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.