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 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.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

CBS radio, Buea
Audio report: Is PJ needed in Cameroon? Can it be practiced here?
As our in-house trainings wrapped up today, I got a chance to sit down the the organizer of the Cameroon Community Media Network and several journalists at CBS Radio in Buea about the potential for peace journalism here. My audio report can be found here.

Please also check out the great insights about this peace journalism project from Alex Vojvoda on the Cameroon Community Media Network website/blog.

I wrap up my two weeks in Cameroon with a two day workshop beginning tomorrow in Buea.
Training seminar, CBS, Buea

Monday, July 24, 2017

Discussion, radio show focus on PJ in Cameroon
LIMBE, CAMEROON-One of my favorite parts of our peace journalism project here are the “in house trainings” that we’ve been conducting over the last several days. Today, we visited Eden Radio and Newspaper and the Cameroon Association of Media Professionals and Advocate Newspaper in Limbe, on the Atlantic coast.

At Eden radio/newspaper, journalists talked about the need for short courses in peace journalism, as well as to question whether PJ is objective. My response is that PJ is objective since it doesn’t advocate for peace or for any given solution, but instead is about exploring and leading a discussion about various positions and options.

We also discussed how to put PJ into action in Cameroon. I told the journalists that since I’ve only been here a short time, that they were the ones to decide which of the principles of PJ are implementable here.

The discussion was followed by a 30-minute radio program on Radio Eden about PJ. Alexander Vojvoda of the Cameroon Media Network sat in on the interview, which featured a robust discussion about the nature of peace journalism, as well as its applicability in covering the 2018 elections and the refugee crisis in Northern Cameroon (Nigerians fleeing Boko Haram).

I look forward to more in house visits to radio stations in the coming days.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Journalists: Threat of election violence is real
BAMENDA, CAMEROON--Journalists at our one day peace journalism workshop today in Bamenda, in English speaking Cameroon, left me with one overriding concern: violence in the 2018 Cameroonian elections.
PJ seminar, Bamenda, Cameroon

When I asked about the possibility of election violence at my seminar a few days ago in French speaking Yaounde, the capital, the journalists were split three ways. One third predicted there would be no violence, one third said that there might be, and one third said there would be. Here, the journalists unanimously predicted that there would be violence during at least one of next year’s elections. (Separate elections on different dates are held for different offices). This is predictable given the ongoing crisis in Anglophone Cameroon which includes deadly protests, strikes by teachers and lawyers, and the incarceration of eight journalists. Emotions are running high here, understandably, so while their prediction was no surprise, it was unnerving nonetheless.

Bonus photo: One cool sight on the way to Bamenda!
It’s my hope that journalists can apply some of the lessons of peace journalism proactively to ease the tension and circumvent violence in the country’s Anglophone regions. If not, 2018 could be a long, and sad, year for Cameroon.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Language issues explored in Yaounde, Cameroon
YAOUNDE, CAMEROON--It's interesting, and instructive, to fall prey to the very media practices that I'm here to combat.

Examining a story: Is it PJ?
To set the stage, Cameroon is officially a bilingual French and English country, though, in practice, this is a matter of contention. There has been an ongoing dispute (or as they call it here, “crisis”) involving the Anglophone (English speaking) community. Seven were killed and dozens injured in Anglophone protests that led to violence in northwestern Cameroon late last year. The protesters were rallying against what VOA News called "the overbearing influence of French in the bilingual country." According to those attending my peace journalism seminar this week, the English speakers feel marginalized by a government that doesn't recognize their rights or serve their needs.

As I read about this, before I came, the international media framed this story in a way that pitted Cameroonian Anglophones vs. Francophones--a framing that made me mistakenly believe that these two groups were at odds, even violently battling. However, according to both the French and English speakers in my workshop, this framing is incorrect. Instead, they insist that the proper framing, and the real conflict, is between Anglophones and the government. In fact, many Francophones understand the conflict, and even sympathize with the protesters.
At the Ebert Foundation, host of the PJ seminar

With a more correct framing now in focus, the 20 journalists and I talked about how they might cover the crisis using peace journalism principles, beginning with the correct framing, and including reporting contextually, reporting counternarratives, and reporting in an unbiased fashion.

We also discussed how their reporting might assist in reconciliation in Cameroon. Toward that end, the reporters ventured out to do some reconciliation themed reporting. 

The journalist/participants divided themselves into seven groups, and produced seven excellent stories. Perhaps the most interesting was a TV story titled, “Bilingualism as a tool for reconciliation.” The story featured interviews with many everyday citizens, as well as footage of the signage at the reunification monument celebrating rapprochement between Anglophone and Francophone Cameroon. Ironically, all the signs at the monument site were only in French.

Another fine story was one about food as a form of unity…about how restaurant patrons who love the food from the “other” language community had to learn to communicate with one another across languages and cultures.

The best discussion was about a story highlighting how Christians and Muslims are living together “sans probleme” in Yaounde. One participant challenged the story’s use of the phrase “learning to live together,” which may imply that they haven’t gotten along well in the past. She suggested instead framing the story as a fight, joining Christians and Muslims together, against the Boko Haram terrorist group.

Our work continues in western and southwestern regions in Cameroon later this week. Since these are Anglophone regions, it will be interesting to see how these sensitive issues of language and culture are perceived differently  there.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Goodbye Ethiopia; Hello Cameroon
I just finished a fantastic week in Jimma and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. I met with journalists, academics, and students about peace journalism, and was greeted with enthusiastic interest. (See the previous two posts, below). Along with my colleagues at the U.S. Embassy, who sponsored the trip, we’re already thinking about ways to sustain the momentum we created this week. I hope to return soon to continue this work.

Now, I’m headed West across Africa to Cameroon. I’ll be teaming with the Cameroon Community Media Network over the next two weeks. I’ll be traveling to small radio stations, presenting lectures, and giving two workshops for journalists about peace journalism. Stay tuned to this blog for details.

Please give, share to Restore Gloria's Vision
Time is running short for my peace journalism colleague Gloria Laker, who is losing her eyesight to cataracts. But you can help. Please give, but even if you can't, please share on social media. See for details.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Ethiopians generate challenging questions about PJ
ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA—The last two days here, I’ve given four presentations to the public, to journalists, and to a mix of academics and students at Addis Ababa University. The common denominator has been the excellent, challenging questions being directed my way.

Wednesday, at the American Corner, was streamed live
While today’s questions were delivered the old fashioned way, many inquiries yesterday were generated online, through the U.S. Embassy Addis Ababa’s Facebook page. (The embassy and State Dept. are sponsoring my visit here). In fact, the embassy streamed the event live on their Facebook page, and got over 19,000 views. Those two videos of my presentation are still posted on their page. Just go to Facebook, type in U.S. Embassy Addis Ababa, and you should be able to find them.

The most frequent inquiries from my Ethiopian friends—all good questions—are:

Isn’t peace journalism just good journalism?
Peace journalism’s foundation is certainly good traditional journalism, featuring balance, objectivity, verified facts, fairness, and so on. I believe peace journalism builds on and transcends this foundation, however, with its emphasis on giving peacemakers and the voiceless a voice, and leading discussions about solutions. But I told my audiences, if you want to call peace journalism good journalism, that’s fine with me.

Does peace journalism ignore stories that are violent, could fuel conflict, or upset people?
No. News is news, and peace journalists must report it, even if it makes people uncomfortable or causes turmoil. The example I used during my lectures was a terrorist attack. We must report it, but as peace journalists, why can’t we report it in such a way that it’s less sensational, less bloody, and creates a little less panic among the populace?
Thursday, at Addis Ababa University. I have no idea what's
going on here.
What if the government kills peaceful protesters like the case in Ethiopia? How can journalism be peaceful? (From Facebook)
This is similar to the response for the previous question. This is news, and must be reported, so the question becomes, how do we report it? Do we report it in such a way that it fuels the fire, or do we report in a more matter-of-fact way that doesn’t make angry people even angrier. Compare these two sentences: 1.  Bloodthirsty government thugs brutally slaughtered two protesters today in the city square. 2. Two protesters were killed today by government troops in the city square. The second sentence doesn’t ignore what happened; it just doesn’t make it worse.

A peace journalism story on this incident would also dig into the causes of the incident, as well as report on possible non-violent responses to what happened.

Does peace journalism conflict with developmental  journalism?
Developmental journalism is seen by some here as journalism that exists to support the government’s development policies and agenda. In my view, no journalism that is really journalism exists to support any government or governmental policy. Rather, we exist to provide accurate, useful information to the population. Thus, if a government sponsors a roads project, then it’s a peace journalist’s job to analyze that project, and report what’s going well, and also what’s going not-so-well, and what impact the project’s success (or failure) has on average citizens.

Thanks to all the program participants in Jimma and Addis Ababa for your keen interest and for your tough questions. I look forward to continuing the discussion online, and, I hope, in person sometime in the near future.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Academics, students discuss PJ at Jimma Univ.
Is PJ possible in Ethiopia?
JIMMA, ETHIOPIA—In an environment where government media dominates, and where press are not free, how can reporters practice the principles of peace journalism?

This question was front and center today as I visited with two groups here in Jimma.

The first group, academics and students from Jimma University, engaged in a lively discussion about media reporting on terrorism here in Ethiopia. The good news—according to the participants, Ethiopian media are much less likely to lean on the “Muslims as terrorists” stereotype as western media. However, the participants said that terrorism coverage here is framed as more of a political battle rather than as a clash of civilizations. Several participants believed that Ethiopian media sometimes exaggerate the threat from terrorists, though copying news from international outlets might partially explain this, they said.

An elderly professor leads a discussion about PJ
In the second session, attended by journalists from the region, we discussed the coverage of civil unrest last year in Ethiopia. They said the coverage was biased and unbalanced, and presented only one point of view. They also observed that the government media downplayed the rioting, and avoided analytical coverage of the underlying causes of the unrest.

In both sessions, I commented that peace journalism may offer a means to improve reporting about terrorism, civil unrest, refugees, and reconciliation. 

For all the day’s participants, this was their first exposure to the concept of peace journalism. I believe they were intrigued, though skeptical about how or if it might be implemented in Ethiopia. I commented that the media environment here does make implementing PJ difficult, but that I’ve seen it practiced elsewhere (like South Sudan) under challenging conditions. The best advice I could give was to select those elements of peace journalism that might help them improve professionally, and to incrementally attempt to implement those. I concluded with the cliché about every journey beginning with a single step.

Tomorrow, I’ll resume my lectures and meetings in Addis Ababa. The Jimma and Addis workshops are both sponsored by the U.S. State Dept and the U.S. Embassy in Ethiopia.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Ethiopia, Cameroon prepare for
Peace Journalism workshops

I'll be in Ethiopia next week and Cameroon the following two weeks working on peace journalism projects. In Ethiopia, I'll be the guest of the U.S. Embassy, and be talking with diverse student, community, and professional groups about PJ. Then in Cameroon, I'll be holding two workshops for journalists, and visiting small community radio stations throughout the country (including the one pictured) talking about the benefits of PJ.

I'll be posting regularly, so stay tuned.

Update: Restore Gloria's Vision
As of Thursday afternoon, we're almost at the 1/4 mark-- $1849 raised out of $8000 needed. Please help, and just as important, please share the YouCaring link on social media:

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Restore Gloria's Vision
--Note: This article, and the appeal to help Gloria, can also be found on the site YouCaring:

Every day, Gloria Laker Aciro’s world gets a little blurrier.

This would be awful for anyone, but is especially tragic in Gloria’s case, since, in her middle 40's, she has so much left to accomplish as East Africa’s foremost peace journalist.

Gloria Laker Aciro was the first woman reporter to cover the LRA war in the field in Northern Uganda in the 1990’s. Gloria was literally Ugandan journalism’s Rosa Parks, not only breaking down barriers with her mere presence, but showing that a woman can be every bit as effective in covering conflicts (or anything else) as a man.

Her bravery, professionalism, and courage as a war correspondent are legendary in Northern Uganda. She survived abduction, sexual assault, landmines, and ambushes which were all common during the LRA war. It is no exaggeration that she risked her life for her profession, and for the people of Northern Uganda who desperately needed accurate information about the war—information that could make the difference between safety or being kidnapped or killed by LRA forces.

Gloria’s groundbreaking work during the Ugandan civil war is, in fact, the subject of a segment produced on BBC’s Outlook Inspirations program. ( )

After the war, Gloria launched the Peace Journalism Foundation of East Africa, which “advocates for peaceful media interventions as a way of preventing conflict and encouraging sustainable development in the East African region.”

I have had the privilege of working alongside Gloria since 2009 on dozens of peace journalism seminars and projects in Uganda, Kenya, and South Sudan. She was even one of our featured speakers at a Peace Journalism Summit in Istanbul, Turkey in 2013. Gloria is a fountain of inspiration and information about the importance of reporting that doesn’t exacerbate conflicts, fuel ethnic strife, and inflame violence.

Sadly, all that work may be coming to an end, since, because of cataracts, Gloria’s eyesight is getting blurrier with each passing day.

I had the good fortune to be born in the U.S., where removing cataracts is almost as routine as a trip to the grocery store. It’s unimaginable that anyone in the U.S. or other western countries could go blind from cataracts.

For most Ugandans like Gloria, paying for cataract surgery is far out of reach. The average annual salary in Uganda is $7038. The cost of the cataract surgery that Gloria needs in both eyes totals $8000.

Imagine having to come up with more than your entire annual salary in cash to save your eyesight.

Here’s the good news--it’s not too late to save Gloria’s eyesight, although time of the essence.

The Parkville, Missouri Rotary Club is collecting funds to finance Gloria’s surgery in both eyes. When the goal is reached, they will directly pay the doctor and hospital in Uganda. It's easy--just go to the YouCaring fundraising site, and click donate. When you get to the PayPal page, it will say "Parkville Rotary Charities." Then you'll know you're in the right place.

You can also help by spreading the word to others who might be inclined to contribute.

Your generosity will restore Gloria’s eyesight, and allow her to continue her vital peacebuilding work. Moreover, it will allow Gloria to continue to function in her most important role of all: as doting mother to two beautiful, energetic girls, Cindy (15), and Stephanie Isabella (8).

Thank you for your generosity.

Steven Youngblood, friend and colleague to Gloria
Honorary member, Parkville Rotary Club
Professor and Director, Center for Global Peace Journalism, Park University

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.

Monday, June 19, 2017

CNN really is biased--at least this one story
As part of my presentation at the IVOH Restorative Narratives Summit later this week in New York, I've picked a CNN story at random (16 June 2017) and analyzed it to see if it reflected peace journalism principles. What I learned surprised me: the Trump people might have a point about CNN not giving the president a fair shake. Keep in mind this is just one story, and that to draw any conclusions, we'd have to analyze dozens of stories. Still, what I found (below) is food for thought.

The story is built on a house of cards—on the flimsiest of unnamed sources, and on speculation. It paints (smears?) Trump as angry, emotional, increasingly withdrawn, and out of control, but offers little in the way of proof other than Trump’s use of the term “witch hunt.”

Click on the two photos below to more easily read the story and my comments.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Terrorism coverage distorts reality
When it comes to biased media, one automatically thinks of left-right political bias, of Sean Hannity vs. Media Matters, for example. But there’s another kind of bias that infects our news media—the bias that minimizes victims of terrorism who don’t live in North America or Europe.

By watching the news, one might think that most terror victims were Christians living in the U.S. or Europe. However, “By far the vast majority of victims of terrorist attacks over the past 15 years has been Muslims killed by Muslims…’I understand why the media cover terrorism in the West so closely, and I understand why people who follow these events become so frightened, but objectively speaking the threat of terrorism is not very great,’ said Richard Bulliet, a professor emeritus of history at Columbia University.” (

In my book Peace Journalism Principles and Practices, I cite a 2011 report by the U.S. government's National Counter-Terrorism Center (NCTC) that said, "In cases where the religious affiliation of terrorism casualties could be determined, Muslims suffered between 82 and 97% of terrorism-related fatalities over the past five years." Also, a Washington Post analysis of all terrorist attacks from the beginning of 2015 through the summer of 2016 that shows that the Middle East, Africa and Asia have seen “nearly 50 times more deaths from terrorism than Europe and the Americas.’” (

Two recent examples demonstrate how the volume and tone of terrorism coverage highlights suffering in the West, and marginalizes victims from elsewhere. On May 22, an attack in Manchester killed 23 and injured 116. In the two days following the attack, a Lexis-Nexis search of newspaper articles with the keyword “Manchester” maxed out at 1,000 hits per day, meaning that there were at least 2,000 newspaper stories about Manchester on May 23-24. On May 31, a bomb in Kabul killed 90 and wounded 400. A Lexis-Nexis search of newspaper articles with the keyword “Kabul” got 333 hits on June 1, and 212 hits on June 2—substantially fewer articles than about the Manchester attack.

The tone of coverage between the attacks is also different, according to at least one observer. In Salon, Sophia McClennen writes, “In the Manchester story, there was a deeply human face to the coverage. Audiences became familiar with individual girls who lost their lives and they connected with the mothers who were searching for information about their loved ones.

…In the coverage of the Kabul bombing, a New York Times piece did mention the difficulties loved ones were having in tracking down information on those who were caught in the blast. But that piece also included strangely cold language: ‘In different corners of the city, workers and relatives dug graves for the ones who, with life having become a game of chance, just were not lucky.’ Imagine a reporter referring to those being buried in Manchester with the same sort of detached language.” (

This distorted coverage leads to undue fear in the West about being a terrorist victim, the risk of which is actually about 0.000003 percent, according to Peace Journalism Principles and Practices. This exaggeration empowers those who seek to capitalize on the war on terror for their own gain. This distorted coverage also dehumanizes those outside the West who are most often are victimized by terrorists, leading to indifference about these victims’ plight and fueling anti-terrorism policies that often don’t reflect reality.

Unless media’s coverage of terrorism becomes less hysterical and more proportional, there’s little hope that our society’s discourse about terrorism can become more nuanced and sophisticated.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Fulbright keynote speaker irritates photographer
Juvenile keynote speaker
Got in some new photos from my recent presentation about peace and reconciliation journalism at a Fulbright-Colombia gathering in Arauca, Colombia (see May 1 post below).

Hats off to professional photograher and patient person Natalia Lugo, who took some great shots and endured some torment from me. In keeping with the demeanor of a mature professor, I hid behind people and objects, made faces, etc., leaving her with dozens of pictures of questionable value.
PJ in Arauca, Colombia

Thanks, Nat, for understanding my insanity. I look forward to my next trip to Colombia, even if that feeling many not be unanimous among my Colombian colleagues.
With Natalia Lugo (center) and Greis Cifuentes,
who did a great job organizing the Fulbright conference.

Test button for donation.

try this link

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Two frames tell different tales on Comey's firing
I saw this yesterday on Twitter, and had to share. It speaks to the importance of framing--how we tell stories. Comey's firing was framed by Fox News as justified and having nothing to do with the Russia investigation, which Fox doesn't even recognize as legitimate. CNN, on the other hand, framed the firing only as an attempt to interfere with the Russia investigation, and seemed to paper over real concerns about Comey's competence.

