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ILC2020 The Americas Session 6: Finding Opportunity and Hope at a Time of Global Crisis: The Role of Media

The Americas—The International Media Association for Peace (IMAP) addressed the topic “Finding Opportunity and Hope at a Time of Global Crisis: The Role of Media” as part of UPF’s global problem-solving conference. It was one of nine webinar sessions simultaneously occurring in three time zones (Korea, Japan, Asia-Pacific; Africa, Europe, Middle East; North America, Central America, South America, Caribbean) during the September 11–13 International Leadership Conference. The online program was open to all who registered and was watched by 592 viewers.

The session was moderated by Thomas P. McDevitt, who is chairman of the Washington Times and of the HJ Magnolia Foundation and global coordinator for IMAP.

The speakers at this session spoke passionately and truthfully, laying bare their frustrations with the current state of media. Whether it was issues of the weakened financial model for print media, the slackening of journalistic standards to properly vet and corroborate news, a growing emergence of young journalists entering the profession with the intent to advocate for a particular view, or the threats to free press posed by a dominant government presence, the speakers were in concurrence that there is a dire need for an independent, free, objective and ethical media—in every nation. 

So what is at the root of this problem? What are the causes of the current erosion of trust in the media? The speakers offered various insights from their lengthy careers and their sincere commitments to journalistic integrity.

Christopher Dolan (President and Executive Editor, The Washington Times, United States) suggested that the erosion of journalistic standards coincides in the United States with the rise of the 24/7 news cycle. The speed of the news cycles—together with the thinning of editorial staff due to financial pressures—has undermined reporting and the proper vetting and corroboration of sources. This has led to stories being irresponsibly published and the loss of public trust. As the public desire moves toward entertainment, the need to rush new content online has created errors and mistrust. The rise of advocacy journalism, rather than “sticking to the facts,” has lessened the credibility of the media as a neutral purveyor of news. There is a strong need for better education and training in the professional standards required for impartial and competent journalism.  

Salvador Nasralla (Founder and Director, Cinco Deportivo, Honduras) lamented the corruption and diversion of public funds during the pandemic as factors contributing to media disorientation and the disclosure of information more attuned to political and economic interests than seeking the common good. Speaking of the pandemic, he noted that much good information offered by the medical community and researchers was censored and prevented from disclosure on social media. He proposed that reforms are needed to promote better income for journalists and “social communicators” so they may play a positive influential role, rather than having to accommodate their opinions in the service of the political and economic interests of the ruling minorities. He concluded, however, with a positive message that an increase of communication through the internet during this time (e.g., Zoom) has allowed for the development of skills, new income opportunities and the growth of interdependence. His talk was very lively and informative. 

Sergio de Azevedo Redo (President, Sao Paulo Press Association; Vice President, National Federation, Brazil) gave an extensive, stimulating review of the impact of media “breakthroughs” throughout history, such as the printing press and, recently, the 3-D printer. His point was to prove that what brings opportunities and hope in times of global crisis is the ”conviction to live seeking peace and the values that structure humans, such as honesty, dignity, and ethics, that strengthen the main cell of society—the family.” Journalists must be the agents of transformation and the creation of good habits, values and opinions. The media has the responsibility to spread true facts and be the conscience of the nation. 

David Morgan (Founder and Managing Partner, D. Morgan & Partners; Co-Founder, Multicultural Media Correspondents Association, United States) said that because media has the power to shape narratives on social and economic justice, it is essential that a society have reliable and readily accessible information from local and diverse news platforms. This would enable communities to have more control over information that directly affects them. The lack of media diversity is a bigger problem than ever. His call to action is to increase and strengthen diverse and local media ownership and representations. He sees IMAP as a strategic partner in this cause.

Douglas Romay Lanza (Owner-Manager, Canal Interactivo TV-Radio; President, Association of Journalists of Potosi, Bolivia) shared a moving video about Bolivia and Covid. He said the media has power —and it needs to use that power responsibly: Go into the heart of the people and society. The media should inform people and also help bring peace and an end to conflicts, as well as helping people to become friends and transform their world into goodness. 

Cheryl Wetzstein (Session Chairwoman; Senior Advisor, International Media Association for Peace) concluded the session by reviewing the history of the World Media Association as a precursor to IMAP, especially highlighting the value of its fact-finding tours all over the world. A recent Asia IMAP event “showed that the world is actually united about the need for the media to be honest, fact-based and accurate,” she reported. She laid out the vision for IMAP to provide leadership and networking opportunities for media practitioners from around the world, promising that IMAP will “do all it can to help the industry regain its position as a public institution that is highly respected, highly trusted, independent, prosperous and accessible to all people.”  

The September 11–13 International Leadership Conference was created to engage world leaders and citizens on issues ranging from rebuilding post Covid-19 economies to cooperative peacemaking. Under the rubric of UPF’s signature values of interdependence, mutual prosperity, and universal values, its aim was to address solutions in commerce, health, environment, family, and social issues. “This year has seen dramatic disruptions not only due to the Covid-19 epidemic but in geopolitics, the world economy, the media, religion and all levels of society,” observes UPF International Chair Dr. Thomas Walsh. “And yet, while there are reasons to despair, there is tremendous goodwill and desire to act on emerging opportunities and innovations that can relieve suffering around the world.”


To go back to the Executive summary, click here.

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