WINTER PARK, FL (FNN News) – The media, press, news, blogs—whichever name works best—is a pivotal factor in promoting and achieving global peace because of its rapid global reach. Between twenty-four-hour cable news networks, news websites, social networks, and blogs, news of any kind, whether accurate or otherwise, can reach millions in seconds. The 2015 Global Peace Film Festival partnered with the Central Florida Association of Black Journalists (CFABJ) to host its Media Dialogue in the Rollins College Suntrust Auditorium at 11:00 a.m. Saturday, discussing the most pressing social issues and the media’s influence on them. Stewart Moore of WESH 2 News moderated a three-speaker panel consisting of criminal defense attorney and legal analyst Alicia Adamson, Esq., Managing Partner of HAWM Law Firm, and two journalists: WFTV Channel 9’s Mario Boone, and veteran reporter Darryl E. Owens, editorial board member and columnist for The Orlando Sentinel.
The Media’s Present and Evolving Purpose
Attorney Adamson believes the media can be beneficial in shedding light on situations that would otherwise slip under the radar, citing the Trayvon Martin murder as an example. She said that if it was not for the Martin family going to the media after not getting answers from the authorities, and the community peacefully protesting, George Zimmerman would likely never have been arrested.
Owens concurred, saying the media is meant to be a watchdog. As an editorial writer, he wrote several columns during the Ferguson protests stating that all police are not bad, but they do require more scrutiny.
Adamson supported Owens’s remarks with another example: Noel Carter was recently arrested and was being kicked by a police officer while still in handcuffs. A woman saw what was happening and felt scared and torn—she wanted to call for help, but one of the very people she would have called was kicking a handcuffed man on the ground, so she called WESH 2 News instead.
“I think in that way, the media is becoming a form of protection for the people,” Adamson said.
The Media…and Social Media
Moore asked the panelists about social media updates by people who are “on the scene” first and whether they utilize them. Boone explained that such updates can be beneficial, but “they have to be vetted, just like anything else. “We have to be sure that they’re credible…and not just doing it to get their fifteen minutes of fame.” Owens added that journalists must also vet “citizen journalist” updates to guard against any ulterior motives to inflame the narrative with his or her leanings.
When Moore asked the panelists whether they heed the comments on social media or allow them to influence their coverage, all three said they ignore them. “You would have to undergo psychoanalysis because you’re basically the worst person in the world after you read these things,” Owens jokingly remarked of the negative nature of the comments.
Adamson addressed both sides of the issue. She said she respects everyone’s right to free speech—everyone can say whatever they want, but she generally ignores the comments.
The Black Lives Matter Movement in the Media
Moore asked the panelists for their thoughts on the Black Lives Matter movement and what their personal experiences were with it, especially being involved in the media.
Boone noted that Black Lives Matter is not an anti-police movement, but cautioned the audience that there is a difference between personal experience and what he, as an African American journalist, chooses to report. He said there must be a fine line between the two, or else the integrity of the journalism is nullified.
Despite only being in Orlando for two years now, Boone has already been profiled for traffic stops four times already, and as a former state law enforcement officer himself, he could easily tell whether he was being legitimately stopped or simply profiled.
As a legal analyst during the Trayvon Martin murder trial, Adamson agrees wholeheartedly that black lives matter. “Black Live Matter doesn’t mean other lives don’t matter,” she explained in response to critical comments on the movement. “It’s just that what society what tends to be showing right now is that all lives don’t matter. The black ones don’t, because but for the media, George Zimmerman would never have gotten arrested.”
Her experience, however, shed light on the dangers of the U.S. media’s divisive approach to the race issue. Because the Trayvon Martin murder trial was so racially charged in the media, most of Black America was outraged at George Zimmerman’s not guilty verdict. Adamson expressed the unpopular position that Zimmerman’s verdict was the correct one because of the lacking evidence necessary to convict him of the charges against him. She had expressed the same unpopular position with the Casey Anthony case as well.