Peace journalists--good journalists--would report both narratives, and provide context and analysis of both points of view. As usual, the truth probably lies somewhere between these polar positions.

Monday, May 1, 2017

The long road to peace and reconciliation in Colombia
--Vea a continuación, este artículo traducido al Español.--

ARAUCA, COLOMBIA—Before the day-long peace journalism workshop even started, the 50-year war that just ended here became much less abstract to me thanks to two stories shared by an attendee, a distinguished older man wearing a 10-gallon hat. He almost brought me to tears as he described his anguish as his family exhumed his sister’s remains from a mass grave of victims killed by the rebels. Then, he shared a terrifying story about surviving an explosion so nearby that his ears bled.

Ten minutes later, I was asked to talk about peace. What I really wanted to do was sit down and listen to these Colombians educate me about the real meaning of peace.

However, not wanting to disappoint the event’s sponsors, the Fulbright Association of Colombia, the Colombian president’s office of human rights, and the Universidad National in Arauca, I delivered my keynote address to an overflow crowd. I discussed different constructs of peace, and explained the basics of peace journalism, especially concentrating on journalism’s role in reconciliation processes. These roles include creating platforms for societal discussions; ensuring transparency in reconciliation processes; producing counter-narrative reporting that humanizes the other side; and providing a voice for all citizens, and not just elites.
After the keynote speech, I led a workshop where we analyzed two key questions. The first: What are the challenges to implementing peace journalism in Colombia? The 110 participants, former Fulbrighters, journalists, students and academics, discussed these in small groups, then reported back to the larger gathering. The challenges they listed include:
  • Media overly commercial/ratings driven
  • Factions in territories can make reporting dangerous
  • Corruption in media/lack of professional values for journalists
  • Monopoly of media ownership
  • Politicized media/media owners
  • Sensationalism
  • Distorted information
  • Use of inflammatory language
Note the four legged participant, lower right.
If this list looks familiar, it should. How many of these accurately describe U.S. media?
Then, I asked the attendees to create their own suggestions for improving Colombian media using peace journalism principles. These suggestions included:
  • Use moderate language
  • Give a voice to the voiceless, especially those in rural areas
  • Be truthful and precise
  • Provide context
  • Report more stories from outside major cities (from Colombian “flyover” regions)
  • Train students and professionals in peace journalism/journalism ethics
  • Report about solutions
  • Use media as a bridge to connect disparate groups
I closed the session by asking the attendees, especially the journalists present, to

begin spreading the word about peace journalism, and about their crucial role in the reconciliation processes that are just underway in Colombia.
Achieving peace and reconciliation will be a long and difficult road, but nonetheless a trip worth taking. Just ask the hombre with the 10-gallon hat.

El largo camino hacia la paz y la reconciliación en Colombia
--Aquí está el artículo de abajo, traducido usando Google Translate. Por favor perdone cualquier error. Necesito mejorar mi Español! Gracias, Esteban

ARAUCA, COLOMBIA-Antes de que comenzara el taller de periodismo de paz de un día, la guerra de 50 años que terminó aquí se volvió mucho menos abstracta gracias a dos historias compartidas por un asistente, un distinguido hombre mayor que llevaba un sombrero de 10 galones. Casi me llenó de lágrimas mientras describía su angustia mientras su familia exhumaba los restos de su hermana de una fosa común de víctimas asesinadas por los rebeldes. Luego, compartió una aterradora historia sobre sobrevivir a una explosión tan cerca que sus orejas sangraron.

Diez minutos más tarde me pidieron que hablara sobre la paz. Lo que realmente quería hacer era sentarme y escuchar a estos colombianos que me educaran sobre el verdadero significado de la paz.
Sin embargo, no queriendo decepcionar a los patrocinadores del evento, a la Asociación Fulbright de Colombia, a la oficina de derechos humanos del colombiano ya la Universidad Nacional en Arauca, entregué mi discurso a un público desbordado. Discutieron diferentes constructos de paz, y expuse los fundamentos del periodismo de paz, especialmente concentrándome en el papel del periodismo en los procesos de reconciliación. Estas funciones incluyen la creación de plataformas para discusiones sociales; Asegurar la transparencia en los procesos de reconciliación; Producir informes contra-narrativos que humanizan al otro lado; Y dar voz a todos los ciudadanos, y no sólo a las élites.

