Kansas City Star project reflects the best of peace journalism
The truth can be painful. Just ask the Kansas City Star’s Mara Rose Williams, who “many times sat at my desk and cried because I knew these things happened. It made me so sad that I just cried.”
|Mara Rose Williams|
This project is exemplary, textbook peace journalism.
Williams’ presentation, part of the Greater Kansas City Peacebuilding Conference, was given yesterday at Park University. The event, co-sponsored by Park’s Center for Global Peace Journalism and Johnson County Community College, was held both in person and on Zoom.
“The Truth in Black and White” analyzed the paper’s coverage of crime, education, civil rights, the 1977 flood, education, redlining, and culture. “It wasn’t enough to write an apology,” Williams said, “(so we) put together a team to research past stories and re-write them they way they should’ve been written in the first place.”
For example, in analyzing the Star's coverage of the civil rights movement, her team found that protests were framed by the paper as riots. Protesters, she said, were framed negatively, and when nothing substantive was found to smear individuals, some tiny negative tidbit was mentioned. For example, it was noted in the Star that a 16-year old black protester had bad grades, or that another black civil rights protester was divorced.
Many other times, African Americans and their achievements and struggles were simply ignored by the Star.
The goal of the project was pure peace journalism—to give a voice to the voiceless, to “transform the way the Kansas City Star attacks journalism, and deals with and writes about its marginalized communities going forward.” Williams believes “The Truth in Black and White” is doing just that—"changing the Star’s DNA.” In response to the project, the paper has formed an advisory committee and hired a race and equity editor, and has begun running African American obituaries.
Williams told the audience she considers herself a peace journalist. She is not alone in this assessment. Her groundbreaking work provides a blueprint for media of all kinds to reach out to marginalized communities, to give a voice to these marginalized voiceless, to build bridges between seemingly disparate communities, and to give agency to these voices as solutions to societal problems are discussed and decided.
“I wanted to be a part of peace journalism, as a journalist who perpetuated peace,” Williams said. “It’s why I got into this business. I’m happy to be a peace journalist.”
Yesterday’s session at Park was moderated by journalist and educator Lewis Diuguid. The third and final session of the peacebuilding conference is Wednesday, Oct. 27. For more details and to register for free, see https://www.jccc.edu/conferences/peacebuilding/.