“When the cameras stopped, I cried hysterically,” she recalled of a television interview during the reading of the Zimmerman verdict. “Because in my heart I felt it was wrong, what happened. Our system…is not about what you do or don’t do, it’s about what you can prove. If you want to take away someone’s liberty, you have to have evidence, and it’s hard to explain that to people.”
Owens agrees with the movement as well, and provided some cautionary examples of divergent headlines about the Black Lives Matter movement to demonstrate the media’s formidable influence on people’s perspective of it:
“ ‘Fox News Graphic Calls Black Lives Matter the Murder Movement,’ ‘Fox Host Suggests Black Lives Matter Movement is Endangering Police Officers,’ a blog called Town Hall makes a post on Black Lives Matter that reads, ‘Blood on the Hands of Black Lives Matter in Media,’ then you have something like the New York Times who says conservative acolytes in the news media are trying to demonize Black Lives Matter and cover up an unpleasant truth about violence against black people.”
He shared the headlines to make a point: the media, depending on each outlet’s political leanings and motives, can so slant an issue that it is marginalized, then eventually invisible from public consciousness. “Remember the Occupy Wall Street movement?” he asked. “Do we hear about that anymore?” He noted that the Black Lives Matter movement appears to be following that same trajectory, and if the disparaging media coverage of it continues, it will suffer the same fate.
The Media’s Role in Facilitating Global Peace
While the panel discussion did not cover the topic of peace directly, the panelists shared with FNN News their idea of how the media can be instrumental in effecting global peace.
Mario Boone said the media’s role in facilitating peace is “exposing and showing some of the conflicts that are going on around the world, around the country,” explaining that reporting can inspire people to start discussing solutions to the problems.
Darryl Owens explained the process from the newspaper perspective. “We’re responsible for putting out institutional opinions about issues…We can cover events that promote the principles of peace and [with editorials] drive the conversation towards peace, but that’s about as much as a newspaper can do.” He added that he has focused on positive community news as a columnist for the past thirteen years, but as recent research showed, “if it bleeds, it leads,” and according to Owens, “unfortunately in this digital age, it bleeds quicker.”
LaFontaine Oliver, CFABJ President and President and General Manager for 90.5 WMFE, said that the media is responsible for informing citizens. “The more you have educated and informed citizens, the better chance you have of us being able to understand each other better and be[ing] able to coexist and live peacefully both in our local communities and around the globe.”
Attorney Adamson echoed Oliver’s viewpoint and added that the media also facilitates the process by showing examples of peace locally and worldwide. “It shows that it can be done, and it serves as an example for others to follow.”
She also spoke on the Black Lives Matter movement in the context of peace, stating that forums like the 2015 Global Peace Film Festival’s Media Dialogue can show the importance of peace, that the Black Lives Matter movement is all about peace and bringing education and awareness to the issue, showing the community and others that it is important to hear both the law enforcement and the community’s perspectives. “If they understand where each of them are coming from, [then] we can maybe begin to solve the problems that we’re seeing on a daily basis.”
Moderator Stewart Moore’s perspective on peace and the media encapsulates the panelists’ views, but also puts the ball in the beholder’s court. “What we can do is show people that they can make a difference…What I tell people is, ‘Make your impact matter,’ because no matter what, you make an impact.” He noted that one thing the media can show is that the viewer as an individual can help a world issue. “Whether it’s donating a dollar, or just sending a prayer…as members of the media we can show the impact that that dollar can actually have.”
Mellissa Thomas is a Jamaica-born writer. She’s a decorated U.S. Navy veteran with Entertainment Business Masters and Film Bachelors degrees from Full Sail University in Winter Park, FL.
She is also an author coach, helping advisors, coaches, consultants, entrepreneurs, and experts double their income and clinch the credibility they deserve by walking them step by step through the process of developing, completing, marketing, and publishing their first book via her Inevitable AUTHORity™ Author Mentoring Program.