peace journalism, as well as to question whether PJ is objective. My response is that PJ is objective since it doesn’t advocate for peace or for any given solution, but instead is about exploring and leading a discussion about various positions and options.

We also discussed how to put PJ into action in Cameroon. I told the journalists that since I’ve only been here a short time, that they were the ones to decide which of the principles of PJ are implementable here.

The discussion was followed by a 30-minute radio program on Radio Eden about PJ. Alexander Vojvoda of the Cameroon Media Network sat in on the interview, which featured a robust discussion about the nature of peace journalism, as well as its applicability in covering the 2018 elections and the refugee crisis in Northern Cameroon (Nigerians fleeing Boko Haram).

I look forward to more in house visits to radio stations in the coming days.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Journalists: Threat of election violence is real
BAMENDA, CAMEROON--Journalists at our one day peace journalism workshop today in Bamenda, in English speaking Cameroon, left me with one overriding concern: violence in the 2018 Cameroonian elections.
PJ seminar, Bamenda, Cameroon

When I asked about the possibility of election violence at my seminar a few days ago in French speaking Yaounde, the capital, the journalists were split three ways. One third predicted there would be no violence, one third said that there might be, and one third said there would be. Here, the journalists unanimously predicted that there would be violence during at least one of next year’s elections. (Separate elections on different dates are held for different offices). This is predictable given the ongoing crisis in Anglophone Cameroon which includes deadly protests, strikes by teachers and lawyers, and the incarceration of eight journalists. Emotions are running high here, understandably, so while their prediction was no surprise, it was unnerving nonetheless.

Bonus photo: One cool sight on the way to Bamenda!
It’s my hope that journalists can apply some of the lessons of peace journalism proactively to ease the tension and circumvent violence in the country’s Anglophone regions. If not, 2018 could be a long, and sad, year for Cameroon.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Language issues explored in Yaounde, Cameroon
YAOUNDE, CAMEROON--It's interesting, and instructive, to fall prey to the very media practices that I'm here to combat.

Examining a story: Is it PJ?
To set the stage, Cameroon is officially a bilingual French and English country, though, in practice, this is a matter of contention. There has been an ongoing dispute (or as they call it here, “crisis”) involving the Anglophone (English speaking) community. Seven were killed and dozens injured in Anglophone protests that led to violence in northwestern Cameroon late last year. The protesters were rallying against what VOA News called "the overbearing influence of French in the bilingual country." According to those attending my peace journalism seminar this week, the English speakers feel marginalized by a government that doesn't recognize their rights or serve their needs.

As I read about this, before I came, the international media framed this story in a way that pitted Cameroonian Anglophones vs. Francophones--a framing that made me mistakenly believe that these two groups were at odds, even violently battling. However, according to both the French and English speakers in my workshop, this framing is incorrect. Instead, they insist that the proper framing, and the real conflict, is between Anglophones and the government. In fact, many Francophones understand the conflict, and even sympathize with the protesters.
At the Ebert Foundation, host of the PJ seminar

With a more correct framing now in focus, the 20 journalists and I talked about how they might cover the crisis using peace journalism principles, beginning with the correct framing, and including reporting contextually, reporting counternarratives, and reporting in an unbiased fashion.

We also discussed how their reporting might assist in reconciliation in Cameroon. Toward that end, the reporters ventured out to do some reconciliation themed reporting. 

The journalist/participants divided themselves into seven groups, and produced seven excellent stories. Perhaps the most interesting was a TV story titled, “Bilingualism as a tool for reconciliation.” The story featured interviews with many everyday citizens, as well as footage of the signage at the reunification monument celebrating rapprochement between Anglophone and Francophone Cameroon. Ironically, all the signs at the monument site were only in French.

Another fine story was one about food as a form of unity…about how restaurant patrons who love the food from the “other” language community had to learn to communicate with one another across languages and cultures.

The best discussion was about a story highlighting how Christians and Muslims are living together “sans probleme” in Yaounde. One participant challenged the story’s use of the phrase “learning to live together,” which may imply that they haven’t gotten along well in the past. She suggested instead framing the story as a fight, joining Christians and Muslims together, against the Boko Haram terrorist group.