Después del discurso inaugural, dirigí un taller en el que analizamos dos preguntas clave. La primera: ¿Cuáles son los desafíos para implementar el periodismo de paz en Colombia? Los 110 participantes, antiguos Fulbrighters, periodistas, estudiantes y académicos, discutieron estos temas en pequeños grupos, luego informaron a la reunión más amplia. Los desafíos que enumeran incluyen:
  • Medios excesivamente comerciales / evaluados
  • Las facciones en territorios pueden hacer peligroso la presentación de informes
  • Corrupción en los medios / falta de valores profesionales para los periodistas
  • Monopolio de la propiedad de los medios
  • Medios de comunicación politizados / propietarios de medios
  • Sensacionalismo
  • Información distorsionada
  • Uso de lenguaje inflamatorio

Si esta lista parece familiar, debería. ¿Cuántos de estos describen con precisión los medios de comunicación estadounidenses?

Luego, les pedí a los asistentes que crearan sus propias sugerencias para mejorar los medios colombianos usando los principios del periodismo de paz. Estas sugerencias incluyeron:
  • Usar un lenguaje moderado
  • Dar voz a los sin voz, especialmente a los que viven en zonas rurales
  • Sea sincero y preciso
  • Proporcionar contexto
  • Reporta más historias de fuera de las principales ciudades (de las regiones colombianas "flyover")
  • Capacitar a estudiantes y profesionales en periodismo de paz / ética periodística
  • Informe sobre las soluciones
  • Usar medios como puente para conectar grupos dispares

Cerré la sesión pidiendo a los asistentes, especialmente a los periodistas presentes, que comiencen a difundir la noticia sobre el periodismo de paz y sobre su papel crucial en los procesos de reconciliación que están en curso en Colombia.

Lograr la paz y la reconciliación será un camino largo y difícil, pero sin embargo un viaje vale la pena tomar. Pregúntale al hombre con el sombrero de 10 galones.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Peace and Journalism
in Colombia

I was honored to present at a peace journalism workshop (right) Friday in Aruaca, Colombia. There was standing room only. Stay tuned for more on the workshop on Monday.

Saturday, I toured Bogota--beautiful, especially from the vantage point atop Mount Monserrate (below). Then, I toured the area around Bolivar Square, and went to two fabulous museums.

Friday, April 21, 2017

PJ may assist reconciliation in Colombia
Where can peace journalism do the most good? Certainly, countries currently torn by war (South Sudan) can benefit, as can nations where journalistic credibility and fake news are a problem (U.S.) and countries where refugees and immigrants are negatively portrayed by the media (Turkey and Germany, among others).

However, I believe that the places where peace journalism can have the most positive impact are those countries where violent conflicts have ended and reconciliation is underway. I have seen first-hand the positive influence of peace journalism on reconciliation processes in Uganda. I believe this positive role may also be possible in my destination later this week, Colombia, where the healing from a 50-year guerilla war is just getting underway.

At the kind invitation of the Colombia Fulbright Association and the Colombian Presidential Human Rights Council, I will be in Arauca, in the north, discussing peace and reconciliation journalism. In my keynote address, I’ll talk about media’s role in reconciliation. Taking a chapter (literally) from my textbook Peace Journalism Principles and Practices, I’ll outline the ways media can make a positive impact in post-conflict settings. In post conflict settings, the media can: 
  • Dissipate rumors and propaganda;   
  • Create spaces for expressing diverse (and sometimes conflicting) viewpoints;
  • Report to ensure transparency and accountability;
  • Educate the public about reconciliation processes;
  • Produce counter-narrative reporting that makes “the other side human”, thus rejecting “us vs. them” stories;
  • Produce counter-narrative reporting that offers positive examples of tolerance, cooperation, and collaboration across boundaries; 
  • Produce counter-narrative reporting that presents stories about commonalities across boundaries; 
  • Report stories that give a voice to the voiceless (victims and those seeking solutions).
Then, in a workshop with academics, Fulbrighters, students, and journalists, we’ll list the obstacles to implementing peace journalism in Colombia, as well as brainstorm ideas for specifically how PJ principles might be applied to reconciliation in Colombia.

I’m looking forward to meeting my Colombian colleagues and learning more about their unique opportunities and challenges. Also, I can’t wait to try some authentic arepas con aguacates (avocados). 

Stay tuned.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Media's Iraq Mistakes Repeated

Unfortunately, 14 years after the beginning of the Iraq war, many of the same patterns of war-mongering traditional media coverage can be found in reporting about last Thursday’s missile strike on a Syrian airbase.

In Peace Journalism Principles and Practices, I lay out a strong indictment against “war journalism” practiced in the months before the Iraq war. Specifically, I wrote that media in 2003 was pro-war, and ignored anti-war voices; featured hyped, false stories that justified the administration’s case for intervention; depended almost entirely on official sources, giving the public a narrow, distorted view of the conflict; and waved the flag instead of critically analyzing the case for war.

While each of these elements has been present in the missile strike coverage, let’s concentrate on two—the lack of anti-intervention voices; and waving the flag.

