The Peace Journalist, a Publication of Park University

In April 2012, Park University’s Center for Global Peace Journalism published Volume 1, No. 1 of its new journal, The Peace Journalist.  Dedicated to “disseminating news and information for and about teachers, students, and practitioners of peace and conflict sensitive journalism”.  Wow.  I opened the pages of the new journal and was immediately fascinated.

Page 3 quotes Mahatma Gandhi, the famous Indian humanitarian who used non-violent protest to oppose British colonial rule before and during World War II and who worked for harmony between India’s Muslim and Hindu populations.  His perspective on journalists is that:  The true function of journalism is to educate the public mind, not to stock the public mind with wanted and unwanted impressions.  A journalist has therefore to use his discretion as to what to report and when.  As it is, journalists are not content to stick to facts alone.  Journalism has become the art of intelligent anticipation of events.

As I reflected on Gandhi’s sentiments and wandered through the pages of this journal, I became aware that my view of journalism seems pretty simplistic.  I have asked only that journalists state the facts and let me decide how to feel about the facts presented to me. I still believe that.  But the focus of the articles in this first volume is far more sophisticated in analyzing the role of what are described as “peace journalists”.

For instance, an article by Dr. Ghassan Rubeiz, an Arab American commentator, focuses on ways in which the media can promote  religious tolerance.  She encourage the publication of what she calls “good news” stories, stories about how a Jewish boy saves an elderly Muslim woman or how a Muslim saves the life of a Jew.  She further advocates for free and honest media that discredits what she refers to as “fear-mongering pundits”.

Another article focuses on training peace journalists in Uganda, particularly to support violence free elections.  In an article analyzing the ethics of peace journalism Julie Dolezilek describes the ethics of peace journalists:  1) their first obligation is to the public; 2) they must report the truth; 3) they should avoiding reporting news that is really just propaganda; 4) they should avoid writing articles that will incite violence of further worsen conflict.  She also comments on the obligation of journalists to anticipate the consequences of their articles before they are written.

I have not yet fully absorbed the material in this new publication.  I don’t even know whether I agree with all of it.  Even as I read the discussion of ethics I respected the conflicting ethical challenges touched on by the author, herself a student at Park. But in this era when we complain constantly about the state of civility in the national and international dialogue and complain about media bias to the left and to the right, isn’t it refreshing to have a new journal focused on these important issues.

Park University has long had a focus on international students and global studies.  Park’s focus on preparing its students to be prepared to participate in the global community positions it as a natural center for such a journal.  I applaud Park and Steven Youngblood, Director of the Center for Global Peach Journalism for this fascinating new journal.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929 – 1968) The Man and his Mission

Martin Luther King was a man of peace, who sought radical transformation.  The power of his
personality and the impact of his words on the civil rights movement cannot be overstated. Dr. King lived in an age when the Ku Klux Klan instilled terror in sections of the South and even into Missouri.  He lived when drinking fountains, schools, buses, housing and employment were highly segregated.  His influence in the civil rights movement extended through the mid 1950’s until his death in 1968.  He changed the national dialogue on issues of race while steadfastly maintaining a commitment to non-violence and the importance of personal integrity.

His famous “I Have a Dream” speech, given August 28, 1963, at the Lincoln Memorial includes these words, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” It concludes, “Free at last, Free at last, Thank God almighty we are free at last.”

A disciple of Mahatma Gandhi’s message of nonviolence, Dr. King constantly reminded his followers that love is better than hate, that character and integrity are the measure of individuals and society.  Following are some of the quotes that exemplify his message:

Love over hate:

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

“I have decided to stick to love…Hate is too great a burden to bear.”

“Let no man pull you so low as to hate him.”

 “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy to a friend.”

Non-violence

“Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.”

 “The choice is not between violence and nonviolence but between nonviolence and nonexistence.”

 “We must live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”

 The Importance of Social Commitment

“Never, never be afraid to do what’s right”

 “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

 Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

The day we see the truth and cease to speak is the day we begin to die.

Due to his accomplishments, Dr. King received Time Magazine’s 1963Man of the Year” award and the 1964 Nobel Peace prize.  In 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed the law making Dr. King’s birthday a holiday.  It has been observed since 1986.