Our work continues in western and southwestern regions in Cameroon later this week. Since these are Anglophone regions, it will be interesting to see how these sensitive issues of language and culture are perceived differently  there.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Goodbye Ethiopia; Hello Cameroon
I just finished a fantastic week in Jimma and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. I met with journalists, academics, and students about peace journalism, and was greeted with enthusiastic interest. (See the previous two posts, below). Along with my colleagues at the U.S. Embassy, who sponsored the trip, we’re already thinking about ways to sustain the momentum we created this week. I hope to return soon to continue this work.

Now, I’m headed West across Africa to Cameroon. I’ll be teaming with the Cameroon Community Media Network over the next two weeks. I’ll be traveling to small radio stations, presenting lectures, and giving two workshops for journalists about peace journalism. Stay tuned to this blog for details.

Please give, share to Restore Gloria's Vision
Time is running short for my peace journalism colleague Gloria Laker, who is losing her eyesight to cataracts. But you can help. Please give, but even if you can't, please share on social media. See for details.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Ethiopians generate challenging questions about PJ
ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA—The last two days here, I’ve given four presentations to the public, to journalists, and to a mix of academics and students at Addis Ababa University. The common denominator has been the excellent, challenging questions being directed my way.

Wednesday, at the American Corner, was streamed live
While today’s questions were delivered the old fashioned way, many inquiries yesterday were generated online, through the U.S. Embassy Addis Ababa’s Facebook page. (The embassy and State Dept. are sponsoring my visit here). In fact, the embassy streamed the event live on their Facebook page, and got over 19,000 views. Those two videos of my presentation are still posted on their page. Just go to Facebook, type in U.S. Embassy Addis Ababa, and you should be able to find them.

The most frequent inquiries from my Ethiopian friends—all good questions—are:

Isn’t peace journalism just good journalism?
Peace journalism’s foundation is certainly good traditional journalism, featuring balance, objectivity, verified facts, fairness, and so on. I believe peace journalism builds on and transcends this foundation, however, with its emphasis on giving peacemakers and the voiceless a voice, and leading discussions about solutions. But I told my audiences, if you want to call peace journalism good journalism, that’s fine with me.

Does peace journalism ignore stories that are violent, could fuel conflict, or upset people?
No. News is news, and peace journalists must report it, even if it makes people uncomfortable or causes turmoil. The example I used during my lectures was a terrorist attack. We must report it, but as peace journalists, why can’t we report it in such a way that it’s less sensational, less bloody, and creates a little less panic among the populace?
Thursday, at Addis Ababa University. I have no idea what's
going on here.
What if the government kills peaceful protesters like the case in Ethiopia? How can journalism be peaceful? (From Facebook)
This is similar to the response for the previous question. This is news, and must be reported, so the question becomes, how do we report it? Do we report it in such a way that it fuels the fire, or do we report in a more matter-of-fact way that doesn’t make angry people even angrier. Compare these two sentences: 1.  Bloodthirsty government thugs brutally slaughtered two protesters today in the city square. 2. Two protesters were killed today by government troops in the city square. The second sentence doesn’t ignore what happened; it just doesn’t make it worse.

A peace journalism story on this incident would also dig into the causes of the incident, as well as report on possible non-violent responses to what happened.

Does peace journalism conflict with developmental  journalism?
Developmental journalism is seen by some here as journalism that exists to support the government’s development policies and agenda. In my view, no journalism that is really journalism exists to support any government or governmental policy. Rather, we exist to provide accurate, useful information to the population. Thus, if a government sponsors a roads project, then it’s a peace journalist’s job to analyze that project, and report what’s going well, and also what’s going not-so-well, and what impact the project’s success (or failure) has on average citizens.

Thanks to all the program participants in Jimma and Addis Ababa for your keen interest and for your tough questions. I look forward to continuing the discussion online, and, I hope, in person sometime in the near future.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Academics, students discuss PJ at Jimma Univ.
Is PJ possible in Ethiopia?
JIMMA, ETHIOPIA—In an environment where government media dominates, and where press are not free, how can reporters practice the principles of peace journalism?