The coverage, as anyone who watched cable TV during the last week can testify, was decidedly pro-missile strike, and largely ignored voices calling for non-violent options.  An examination of broadcast news transcripts from April 8-10, using the search term “Syria Trump missiles,” shows there has been little discussion of peace and non-violent responses to Assad’s gas attack. Of the search’s 989 hits on Lexis-Nexis, only 76 mentioned peace negotiations (7.7%) and 31 peace talks (3%). A total of 31 mentioned “compromise,” “peace agreement,” “peace deal,” “truce,” and “reconciliation” combined (3%).  Only 34 of the 989 broadcast stories mentioned “settlement” (3.4%).

The study shows that not only are peaceful options being ignored, so, too are those advocating peace and non-violence. The military terms “general,” “colonel,” and “lieutenant” were mentioned in 240 of the 989 stories, mostly to identify expert talking heads. So in about one in four reports, experts presented were military or ex-military. Contrast this to the almost complete lack of peace-promoting voices on-air. There were only a combined 17 hits for “peace activist,” “peacebuilder,” “peace negotiator,” and “mediator” (appearing in 1.7% of the total number of stories broadcast). There were 40 hits for “diplomat” (4%). Even if you add up all the peace voices, it totals less than 6% of all stories—about four times less than the military voices.

The military-heavy coverage is consistent with the flag-waving (or as some call it, cheerleading) evident over the airwaves the previous four days. On April 7, The Washington Post’s Margaret Sullivan wrote, “The cruise missiles struck, and many in the mainstream media fawned.” She cited examples from the New York Times (“On Syria attack, Trump’s heart came first,”); CNN (“’I think Donald Trump became president of the United States last night,’ Fareed Zakaria declared”); and MSNBC (Brian Williams “seemed mesmerized by the images of the strikes provided by the Pentagon. He used the word ‘beautiful’ three times and alluded to a Leonard Cohen lyric — ‘I am guided by the beauty of our weapons’.”) (

Indeed, the coverage, according to the same Lexis-Nexis study, skewed pro-missile strike. Of the 989 total hits, 33 used the term “justified” (vs. 4 “unjustified”); 43 “correct” (1 “incorrect”); 13 “wise” (1 “unwise”); 21 “intelligent” and “prudent” combined (14 “foolish”). There were 43 hits under “success” and 45 under “failure,” a balance that perhaps reflects on-air discussions about whether the attack was a success or a failure.

Why the cheerleading, flag-waving coverage?  What media critic Paul Waldman said about Iraq coverage in 2013 is still true today. “When there's a war in the offing, the flags are waving and dissenters are being called treasonous, the media's courage tends to slip away. Which is particularly regrettable, since the time when the government is pressing for war should be the time when (media) are more aggressive than ever, exploring every possibility and asking every question, over and over again if need be. (Paul Waldman, “Duped on War, Has Press Learned?,” CNN, 2013, March 19, 2013,

It’s distressing that the press seems to have learned so little since the run up to the Iraq war.  The news media must practice peace journalism by broadening, deepening, and balancing its coverage. Reporting shouldn’t skew either pro-missile strike or pro-peace, but must present the public a comprehensive view of all alternatives. Instead, the public is getting the same one-sided flag waving that preceded the disastrous intervention in Iraq.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Protest coverage largely ignores underlying causes
Excerpted from The Peace Journalist magazine, April 2017.

The first tenet of peace journalism implores reporters to examine the causes of conflict, and to lead discussions about solutions. How much of the anti-Trump protest reporting has addressed the reasons behind the protests?

A Lexis-Nexis search of newspaper articles using the search “anti-Trump protests” from Jan. 20 to March 1 showed that only a minority of stories—24.6%-- discussed the root causes of the protests. Of the 548 articles that came up in a search, 91 discussed racism, 21 sexism, 2 Islamophobia, and 21 xenophobia. In total, there were 135 total mentions of these grievances.

Almost identical results were found regarding broadcast news transcripts. During the same time period, for the 227 hits generated by the search, 34 stories mentioned racism, 0 sexism, 1 Islamophobia, and 24 xenophobia. There were 59 total mentions of these root causes that appeared in 25.9% of the total number of broadcast stories.

It is important to note is that in both newspapers and broadcast transcripts, for the purposes of the mini-study, I counted each mention of each word (xenophobia, sexism, etc.) as a separate “hit”, thus it’s possible, even likely, that several of these terms no doubt appeared in the same story.

Thus, no more than one in four news pieces about the protests has gone into detail about the stated grievances behind the protests. Instead, these stories have provided nothing but superficial and sensational “blow by blow” coverage. What did get covered? Most stories provided details about how many attended, whether there were any arrests, etc., along with simple, succinct, superficial quotes
from participants.

Peace journalists, in contrast, would provide depth and context, rather than just superficial and sensational coverage of events like protests, which after all are merely the visible surface manifestations of a roiling sea of underlying discontent.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

The new Peace Journalist magazine has arrived
The April 2017 edition features reports from Afghanistan, Kenya, Sierra Leone, Cameroon, Pakistan, and the U.S. The Peace Journalist is a semi-annual publication of the Center for Global Peace Journalism at Park University in Parkville, Missouri. 

