Have you ever felt pessimistic after reading the news?
Meet Peace Journalist Magazine – an initiative that brings together media professionals from all over the world to share news focused on useful information and solutions instead of fear and problems.
Steven Youngblood is the founding director of the Center for Global Peace Journalism at Park University, in Missouri, and we had the pleasure to talk to him. Steven has already facilitated workshops and seminars in twenty-seven countries around the world. Recently, the Schengen Peace Foundation and the World Peace Forum recognized his work and are awarding him the 2020 Luxembourg Peace Prize.
What motivated you to work in this field of expertise? How did you start working with peace journalism?
I started almost by accident. I was on a Fulbright scholarship in Azerbaijan in 2007 and the US embassy called me and said: ‘Would you like to do a Peace Journalism project in Georgia?’ and I said: ‘Sure, I’d love to do that’. So, that is kind of how I got started! Then, I did that first seminar in the Republic of Georgia and it really opened my eyes to a lot of things about media practice and how it can be better. That has really paved the way for the future work that I have done in Peace Journalism.
What do you think needs to be improved in media practice in the past years?
So, what I would say is that media are different from country to country. I cannot possibly be an expert in media in all countries. Now, I do know a little bit about media in the United States and from what I’ve seen, some of the same mistakes that the media commit in the United States are the same sorts of mistakes that I see in media in other countries.
These mistakes include things like discrimination, stereotypes, sensationalism, the use of inflammatory language, and dependence on ‘us versus them’ narratives, putting one group of people against the other.
So, due to all of these sorts of problems I see in media, I think Peace Journalism can be a cure to a lot of these issues.
How do you believe your work can change the world?
Certainly, when it comes to peacebuilding, when it comes to improving conditions in society for the voiceless, Peace Journalism is not a magic bullet, it is not a vaccine that is going to cure everything. It is one of the many elements that can help to create an atmosphere conducive to peace. Peace Journalism by itself cannot effectively change the world but I do think it is one of the pieces of the puzzle that can help to create conditions where peace becomes possible.
What does Peace Journalism mean for you?
For me, Peace Journalism is a chance for journalists and journalism to help create a society where positive peace becomes possible, to turn the negatives in our profession into positives, to give a voice to the voiceless, to shine the spotlight on conditions that are conducive to peace and to help educate the public in the ways of media literacy so the public can make more intelligent choices based on the information that they consume.
Do you consider that nowadays – with social media – Peace Journalism is even more important?
I think that Journalism, in general, is more important because of social media because I see that part of a journalist’s role is now curating what is seen on social media and helping readers and listeners discard the misinformation and disinformation on social media. And, in its place, I think journalists need to produce factual meaningful content. I think Peace Journalism is good Journalism and Peace Journalism is more important than ever.
Many people tend to associate journalism with violence and sad headlines. How can we break this stigma?
There is ample evidence of the ways that media have directly and indirectly encouraged violence. Many studies have shown that in the run-up to war, voices advocating war and violence are more than disproportionally represented on news media. This was certainly the case in the US and the UK right before the Iraq war.
Peace Journalism would seek to give society a chance to hear and to value non-violent responses to conflict.
At last, I would like to know what you think should change about the way news is produced and consumed nowadays.
About consuming news, I think that media literacy is key. As media consumers, we need to have the ability to critically analyze what we are consuming.
Whenever I speak to various groups, I always recommend that we break out of our media bubbles – that if we are conservatives, we do not just consume conservative media, but liberal media as well and the same applies to liberals – and that they need to look at to expand their media horizons so that they are getting more than one viewpoint and are able to critically analyze the information they consume.
I think, as media consumers, this is a really important thing to do. As producers of media, I would hope that we become more aware of the consequences of our reporting so that the words, the images we use and the way we frame our stories matter and have an impact on public opinion and public policy. Journalists, I hope that we begin to be more thoughtful in what we do and how we do it – and I think that Peace Journalism provides a guide for how we can do that.
For more information about the Centre for Global Peace Journalism, access: https://www.park.edu/academics/explore-majors-programs/peace-studies-minor/center-global-peace-journalism-2/
By Luana R. (Brazil – UFRJ)