This question was front and center today as I visited with two groups here in Jimma.

The first group, academics and students from Jimma University, engaged in a lively discussion about media reporting on terrorism here in Ethiopia. The good news—according to the participants, Ethiopian media are much less likely to lean on the “Muslims as terrorists” stereotype as western media. However, the participants said that terrorism coverage here is framed as more of a political battle rather than as a clash of civilizations. Several participants believed that Ethiopian media sometimes exaggerate the threat from terrorists, though copying news from international outlets might partially explain this, they said.

An elderly professor leads a discussion about PJ
In the second session, attended by journalists from the region, we discussed the coverage of civil unrest last year in Ethiopia. They said the coverage was biased and unbalanced, and presented only one point of view. They also observed that the government media downplayed the rioting, and avoided analytical coverage of the underlying causes of the unrest.

In both sessions, I commented that peace journalism may offer a means to improve reporting about terrorism, civil unrest, refugees, and reconciliation. 

For all the day’s participants, this was their first exposure to the concept of peace journalism. I believe they were intrigued, though skeptical about how or if it might be implemented in Ethiopia. I commented that the media environment here does make implementing PJ difficult, but that I’ve seen it practiced elsewhere (like South Sudan) under challenging conditions. The best advice I could give was to select those elements of peace journalism that might help them improve professionally, and to incrementally attempt to implement those. I concluded with the cliché about every journey beginning with a single step.

Tomorrow, I’ll resume my lectures and meetings in Addis Ababa. The Jimma and Addis workshops are both sponsored by the U.S. State Dept and the U.S. Embassy in Ethiopia.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Ethiopia, Cameroon prepare for
Peace Journalism workshops

I'll be in Ethiopia next week and Cameroon the following two weeks working on peace journalism projects. In Ethiopia, I'll be the guest of the U.S. Embassy, and be talking with diverse student, community, and professional groups about PJ. Then in Cameroon, I'll be holding two workshops for journalists, and visiting small community radio stations throughout the country (including the one pictured) talking about the benefits of PJ.

I'll be posting regularly, so stay tuned.

Update: Restore Gloria's Vision
As of Thursday afternoon, we're almost at the 1/4 mark-- $1849 raised out of $8000 needed. Please help, and just as important, please share the YouCaring link on social media:

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Restore Gloria's Vision
--Note: This article, and the appeal to help Gloria, can also be found on the site YouCaring:

Every day, Gloria Laker Aciro’s world gets a little blurrier.

This would be awful for anyone, but is especially tragic in Gloria’s case, since, in her middle 40's, she has so much left to accomplish as East Africa’s foremost peace journalist.

Gloria Laker Aciro was the first woman reporter to cover the LRA war in the field in Northern Uganda in the 1990’s. Gloria was literally Ugandan journalism’s Rosa Parks, not only breaking down barriers with her mere presence, but showing that a woman can be every bit as effective in covering conflicts (or anything else) as a man.

Her bravery, professionalism, and courage as a war correspondent are legendary in Northern Uganda. She survived abduction, sexual assault, landmines, and ambushes which were all common during the LRA war. It is no exaggeration that she risked her life for her profession, and for the people of Northern Uganda who desperately needed accurate information about the war—information that could make the difference between safety or being kidnapped or killed by LRA forces.

Gloria’s groundbreaking work during the Ugandan civil war is, in fact, the subject of a segment produced on BBC’s Outlook Inspirations program. ( )

After the war, Gloria launched the Peace Journalism Foundation of East Africa, which “advocates for peaceful media interventions as a way of preventing conflict and encouraging sustainable development in the East African region.”

I have had the privilege of working alongside Gloria since 2009 on dozens of peace journalism seminars and projects in Uganda, Kenya, and South Sudan. She was even one of our featured speakers at a Peace Journalism Summit in Istanbul, Turkey in 2013. Gloria is a fountain of inspiration and information about the importance of reporting that doesn’t exacerbate conflicts, fuel ethnic strife, and inflame violence.

Sadly, all that work may be coming to an end, since, because of cataracts, Gloria’s eyesight is getting blurrier with each passing day.

