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.