By Steven Youngblood, director, Center for Global Peace Journalism
(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.
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 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.
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