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.