Mass Violence and Atrocities

Journalists glean insights on covering conflict and peace at Pulitzer Center conference, workshops

June 2018


Over 200 journalists, experts, and students attended Pulitzer Center’s “Beyond War” conference and parallel workshops to consider new challenges and opportunities for reporting on conflict and peace.

Human rights defender and Burundian refugee, Ketty Nivyabandi, of the Nobel Women’s Initiative, believes that peacebuilding is really about addressing the root causes of conflict, “because peace is not just the absence of war.”

“Peace is really the circumstances that allow each citizen to thrive,” she said. “It’s critical to cover that and report on those stories. By doing so, we spread, we share a broader narrative for peace.”

Nivyabandi was among approximately 200 attendees of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting’s “Beyond War: Causes of Conflict, Prospects for Peace” conference, which took place from June 2-3, 2018, at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. The Stanley Center partnered with the Pulitzer Center to co-organize parts of the conference and related workshops.

The first day of the conference featured three concurrent panels focused on:

  • Social media and whether it promotes peace or exacerbates conflict
  • Reporting the Rohingya crisis
  • Youth in peacebuilding

A second set of panels focused on:

  • External government intervention in global conflicts
  • Building peace within local communities
  • The critical role global education can play in peacebuilding

Panelists included Pulitzer Center grantees (journalists, editors, and filmmakers), policymakers, local actors from conflict areas, young activists, and representatives of non-governmental organizations.

Reacting to the first day of discussions, conference attendee Rebecca Hamilton, an assistant professor of law at American University, underscored the vital connection between the media and what happens in the halls of government.

“We’ve seen this time and again reported out, particularly when it comes to instances of mass atrocity, where it’s not that government necessarily doesn’t know what’s going on, it does, but it will take public reporting of it out to build pressure, to push that issue up on what is already a crowded policy agenda,” she said.

Transitioning from the panels, an early evening reception fostered additional informal dialogue and networking.  Ambassador Swanee Hunt then gave a powerful keynote speech over a formal dinner that also featured reflections from several journalists who were recipients of reporting grants from the Pulitzer Center to pursue under-reported stories on conflict and peace themes.

I couldn’t resonate more with @nadjadrost’s sentiments about the importance on reporting on post-war issues. Many think Laos is fine now because Obama visited—but this isn’t true. The story continues. @littlelandmines @pulitzercenter #BeyondWar #PostWar

— Erin McGoff (@erinmcgoff) June 3, 2018

Adding an emotional layer to the day of discussions, a student from Howard University, Indigo Passariello, performed an original song, “Hands Up Don’t Shoot,” about police violence and racial profiling in America. The performance served as a stark reminder amid conversations on crises overseas that there is much work to be done to address violence in the United States.

The following day, the conference continued with three interactive workshops that covered:

  • Conflict and peace journalism
  • Safe reporting in high-risk environments
  • The role of youth activists and the media on reporting gun violence

The Stanley Center played a key role in the design and organization of the conflict and peace journalism and safe reporting in high-risk environments workshops. We also actively facilitated the conflict and peace journalism workshop, led by seasoned journalists Tom Lansner, Jina Moore, and Cassandra Vinograd.

Lansner opened the conflict and peace journalism workshop with interactive exercises exploring objectivity and proximity challenges, while Vinograd addressed principles of ethical and reliable reporting in conflict zones by taking the audience through her disorienting experience reporting on mass violence in a town in the Central African Republic. Jina Moore closed out the workshop by digging into approaches to reporting on peacebuilding as a way to better cover conflict.

As the conference came to a close, many participants expressed appreciation for the opportunity to focus on improving their craft among peers with experience covering a variety of complicated conflict and peace stories.

Jina Moore summed up the experience of many, saying “It’s really exciting to come to a conference like this, because it lets me connect with other journalists who are working through the same kinds of problems or issues or coverage challenges or inspirations.”

At a conference full of writers and storytellers, it’s not surprising that attendees were active on social media, sharing takeaways, tips and impressions in a steady stream over two days. Case in point, the hashtag #BeyondWar became the number one trending topic in the DC area with 1,500 tweets.

Pulitzer Center’s highlights and video of the conference

To read blog posts and listen to audio recordings of the panels and workshops at the conference, visit: