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On Wednesday April 18th at the Oregon State Correctional Institution, University of Oregon professors Peter Laufer and Steven Shankman initiated the 2012 conference of Conflict Sensitive Reporting.

Professor Laufer began by introducing the concept of conflict sensitive reporting to the 24 Inside-Out students.  He explained that he is currently teaching a class on conflict sensitive reporting; conflict sensitive reporting is attempting a new approach to journalism which allows the writer to acknowledge his or her own personal biases, but also allowing to garner as much information and attempt to understand the grey area of a news story.

Conflict sensitive reporting can be used in matters ranging from Eugene’s debate over the expansion of the EMX as well as topics as serious as the violent conflict in Syria. 

The inside students immediately delved into their personal experiences with insensitive reporting regarding prisons and prisoners.  The media has its own agenda and has portrayed prisons in a certain light

Professor Laufer sat in on an Inside-Out class to observe and report on this unique class experience.  He plans to write an op-ed piece on the class and his experience in the classroom.   

The class itself is centered on the novel Life and Fate written by Vasily Grossman who was a conflict reporter for the Red Star during WWII.  The class and the two professors what it means to have observed the type of horrors Grossman had seen and the ways in which it affected his writing and his reporting.

The whole class mulled over the meaning of conflict sensitive reporting, Professor Laufer pointed out that while teaching this class he is making it up as he goes along, everyday he is getting closer to a definition of what it means to be a conflict sensitive reporter.

The conference will take place May 17th-19th at the University of Oregon, including a panel on “Encountering the Other”, Friday, May18th 1:30-3:30 in Gerlinger Hall. 



Earth Day is coming up this Sunday and the University of Oregon has a variety of projects, which you can get involved in.

University of Oregon students decided that one day wasn’t enough to celebrate Mother Earth and has held a weeks worth of volunteer opportunities ranging from working with food for lane county to removing invasive ivy. 

There are many ways you can volunteer your time, not just around the University of Oregon campus, but also all over Eugene. 

No matter how small your contribution, these volunteer events are a wonderful opportunity to interact with your fellow community members as well as making a positive impact on the environment.

Check out this link for more details how you can help:

Bryan Stevenson TED Talk

Check out the link to this TED talk from Bryan Stevenson, the founder of Equality Justice Initiative, who is fighting on behalf of kids sentenced to life in prison.  He touches on important subjects facing Americans regarding race and the justice system.

by Alyssa Nickles

Yesterday Peter Laufer and Julianne Newton from the School of Journalism and Communication led an Intercultural Conversation entitled Perceptions of Islam and the Media. During the conversation, University faculty and students discussed the influence the media has on the public perception of Islam in the United States.

The conversation opened with a clip from the Colbert Report, which created satire of a poll that suggested President Barack Obama is a Muslim. Following the clip, Professor Newton posed the question: Why is the American public under the impression that it would be bad to have a Muslim president?  The answer lies in the media’s presentation of Islam.

Professor Laufer suggested America’s hostile opinion of Muslims can be attributed to right-wing media outlets, such as FOX News and The Glenn Beck Program.  Shows like these that are more invested in presenting distorted facts for entertainment value, than providing legitimate news have charged an anti-Islamic trend throughout the country. Most notable of this movement was the highly publicized “Ground Zero Mosque” debate.

In an age where media’s messages are constantly contradicting one another, how can you filter out the truth from the falsities? Professor Newton offered one solution—media literacy.  Media literacy entails deeply analyzing the messages a medium is sending. To do so, one must look deeper than face value and take into account who is writing, presenting, funding, and producing these messages, all while considering the principle market for the messages.

The Intercultural Conversation helped me realize the importance of challenging the idea that news is truth and factual. Failure to do so will have dire repercussions, as the public will digest these inaccurate messages and spread their ignorance and lies.  Members of the Muslim community have already fallen victims of this pattern. Only through media literacy will the American public be able to combat the widespread hostility towards the Islamic culture.

Nigeria’s National Agency for the Prohibition of Traffic in Persons (NAPTIP) has recently uncovered a massive sex trafficking ring containing 20,000 to 40,000 under age girls. The girls were held in hundreds of brothels across Mali, all under complete control of Nigerian women.

According to Nigerian authorities, the girls were lured from their homes under the impression they would be working in Europe. Upon arrival in Mali, the girls were told they would be held as prostitutes until they could pay off their debt. Simon Egede, Executive Secretary of NAPTIP reported that the girls were “held in bondage for the purposes of forced sexual exploitation and servitude or slavery-like practices” in the brothels.

These brothels were mainly located around Nigeria’s capital, Bamako, and in mining towns such as Kaynes and Mopti. Many of them had abortion clinics, forcing the girls into pregnancy termination procedures against their will.

Today, sex trafficking is the fastest growing criminal industry in the world. There are an estimated 600,000 to 820,000 men, women, and children trafficked across international borders annually. Of the 27 million people currently held as slaves, eighty-five percent of them will be sold as sex slaves.

While men mainly control this lucrative industry, in this case, women were in control. Although NAPTIP is currently working with Malian police to free the girls and help them return to Nigeria, the cycle will undoubtedly continue as Nigeria has become a hotspot for prostitution, with thousands of women and girls entering the industry to make money as sex workers.

As human trafficking remains a global issue, the looming question is why countries haven’t taken more aggressive actions to address the problem. Why haven’t governments or intergovernmental organizations done more to raise awareness of the issue, protect trafficking victims, and prosecute exploiters?

