Building Bridges: Steve Youngblood’s fight for Peace Journalism

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About 12 years ago, while I was teaching on a Fulbright Scholarship in Azerbaijan, the U.S. Embassy called and asked if I knew anything about peace journalism, and if I would be interested in teaching a peace journalism seminar in neighboring Georgia. Of course, I gushed, “I am practically an expert on peace journalism.” When I got off the phone, I Googled peace journalism.

That phone call turned out to be one of the most serendipitous moments of my professional life.

In the years since, I have taught peace journalism in 27 countries face-to-face, and another 12 virtually.* We launched a Center for Global Peace Journalism at Park University in 2012, and have published 20 issues of The Peace Journalist, the world’s only magazine dedicated to peace journalism.

What is Peace Journalism?
Peace journalism (PJ) is when “editors and reporters make choices that improve the prospects for peace. These choices, including how to frame stories and carefully choosing which words are used, create an atmosphere conducive to peace and supportive of peace initiatives and peacemakers, without compromising the basic principles of good journalism. Peace journalism gives peacemakers a voice while making peace initiatives and non-violent solutions more visible and viable.”

PJ is just better journalism—journalism that builds bridges instead of deepening divisions; reporting that gives a voice to the voiceless while rejecting inflammatory language; storytelling that offers counternarratives to traditional reporting that oversimplifies and stereotypes. At minimum, peace journalists don’t pour gasoline on the fire, and don’t make a bad situation worse.

PJ in Action
Peace journalism, while not in the majority, constitutes an increasing minority of reporting worldwide.

In Uganda, where I’ve done a number of PJ projects, peace journalists have launched the Refugees and Migration Media Network, which uses peace journalism reporting techniques to tell the story of the many refugees who call Uganda home.

In India and Pakistan, I’m working on an ongoing project sponsored by the East-West Center with journalists from India and Pakistan who have set aside their differences to work collaboratively on stories of mutual interest. They’ve launched a website, Journalists for Change, that is “dedicated to stories that inform, inspire, and engage our communities in both countries; focus on common issues that unite us rather than divide us; and offer solutions, not just describe problems.”

Peace Journalist magazine
PJ activities around the world are chronicled in the Peace Journalist Magazine, which published its 20th edition last fall. The most recent edition, for example, features stories on media narratives about refugees in Turkey; Giving voice to senior citizens in Spain; Empowering Yemeni youth to raise their voices; Rotary Peace Center PJ seminars for Zimbabwe journalists; and Media and women in Pakistan and India.

While I am gratified that PJ seems to be gaining traction, I acknowledge the uphill battle PJ faces in gaining broader acceptance. Both here in the U.S. and abroad, as media practice and public discourse deteriorates, the struggle for better reporting is one worth having.

* Austria, Cameroon, Rep. of Georgia, Kuwait, Ireland, Colombia, South Sudan, Cyprus, Lebanon, Kashmir/India, United States, Sierra Leone, Azerbaijan, France, Jordan, Ethiopia, Germany, Kenya, Japan, Kyrgyzstan, South Africa, Costa Rica, Turkey, Northern Ireland, Pakistan, Cote D’Ivoire, and Uganda. (Virtual/Zoom: Moldova, Netherlands, Belize, Sudan, Yemen, India and Pakistan, Luxembourg, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Kosovo, Sahel region)

This blog was written by Professor Steven Youngblood.

Steven Youngblood is the founding director of the Center for Global Peace Journalism at Park University in Parkville, Missouri USA, where he is a communications and peace studies professor. He has organized and taught peace journalism seminars and workshops in 33 countries/territories (27 in person; 12 via Zoom). Youngblood is a two-time J. William Fulbright Scholar (Moldova 2001, Azerbaijan 2007). He also served as a U.S. State Department Senior Subject Specialist in Ethiopia in 2018. Youngblood is the author of “Peace Journalism Principles and Practices” and “Professor Komagum.” He edits “The Peace Journalist” magazine, and writes and produces the “Peace Journalism Insights” blog. He has been recognized for his contributions to world peace by the U.S. State Department, Rotary International, and the World Forum for Peace, which has named him a Luxembourg Peace Prize laureate for 2020-21.

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