Last week I had the incredible honor and pleasure of spending the day with the inaugural class of The Uptake Institute Conflict Sensitive Journalism Fellows. This groundbreaking pilot initiative in the Twin Cities is working with a talented group of journalists to examine and deepen best practices for covering complex and intense situations with sensitivity, cultural competency, and an analysis of the ways that journalism impacts the communities it serves. As you can imagine, I was very excited when our friends at the Boston Institute for Non-Profit Journalism (BINJ) introduced us to The Uptake and connected their fellowship to the ideas behind our Respect in Reporting Campaign.
Here’s a little more about the Fellowship (emphasis mine):
The fellowship serves as an incubator for conflict-sensitive journalism—an approach to journalism that emphasizes understanding, solution finding and peace building within communities and our state. Conflict-sensitive journalism borrows from conflict resolution research and practice to help journalists understand the many types of conflict—political, social, economic, cultural, religious—that they cover on a daily basis. In doing so, journalists can then operate with greater sensitivity and understanding of the role they play as writers, photographers and video journalists reporting on issues where conflict is a central feature. The goal for journalists should be to “minimize harm.” To do so, they must first understand what journalism practices are harmful and exacerbate conflict.
You can also download Ross Howard’s Handbook for Conflict Sensitive Journalism for a deep dive into building some best practices around this work. The lens of Howard’s handbook is largely around international conflict zones, and we were excited to work with The Uptake to share a lens that is a little closer to home in the Respect in Reporting Campaign.
In addition to spending the afternoon with the Fellows sharing with them about my own experience as a family member impacted by homicide, as a youth worker, and as a member of the staff here working on the Anonymous Boston exhibit, I was also invited to give a symposium talk in the evening. It was exciting to have an opportunity to articulate how important I truly believe the work of bringing a trauma-informed lens to journalism is, especially in our current political climate. The deep impact of systemic racism, poverty, and police abuse addressed by the #BlackLivesMatter makes this campaign more timely than ever. As cuts continue to education, social services, and other public resources, the breeding ground for violence is fertile. And as the #BlackLivesMatter movement continues to win hearts and minds, a dangerous backlash also gains footing. If our reporting does not reflect the full spectrum of human experiences, it will fail to inform the public. If not for that, why are we here?
For those with more interest and an extra hour and a half, here’s the whole video! I want to thank The Uptake for letting us be part of this incredible pilot project. If we all keep at it, perhaps more of our media can reflect my imaginary clippings below, from how I wish the media had covered my cousin’s Domestic Violence murder in 2007. I know we can build a 4th Estate that is inspiring, kind and just. I hope others will join us.