I had the good fortune to be born in the U.S., where removing cataracts is almost as routine as a trip to the grocery store. It’s unimaginable that anyone in the U.S. or other western countries could go blind from cataracts.

For most Ugandans like Gloria, paying for cataract surgery is far out of reach. The average annual salary in Uganda is $7038. The cost of the cataract surgery that Gloria needs in both eyes totals $8000.

Imagine having to come up with more than your entire annual salary in cash to save your eyesight.

Here’s the good news--it’s not too late to save Gloria’s eyesight, although time of the essence.

The Parkville, Missouri Rotary Club is collecting funds to finance Gloria’s surgery in both eyes. When the goal is reached, they will directly pay the doctor and hospital in Uganda. It's easy--just go to the YouCaring fundraising site, and click donate. When you get to the PayPal page, it will say "Parkville Rotary Charities." Then you'll know you're in the right place.

You can also help by spreading the word to others who might be inclined to contribute.

Your generosity will restore Gloria’s eyesight, and allow her to continue her vital peacebuilding work. Moreover, it will allow Gloria to continue to function in her most important role of all: as doting mother to two beautiful, energetic girls, Cindy (15), and Stephanie Isabella (8).

Thank you for your generosity.

Steven Youngblood, friend and colleague to Gloria
Honorary member, Parkville Rotary Club
Professor and Director, Center for Global Peace Journalism, Park University

Monday, June 26, 2017

IVOH summit inspires, informs
CATSKILL MOUNTAINS, NEW YORK—It’s not often that guitar riffs start wafting over the PA system right in the middle of a conference presentation. Or that the presenter and the audience actually embrace the interruption as an opportunity to process what they’ve been hearing.

Welcome to the annual IVOH (Images and Voices of Hope) Summit held last week at the Peace Village in Haines Falls, New York. This summit, featuring moments of guitar-induced reflection, guided meditation, a cappella vocalizations (from the talented and soulful Morley Kamen), and 7:00 am yoga is the anti-conference—still intellectually enlightening, but in a way that seems less forced, less academic, and more reflective and relaxed.

I made a brief presentation introducing peace journalism, then discussed along with several colleagues how PJ complements other storytelling approaches like restorative narratives (an IVOH emphasis), solutions journalism, and constructive storytelling. In my view, all share common characteristics, like giving a voice to the voiceless, establishing spaces for constructive engagement that can lead to reconciliation, and offering a platform for reasoned, objective discussion of how societies can move forward. Later, I discussed word use and objectivity using a CNN story that I analyzed (see previous post below).

Literally every other presentation was much more interesting than mine, which in hindsight was dull, stiff, and academic. These fascinating presentations include:

From Prof. Karen McIntyre, Virginia Commonwealth Univ., an interesting study about how presidential debate questions from journalists generally asked about past events, while those from citizens were more forward looking.

From Asi Burak, video game creator, about how games can be leveraged for social good. I’m not into gaming, but must admit I’m intrigued by the possibilities.

From Jen Crandall, director/producer/writer, about her groundbreaking video project “Whitman,Alabama” wherein she traverses the state asking ordinary Alabamans to read a stanza of Walt Whitman’s “Songs of Myself.” It’s storytelling at its best.

From Claudia Palacios, Colombian TV journalist, who discussed media and the peace process in her home country. She gave an overview of her book “Forgiving the Unforgivable,” observing that victims who forgive their tormentors receive “a gift for themselves.” She closed by noting that Colombian media have “missed the news of peace.”

From filmmaker Kim Snyder, who screened her powerful documentary “Newtown,” about the school shooting in 2012. She and Newtown teacher Abbey Clements discussed the making of the film, and its ongoing impact. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

From artists E. Bond and Yvette Rock, who shared their projects and their enthusiasm for social change. Now I’m thinking: What can journalists learn from artists about storytelling for peace, and vice versa?

IVOH’s slogan is “Media as Agents of World Benefit.” Thanks to the summit, I’ve begun thinking about the deeper meaning of this phrase, as well as the storytelling intersections among journalism, the arts, filmmaking, and music.

Also, if I’m invited back next year, I promise to be a little less dull.

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.

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