International Media & Conflict Resolution Conference

Last weekend, we hosted a truly special gathering of scholars and practitioners in the areas of media, journalism, international relations, communications, psychology, law, and dispute resolution. I will be blogging a few more times about the conference, abstracts, and upcoming issue of the Marquette Law Review on the symposium, but wanted, for now, to post a couple responses to the conference that I received from attendees.

One of our alums who attended, Evelyn Ang, sent me this clip in light of what we had talked about regarding the impact of changing media. Truly an amazing video! Another alum, Amy Koltz, noted, “I found the speakers engaging and the presentations thought-provoking — I’m amazed at the group of presenters you were able to pull together and bring to Marquette.”  She also provided a link to this article from Haaretz on media coverage of Israel and noted that it could have been a presentation in the conference. Our own program manager and conference planner, Natalie Fleury, heard this story on NPR Monday morning about Al Qaida’s training manual on the Internet, directly linking to Gabriel Weimann’s talk on Saturday.

And, from 2L part-time law student (and full-time veterinarian) Marty Greer, came this summary of the conference for those who missed it:

The presenters were from all over the United States and the world: Israel, Belgium, Italy, California, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and Wisconsin. Their backgrounds included journalism, academia, law, and conflict resolution. To say it was a rich and diverse experience sounds too trite for what happened there. These sad and overused terms cannot begin to describe the energy in the room. It was one part educational experience, one part idea exchange, and one part light bulbs going on over the attendees’ and presenters’ heads. Each of the presenters introduced new and exciting concepts — new even to the people heavily steeped in these areas. For the scholars, it was easy to see new ideas coming together and evolving into new research and a new paper. For the journalists, they developed a new appreciation of how their work can aid in reducing and resolving conflict. For the attorneys and others involved in the practice of conflict resolution, this was a great source of theoretical and hands-on experience that could be applied in the field. For those with short attention spans, each presentation was short, concise, and to the point. This allowed the opportunity for many viewpoints to be presented and plenty of time for the attendees and fellow presenters to delve into the topics they were most intrigued by. All in all, this was a unique and valuable experience, where we were allowed to rub shoulders with the leaders in these fields.

In future blogs, I will link to the webcasts and slideshow when they become available, and to the abstracts for our articles as they arrive.  My thanks to all our speakers and our great planning team here for a terrific conference.

Cross posted at Indisputably.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Anna Munoz

    As an alum, I chose to attend this conference last weekend because the subject matter piqued my interest and, in agreement with many of the attendees’ comments above, the conference certainly was fascinating and, once it was over, left me with many more questions to ponder.

    In reflecting on the presentations, there were two themes that I have continued to revisit in the days since the conference, especially each time I flip the channel to the local or national news or tune into my daily radio news fix: the power of the media in determining what stories to report and the duty of the media in researching and reporting accurate information.

    The first theme regarding the media’s decision on what news to report was highlighted by Professor Carrie Menkel-Meadow’s comments. While this topic certainly was not confined to Professor Menkel-Meadow’s remarks, she specifically addressed the lack of media coverage and involvement in telling the stories of conflict resolution work, such as the commendable work by Parents’ Circle in its mission of bringing Israelis and Palestinians together by focusing on their commonalities instead of their differences. When deciding what stories to pursue, the media makes decisions for the public that positive stories such as these are not newsworthy. Surely, peace-building and reconciliation can captivate audiences in the same was as images of bombs launching across enemy lines.

    Prior to the conference, the lack of a positive focus in the media was an issue that bothered me, especially after hearing reports of job losses, scandals, murders, thefts, plane crashes, and so on. But then there are the occasional days when I am refreshed. Just last week on my drive home, NPR told a story of college students who spend a couple of hours each Wednesday shouting compliments to their fellow students. In its own very small and unusual way, this choice by these college students could be serving to prevent conflict (even if it is minor collegiate conflict) by taking time to say kind things to their fellow students. The story made me smile and, even prior to the conference, I recall thinking how fantastic it was that this was being reported. Locally, TMJ4 news has a featured segment called “Positively Milwaukee” that makes the effort to shift the reporting focus to tell us what good things are happening around our city. Most recently, the media’s coverage of the Fargo, ND/Moorhead, MN flooding has focused on the positive by highlighting the volunteers who are sandbagging to protect the entire community. However, these positive stories are rare. Surely, there are many more positive news stories to report on.

    The second issue, which was hotly debated during the conference itself, is the media’s duty is in researching and reporting accurate information. According to Professor Douglas McLeod, “news media should play an active role in ferreting out the truth.” Professor McLeod’s discussion dealt primarily with the media failing to play a more active role in discovering the truth leading up to the invasion and war in Iraq. He discussed several factors that may have contributed to this failing such as heavy reliance on official sources, the routine of news collection and dissemination, and issues of limited resources. While certainly obstacles are aplenty, instances such as the lead-up to the Iraq war, and, more recently, the lack of the financial media’s diligence in uncovering the truth about financial institutions, leave the public wondering whom they can trust to tell the truth.

    While the media should have a duty to “play an active role in ferreting out the truth,” individuals should have a duty to ferret out the truth as well. No, I do not have a press pass to gain access to institutions and officials to ask the questions myself, but I do have the ability to read a variety of news sources and conduct additional research to attempt to gather the facts and reach my own conclusions. And I can watch the Daily Show. Jon Stewart, in his recent critiques of financial news reporting, states that one should not have to rely on a comedy show to be told the truth. I do not disagree, but as the group of scholars and journalists seemed to reach consensus on during the conference, one should not rely on just one source, but a variety of sources in an effort to learn the full picture.

    To respond to one of the questions raised at the conference, are we placing too much blame on the media? Perhaps we are. But with the obstacles the media faces, it is questionable whether things will improve in reporting the truth and whether the media will modify its focus to share more positive stories. As cynical as it sounds, my response to all this is to keep seeking multiple news sources and try to find and enjoy the positive stories as I come across them. Maybe positive news is more precious when it is scarce.

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