Archive for May, 2017


Encouragement Sees No Borders

Several weeks ago I spent a week with 70 journalists from more than 50 different countries. We traded stories and frustrations, laughed, cried, debated the future of journalism, discussed the many current conflicts occurring around the world and experienced the welcoming and rich culture of South Korea.

It was part of an annual conference organized by the Journalists’ Association of Korea. I, along with Elle Toussi and Rebecca Baker, represented the Society of Professional Journalists.

Throughout the weekend, while posing for photos with the different community leaders, we would say “화이팅hwaiting.” In English, it sounded like the word “fighting” which seemed ironic to me at the time since the theme of the JAK conference was world peace.

When I returned home, I learned it is a commonly used Korean word of encouragement, good luck, and cheer. It is commonly associated with sports and athletes. And now journalism.

I am not sure I fully realized it then, but journalists around the world, need encouragement now more than ever. While discussing the importance of a free press, free speech, and diversity in coverage and in newsrooms, you could hear the frustrations. Those frustrations included a lack of public trust in journalism, a lack of reliable information when it is needed more than ever and the apathy some feel exists in their communities.

The good news is, that while these feelings of frustration were apparent, it also was apparent that these journalists are not ready to give up and the support around them, from fellow journalists, isn’t going anywhere.

On top of that we came together to discuss how, in spite of the challenges we face, there are possible tactics and tools to use.

A common frustration for some of the journalists, especially the ones reporting in conflict zones was that credible information can sometimes be hard to obtain. Sometimes, you have leaders and people in power pushing agendas and stories, with the hope that it can help their “team.” Sometimes, journalists talked about how there is no information coming out at all.

As this discussion continued, one of the proposed solutions was to leave our emotion out of stories where you are reporting on conflict and war. This doesn’t mean not telling “real people” stories. This means that when you are trying to inform the public about a conflict or the latest on a war, don’t buy into the propaganda from either side. Stick to the facts. Your users will appreciate the hard-hitting story and hopefully trust you more for reporting the facts, and why it matters for them.

So, let’s all seek truth and report it. Minimize Harm. Act independently and be accountable and transparent. And more importantly 화이팅 hwaiting!

Lynn Walsh is the national president for the Society of Professional Journalists. Connect with her on Twitter, @LWalsh.

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