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 (www.nonotoriety.com).  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 steve.youngblood@park.edu. 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.