Thursday, December 1, 2022

Fox hypes immigration before midterms, then forgets "crisis"
A new study shows that Fox News hyped a so-called immigration “crisis” before the 2022 midterms, then significantly reduced its coverage of immigration after the midterm elections. The results confirm Fox’s long-established pattern of fear-mongering before elections.

Using a Google news search for foxnews.com, the study compared Fox immigration reporting and commentary on Nov. 1-2 (before the Nov. 8 midterms) to reporting Nov. 22-23. The total number of hits for “immigration” (found in both opinion shows and news programs) on Nov. 1-2 before the midterms was 1,600. After, it dropped 30% to 1,120 on Nov. 22-23. Fox stories and commentary featured the words “immigration and drugs” 283 times before the midterms, and only 10 times afterwards. Other noteworthy results: “immigration crisis” had 315 hits before and 240 after; and “illegal immigrants” had 226 hits before and 135 after. The only finding that showed essentially no change was the search for “open borders” (689 before and 686 after). See the accompanying chart (light color=before midterms, dark color=after) for details.

Headlines from foxnews.com from stories produced Nov. 1 and 2, before the midterms, illustrate Fox’s political agenda. These include “California border officers seize more than 2 tons of drugs…”; “Arizona detectives seize rainbow fentanyl, firearms, other drugs during major bust”; and “Blake Masters torched Dem senate opponent (saying that) drug cartels would vote for Mark Kelly.” One story that checks all the Fox fear-mongering boxes was, “Tim Ryan (Democrat) pledged to support taxpayer funded reassignment surgery for illegal immigrants.”

Immigration coverage after the election dropped off significantly, as the study notes. Fox’s stories after the election seem less fear-oriented and take on an angrier, more partisan tone, attacking Democrats for their alleged “open border” policies. The headlines from Nov. 22-23 include “(Republican) Texas Rep. Gonzales blasts Myorkas (Biden homeland security secretary) for border chaos in his district”; “Coalition of states push to keep Trump-era rule barring migrants to prevent spread of COVID”; and “Biden admin torched by Republicans for preposterous border policies…” To be fair, there were a few neutral reports such as “Border needs bipartisan solution now…”and “Mexican authorities urge U.S. to tweak travel alerts warning.”

These off year midterms reflected partisan conservative media’s propensity to gin up the fear about immigration. In 2018 before the midterms, the bogeyman was a migrant caravan that was supposedly ready to crash the gates at the southern border. CNN reported that the caravan was mentioned on Fox 733 times in the seven days preceding the election, and only 126 times in the seven days after (through Nov. 15, 2018). ( https://tinyurl.com/ycek87o6)

Fox’s pre-election fear mongering isn’t confined to immigration. A study by the liberal news watchdog Media Matters came up with predictable results when they examined Fox News’ crime coverage before and after the 2022 midterms. “Fox News significantly decreased its volume of violent crime coverage in the week of the midterms, down 63% from the week prior. The network averaged 141 weekday violent crime segments per week from Labor Day through the Friday before the election; in the week of the midterms, Fox aired 71 weekday violent crime segments — a decrease of 50% compared to the prior average. (https://www.mediamatters.org/fox-news/foxs-coverage-violent-crime-has-dropped-after-midterms)

A look at the before and after statistics clearly demonstrates that Fox’s narratives on crime and immigration are engineered to politically manipulate a malleable public. Fox’s sensationalism, xenophobia, and fear mongering stir the conservative base, and scare moderates into believing that crime and immigration are much worse than they actually are.

Of course, this is the antithesis of peace journalism, which rejects partisanship and seeks balance that accurately reflects reality.

Before the congressional and presidential elections in 2024, don’t be surprised to see a surge in the number of stories about immigration, crime, LGBTQ rights, and other conservative red-meat issues on Fox News.

 

 


Thursday, November 17, 2022

Event showcases journalist safety, press freedom
The phrase “hard act to follow” kept popping into my head last night as I listened to my fellow panelist Lucy Westcott talk about journalist safety and press freedom.

Westcott’s presentation, and mine, were part of an online forum, “Press Freedom in Crisis,” sponsored by the Indiana Council on World Affairs.

About 50 attendees heard Westcott, the Emergencies Director for the Committee to Protect Journalists, discuss the challenges facing journalists, including those who are jailed, killed, or forced into exile. She highlighted Iran, Afghanistan, Ukraine, Myanmar, and Russia as placed where journalists are most under threat. She noted that attacks on journalists’ physical and mental well being are more than volleys against individuals, but are moreover broadsides that erode press freedom. Westcott also talked about the particular risks faced by freelance journalists, who operate without the support of news organizations.