Check out the following sites for more information on the international sex trade:

A cursory look at recent news stories concerning Islam suggests that there is not so much a media discussion of Islam as there is a discussion of “radical Islam” or “Islamic fundamentalism.”  For instance, NPR’s recent story on the growing influence of radical Islam in the Balkans, and its series “Going Radical,” which investigates how Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the “Christmas Day bombing” suspect, became a would-be terrorist, reinforce the association of terrorism with Islam, as did the much publicized “Ground Zero Mosque” debate.

What perceptions of Islam do these stories promote?  Do such stories reflect the values and experiences of the Muslims who read/listen to them?  Do they create a sense of isolation and discrimination among a significant and valuable portion of our community?

While such news stories may bring attention to issues that are of genuine societal concern, at what point do they cease to inspire thoughtful inquiry and begin to construct a superficial, monolithic and skewed image of Islam and Muslims?  Are there enough images and narratives in the media that counterbalance these negative portrayals and make the discussion of “Who is a Muslim?” and “What is Islam?” a truly multi-vocal conversation?

In the recent film Mooz-lum, filmmaker Qasim Basir provides a depiction of Islam and Muslims that is an alternative to those often represented by the media.  In an interview with Michel Martin, Basir explains what compelled him to make this film:

“…I was a little tired of seeing the consistent negative portrayal of Islam and Muslims in the media. And being that I was raised very different than what’s represented as what Islam or Muslims are supposed to be, I had to write something about it that showed the human perspective of a people, of a culture, of faith.”

Another film that draws attention to the ways in which Islam is portrayed in Western media is the documentary Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People, directed by Sut Jhally and featuring Dr. Jack Shaheen.  While this film specifically addresses depictions of Arabs and Arab culture, it also gives consideration to prevalent negative portrayals of Islam.

While there are numerous news stories featuring radical Islam and terrorism in association with Islam, major media outlets, such as ABC news, have also attempted to provide some balance to the discourse concerning Islam.  In a special edition of 20/20, Diane Sawyer reports on Islam in America and the common questions and misconceptions that some Americans have about the religion. On another ABC news segment, a hidden camera experiment caught bystanders’ reactions to a Muslim woman being denied service, bringing light to everyday discriminatory acts against Muslims and asking, among other things, how perceptions of Islam and Muslims influence interactions between individuals.

Considering these different types of news stories and representations of Islam in the media, the question arises, does the media have a responsibility to educate the public about religion? If so, how might it best go about accomplishing this?  And if not, what is the media’s primary responsibility?


Additional Readings:

The Portrayal of Islam by the Western Media

A Muslim Women’s Forum on Representation in the Media

Responsible Education and Media, Non-Profit

by Madeline Bailey

Those opposed to harsh sentencing and the criminal “warehousing” of United States prisons rejoiced on May 17th  when the Supreme Court took a step to reduce extreme policies of punishment.

It was ruled that juveniles can no longer be sentenced to life imprisonment for crimes other than homicide.   The case of Graham v. Florida decided that the court must provide young offenders with some opportunity for hope and reform. This is a welcome retreat from punishment without the possibility for reconciliation and rehabilitation. Read the rest of this entry »

What does it mean to defend something? According to the Oxford English Dictionary, to defend is to “resist an attack on; protect from harm or danger.” What exactly is the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) intended to defend against?

If I didn’t know better, I would guess that a law in defense of marriage was intended to protect same-sex partners who are married in states that recognize same-sex marriages and who then relocate to states that do not. Sadly, this is not the case. It is instead intended to defend a very specific definition of marriage and to deprive same-sex couples of the rights extended to heterosexual couples across the nation. Rather than defend the very personal decision to commit one’s self to another, it seems that the federal law has effectively mangled the sanctity of marriage for many same-sex couples. Read the rest of this entry »

Rabbi Irwin Kula’s April 30th blog post in The Huffington Post is a thought-provoking discussion on the rate of social change. It inspired me to consider how different things were in this country just a short time ago. I am aghast at how recently my fellow Americans enslaved other humans, at how fiercely plantation owners fought to hold onto their rightful living, breathing property. I am angry that respected leaders and thinkers fought against equal rights for anyone who was not a white male property-holder. I am horrified that, less than 70 years ago, FDR authorized the internment of nearly 120,000 Japanese Americans for no other reason than their national heritage. I am ashamed that some states banned interracial marriage until 1967 when the Supreme Court finally ruled anti-miscegenation laws unconstitutional.

Appalling as they may be, these practices (and many others) are a part of our nation’s history. They represent brutalities and inequities, violations of the very principles our country stands for. Recalling these events conjures great sadness, but one from which I can also cultivate hope. I experience a moment of grace at the realization that, despite overwhelming inertia, change is possible. Not only is it possible, it is inevitable. Read the rest of this entry »

As the U.S. Democrats push for immigration reform laws that recognize the contribution of the many non-citizens residing within U.S. borders, border states are taking matters into their own hands. Arizona’s newly passed legislation originally required that police officers question individuals who they believe may be in the country illegally. A Phoenix police officer effectively sued in response, saying that the new law would require him to stop school children in the area he patrols during the day to inquire about their citizenship. Arizona state lawmakers seemingly predicted resistance from some police precincts: the law includes a clause that enables the state to sue police departments that do not enforce the new mandate. The law was amended on May 1 to only allow questioning of people who police stop, detain or arrest, but civil rights advocates say that police can and have invented all kinds of reasons for stopping people they want to question. President Barack Obama has voiced concern and is exploring strategies to challenge Arizona’s new legislation.

In the meantime, some policymakers in Utah are hoping to implement similar legislation. Although Utah lawmakers may have been entertaining such legislation before Arizona established its new law, they have certainly been influenced by the dramatic actions of their neighboring state. Read the rest of this entry »

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