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.

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