Lucy Westcott, CPJ

I chimed in and gave the example of the threats faced by journalists in India and Pakistan. I’ve been working with these journalists for the last three years on a cross-border reporting project. The journalists in this region are all concerned about their safety, some to the point where self-censorship becomes a real issue. I mentioned that that threats and intimidation are especially acute for female journalists, who suffer a deluge of harassment both in person and online. I cited a new report, The Chilling, produced by the International Center for Journalists, that shows a disturbing pattern of abuse directed against women journalists. “Nearly three quarters (73%) of our survey respondents identifying as women said they had experienced online violence. Threats of physical violence (identified by 25% of survey respondents) including death threats, and sexual violence (identified by 18%) also plagued the women journalists we interviewed. And these threats radiated: 13% of survey respondents and many interviewees said they had received threats of violence against those close to them, including children and infants.” 

I also made a brief presentation about peace journalism, and included a discussion about if journalists believe practicing PJ makes them safer than if they practiced traditional (and sometimes sensational and inflammatory) journalism. According to a small study I did a few years ago in Cameroon, the answer is yes, PJ does help to insulate journalists from harm. (See The Peace Journalist magazine, October 2018, pg. 8).

During the Q and A, I jumped the line and asked Westcott about notorious press-hater Donald Trump’s presidential announcement. Her answer was reassuring, that we’ve been there before and managed to weather the anti-media rhetoric, and that if need be, we can do it again. I hope she’s right.

Thanks to the Indiana Council on World Affairs for organizing such an important, stimulating event. I hope to work with them again in the future.

 


Friday, October 28, 2022

Laker nominated for peacebuilder award
I'm thrilled to announce that my peace journalism partner in Uganda Gloria Laker has been nominated for the US Institute of Peace Women Building Peace Award. The nomination is an honor, and recognizes her contributions to peace journalism and her mentorship of female journalists in Uganda and elsewhere in East Africa. The winner will be announced Nov. 30. Either way, Gloria is a winner in my book.



Monday, October 17, 2022

Dealing with the past: Kosovo and Northern Ireland
(Pristina, Kosovo)—While I was physically in the Balkans last week teaching a peace journalism workshop, my mind was frequently elsewhere, specifically Northern Ireland.

While there are certainly differences between the “Troubles” and the violent conflict here in the 90’s and early 2000’s, I was stuck by the similar challenges faced by journalists in both places. In Kosovo and Northern Ireland, for example, the societies are struggling as they come to grips with the past and deal with thorny, highly contested issues like atrocities, crimes against humanity, collective and individual guilt and blame, forgiveness, trauma, healing, and reconciliation, which seems far off in both places. All of these issues were discussed honestly last week, just as they were in 2019-2020 in workshops I held in Belfast and Derry. 

Dealing with the past seminar, Pristina

Though solutions seem distant in both places, I am nonetheless encouraged by the journalists I’ve met who are committed to practicing responsible peace journalism that can help support reconciliation and healing processes. This includes, at minimum, not further inflaming passions and not giving voice to those who would hate and divide. The kinds of stories (see previous blog) being reported by our Kosovan and North Macedonian colleagues build bridges and seek common ground, a vital first step to rapprochement.

It is my intention to work with my colleagues here and in Belfast to facilitate a project to bring together journalists from both locales. They have so much to learn from one another.

The workshop I taught centered on the theme, Dealing with the Past. It was sponsored by the German-government funded development agency forumZFD.

 


Thursday, October 13, 2022

Journalists dive into story ideas, how to report memorialization
(Pristina, Kosovo)-Day three of our peace journalism/dealing with the past seminar was another enlightening journey into the post-conflict world of the Balkans. 

The seminar of 20 journalists from Kosovo and North Macedonia began with the participants discussing their ideas for peace journalism-style stories they plan to produce about issues related to dealing with the past. These topics are:
1. Former people involved in conflict…co-existence is possible
 2. How different generations deal with memories
 3. Women actively participate in conflict—not just as victims, but involved in protecting communities/peacebuilding and reconciliation process
 4. Analytical article about how North Macedonian and Kosovan media reported past violence
5. State of minorities in post conflict societies in both places
6. The interconnected lives of Macedonian and Kosovan youth—good cultural connections 

Later, we discussed memorialization, which is how societies preserve historical memories with things like events, exhibits, marches, rallies, speeches, monuments, and so on. So often, these items are reported in a sectarian, ‘us vs. them’ fashion that reopens old wounds, and incites anger. I discussed several examples from Northern Ireland, including seasonal marches and murals honoring so-called martyrs. I shared with the journalists ideas on how to more responsibly report on memorialization. These are:
1. Examine role of memorialization event in terms of reconciliation, reconstruction, transitional justice 2. Report on memorialization event through inclusivity lens—are minority, marginalized groups involved, interviewed?
3. Report on artistic/cultural aspects of memorialization
4. Challenge majority narratives, and include minority and female perspectives
5. Report using competing and contested narratives—more than just balance
6. Use expert sources—historians, academics, museums
7. Treat all sides, sources equally
 8. Recognize your own biases
9. Expose and report about decisions about and motivations for memorialization activities/events (forumZFD handbook). 

The seminar was sponsored by the German NGO forumZFD, as part of their comprehensive “Dealing with the Past” initiative. 

Next week, I’ll give my final thoughts on my experience in Kosovo.