The Crisis Publishing Initiative conference held in Chicago from June 26 to 29 was crucial as it took place in the context of the current crisis in Eastern Europe and other socio-economic, religious and health crises around the world. Experts shared their experiences on the current topic of the war in Ukraine.
Katya Yefetova shared her impressions of the 3 life-changing days in Kiev as she applied her photojournalism experience to the well-organized digital defense effort in Ukraine. Jeremy Weber and Jayson Casper (Christianity Today) shared lessons on how to cultivate local sources and discern their unique angle as they covered the war in Ukraine from afar.
With regard to words and images, Dr. Sandra Morgan described how word choice can perpetuate unnecessary stereotypes. When it comes to visually communicating the stories of vulnerable children, Sarah Gesiriech encouraged participants to avoid stereotypes and sensationalism and to consider how images and words reflect on children, families, and communities.
Furthermore, some important stories come from areas where open sharing carries risks for those denied religious freedom. While it may be necessary to hide identifying details to tell a story, our readers still need to hear how God is working in the world. The complexities of this type of reporting were addressed by several experts, including Heather Pubols and Gökhan Talas.
Several workshops dealt with misinformation, disinformation and lack of information. While these issues have always been important to journalists, the industry behind the spread of misinformation now has widespread power through social media and websites that appear legitimate. Joseph Benjamin (Gujarati Christians) and Julia Bicknell (World Watch Monitor) were among those who addressed this issue.
This conference has been an amazing opportunity to learn from and connect with international experts
“This conference has been an amazing opportunity to learn from and connect with international experts,” says Katy Causey (Compassion International). “There are also many practical tools and ideas that I can apply in my everyday work.”
About 50 journalists representing the USA, Pakistan, India, Lebanon, Ghana, Kenya, Turkey and Ukraine participated in this conference.
“I think this conference is massive,” says Dr. Akosua Frempong, an experienced print, digital and broadcast journalist and one of the speakers at the one-day workshop that followed the Crisis Publishing conference. “I say that because Sharon [Mumper, president of Magazine Training International] and the MTI team have tapped into a critical area. Crises occur in our world all the time. Just as every organization needs to be prepared for crises because they are inevitable, journalists, too, need to be prepared to report crises effectively. Preparing journalists to handle crisis reporting well is a worthy effort.”
Based in the United States, she has worked as an anchor, producer, presenter and reporter on three continents, including Africa. As a speaker, the conference helped her realize the importance of the topic.
During the workshop, journalists had the opportunity to learn which social media platforms are used by which countries to communicate quickly, accurately and reliably, and how to use digital storytelling to communicate news and feature stories. Dr. Frempong focused on the use of smartphones and social media.
“I enjoyed presenting at the Digital Journalism Workshop,” she says. “I am passionate about journalism and excited about the new phase of the profession, with the introduction of digital and social media platforms. So, for my session, I was particularly interested in how journalists could use smartphones to record sound and video and take images for their publications. Nowadays, news media organizations expect that journalists have various skills and not just one skill. Because the industry has changed and there have been some cutbacks by print media organizations, in particular, journalists must have multimedia skills, and that was one of the workshop’s aims: to train journalists to be dynamic by knowing how to use smartphones for multimedia productions. I also spoke about using social media and how to effectively communicate to your audiences through them, including in times of crisis. I emphasized the popular social media platforms Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. More specifically, my session highlighted how journalists could use these three social media platforms to disseminate their content and promote their publications.”
Beyond training and knowledge sharing, the Crisis Publishing Initiative conference was an opportunity for journalists working in difficult areas to pray for each other and be encouraged.