To view the magazine on Issuu, click here.

The next edition of The Peace Journalist is October, 2017. Submissions are welcome from all. We’re looking for submissions of varying lengths (300-1500 words) detailing peace journalism projects, seminars, courses, and proposals, as well as outstanding examples of peace reporting and academic work in the field. We encourage you to send photos as well. The copy deadline will be September 3, 2017

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Workshop: African PJ must offer counternarratives
(Kisumu, Kenya)—The importance of African approaches to peace journalism dominated the agenda of day two of a regional peace journalism workshop in Kisumu.

Dr. Fredrick Ogenga
This African-centered approach is called hybrid peace journalism by Dr. Fredrick Ogenga, founding director of the Center for Media, Democracy, Peace, and Security (CMDPS) at Rongo University in Kenya. This approach takes elements of Western journalism and views them through an African lens. Dr. Ogenga’s hybrid PJ approach features an emphasis on development and on offering counternarratives to traditional Western-style reporting that portrays Africa only in a negative light.

At Rongo University, hybrid PJ is manifested through a master’s program in Media, Democracy, Peace, and Security. The university also has a hybrid PJ club, made up of peacebuilding students. Also, Rongo U. will launch soon a campus/community radio station dedicated to peacebuilding. “We’re giving students an opportunity to tell their own narratives,” Ogenga said.

Other presenters on day two included Dr. Jacinta Mwende 
of the University of Nairobi, who discussed media, human rights, and social justice. She articulated several suggestions for reporting human rights, including: 1. No ‘us vs. them’; 2. No worthy or unworthy victims; 3. Report humanely during conflicts; 4. Explore all sides.
Dr. Jacinta Mwende

Professor John Oluoch of Rongo University then discussed how local (vernacular) language radio stations can enhance peace in Kenya. He suggests that media operate objectively, and embrace a model that stresses social responsibility.

The workshop, sponsored by Rongo University CMPDS, The Social Science Research Council, The African Peacebuilding Network, and the Center for Global Peace Journalism at Park University,  concluded with a presentation by Victor Bwire of the Media Council of Kenya. He led a spirited discussion about media ethics and responsibilities. He said ethics, objectivity, and sound journalistic practice are needed if Kenyan journalists are to rebuild trust with the public. I closed the proceedings with a discussion of next steps, including uniting to form a PJ press club in East Africa.

For me, this workshop was a much-needed reminder that local contexts are vital if peace journalism is to take root. I hope this is the first of many such local-context regional workshops in East Africa and elsewhere.

--For more on the first day of the workshop, see the blog post below.--SY

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Workshop puts East African perspective on peace journalism
(Kisumu, Kenya)--“Do you want to make conflict worse or make it better?”

With that question, Dr. Fredrick Ogenga from Rongo University opened today’s  Peace Journalism Training Workshop. Attendees are from five East African countries—Kenya, Uganda, South Sudan, Rwanda, and Tanzania.

I had the privilege of giving the first presentation about the fundamentals of peace journalism, including how peace journalists frame stories as well as the importance of avoiding inflammatory language. Then, the 15 participants and I discussed PJ’s utility in reporting elections (like the upcoming presidential election in Kenya in August) and in leading societal discourse about reconciliation.

Gloria Laker, founding director of the Peace Journalism Foundation of East Africa, followed my presentation with an insightful discussion of PJ and the LRA war (1988-2006) in Northern Uganda. She gave background about the war, and discussed the genesis of peace media in Northern Uganda. It began, ironically, with a military-founded outlet called “Radio Freedom.” Eventually, Radio Freedom morphed into a much larger, and much stronger signaled, station called Mega FM, which is widely lauded with sowing the seeds of peace in Northern Uganda. Laker said media-led peace efforts during and after the LRA war included feature reporting, teaming with NGO’s to offer peace journalism training, offering programs that discussed peace, and fostering cooperation among local, national, and international media.

Dr. Duncan Omanga
The last presenter of the day, Dr. Duncan Omanga from Moi University in Kenya, gave an excellent speech about PJ and terrorism. He analyzed terrorists’ goals vis-à-vis the media, and in the process introduced the audience to the term “violence as a form of communication.” A brisk discussion followed about what constituted terrorism, and about if journalists should use terms like “separatist” or “gunman” instead. Emphasizing the importance of this choice, Dr. Omanga said, “Labels have consequences.”

He concluded with four suggestions for journalists in covering terrorism:

1. Understand the logic of terror
2. Create media policies for covering terrorism
3. Understand the context of terrorism
4. Be sensitive to labels

The workshop is sponsored by Rongo University, The Social Science Research Council, The African Peacebuilder’s Network, and the Center for Global Peace Journalism at Park University. Day two of the event is tomorrow.