Thursday, December 27, 2018

Reading list:
"Harrowing Year" for Press Freedom; Analyzing Peacebuilding
Since it’s the holidays and class isn’t in session, I thought it would be a great time to assign some reading. While I can’t promise that it will be light reading, I can guarantee that it will be interesting.

First, the topic of journalists under fire continues to dominate discourse in the field. It was the theme of a wonderful conference I recently attended (see previous post) and of the most recent edition of the Peace Journalist magazine. The Press Freedom tracker has an interesting end-of-year analysis detailing what it calls a “harrowing year for press freedom. The Tracker has documented more than 100 press freedom incidents since January, from murders and physical attacks to stops at the border and legal orders.”
Alarming graphic from The New Republic

Along the same lines, the New Republic has posted an interesting article analyzing why so many journalists were murdered in 2018. Author Joel Simon observes, “There is no single explanation for why journalists are being killed and imprisoned. But the disappointing response of the United States government to these crimes—its abrogation of its traditional role as model for a free press—helps explain why the perpetrators are acting with such impunity."

Two other articles assess peace and peacebuilding. One, in Dr. Johan Galtung’s Transcend Media Services website, talks about how rural radio stations are helping to foster peace in Colombia. The second article, published at, suggests strategies for enhancing peacebuilding, including bottom-up approaches, constructive conflict management, and confronting and transforming populism.

Here's hoping for a less harrowing and more peaceful 2019.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Journalists from around the globe compare threats, challenges

(Santa Fe, NM)-I traveled 754 miles from Kansas City to Santa Fe, New Mexico this week to attend and speak at a conference titled, “Journalism Under Fire” (JUF). Little did I realize that this short trip would literally take me around the world.

JUF was blessed by the active presence of 48 international journalists (literally, from Albania to Zimbabwe). These journalists were brought to the U.S. as Edward R. Murrow Fellows by the U.S.  State Department.

Interactions between the international journalists and the Americans present enlightened and enriched both groups. I was privileged to moderate two exchanges with the international journalists. One featured journalists from Ghana, Cote D’Ivoire, Cameroon, and Nigeria (panel discussion on misinformation), while another had reporters from Cameroon, Niger, and Nigeria (Citizen Exchange Circle). We discussed fake news and government propaganda; the double-edge sword of social media; the challenges of reporting about terrorism; and the state of media freedom in their respective countries.
Intl journalists' panel discussion

My breakfast and lunch chats with the visitors about their careers and their lives were equally enriching. Professionally, several journalists even indicated an interest in hosting me for a peace journalism workshop or project in their home countries in Africa, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia.

At JUF, the international journalists and I were engaged by some wonderful speakers, including Pulitzer Prize winners Dana Priest (Washington Post) and Don Bartletti (Los Angeles Times).

Priest spoke about global censorship. Interestingly, she said that Facebook’s handling of news constitutes “a new kind of censorship” that promotes extreme views by giving consumers only the news Facebook thinks readers “want.” Photojournalist Bartletti showed his photo essays from the U.S.-Mexico border (including recent shots of the caravan), and from Honduras. His photos were evocative: infuriating, depressing, and startling.

Other JUF speakers included Ukrainian Olga Yurkova (fake news, Russia and Ukraine); Arbana Xhare from Kosovo (threats against journalists); Angela Kocherga and Alfredo Corchado (covering the U.S.-Mexican border); Nikahong Kowsar (the dangers of political cartooning in Iran); and several New Mexico journalists discussing their challenges and threats. I also spoke about peace journalism and covering migrants (see previous blog for details).
Journalism Under Fire plenary session

Journalism Under Fire was organized by Executive Director Sandy Campbell and his staff at the Santa Fe Council on International Relations. Jason Rezaian of the Washington Post spoke at JUF and wrote about the conference in the Post. Rezaian noted that the conference was timely, since threats facing journalism “one of the most consequential challenges facing free societies today.” I couldn’t agree more.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

In Santa Fe, talking immigrants, media coverage, and PJ
(Santa Fe, New Mexico)—Given the right topic, even I can hold an audience’s attention.

This was proven today at the “Journalism Under Fire” conference, where a lively group of about 40 gathered with me to discuss media coverage of migrants, and how peace journalism can be a tool to improve that coverage.

After a quick examination of superficiality, negativity, and stereotyping coverage of Syrian refugees in  European and Turkish media, we talked about how many of those same traits can be seen in recent coverage of the caravan “crisis.” I showed findings of recent studies that showed the threat was exaggerated, and that negative language was used far more than positive language about the caravan migrants. Finally, we discussed the way that the president used the media to spread his anti-immigrant hysteria.

Peace journalism, conversely, would portray immigrants more three-dimensionally, and with a humanitarian angle. PJ would also reject the harsh, judgmental language we’ve seen so much in the media. I played several examples of peace journalism style stories, including a terrific piece by NPR’s Scott Simon about a family separated at the border (

The audience pitched me some difficult questions to close out the discussion. Will audiences pay attention to PJ stories? (Actually, research shows audiences prefer PJ and solutions themed stories). How can we get media consumers out of their bubbles? (Not easy. Start with media literacy).
We could have discussed all of this for two more hours. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if the discussion doesn’t continue at coffee breaks and lunch over  the next couple of days.

I’ll have more about this excellent conference in the coming days. For now, learn more at: .