School of Communication Studies Participates in Third Annual Global Issues Forum
On Oct. 20, 2015, The School of Communication Studies welcomed nearly 300 students, faculty, staff and community members to the Kent Student Center Ballroom to the third annual Global Issues Forum. With help from The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Journalism and the Center for International & Intercultural Education, the forum focused on the refugee crisis in the Middle East and Europe. Emily Feldman, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist led the forum in discussion about the events surrounding the Syrian and Iraqi refugees and how media communicates those events to the world.
In a powerful introduction to the forum, Dr. Paul Haradakis, communication studies professor, pointed out the media’s role in publicizing one of the largest human migration crisis since the 20th century. Feldman’s introduction shed a light on her reporting on the crisis from her stay in Istanbul, Turkey in 2013.
“Just walking outside, you could see people begging on the streets. Locals were noticing a change happening in the city,” Feldman said.
This change was not just native to the Turkey area. According to Feldman, the attention shifted to Bulgaria, one of the poorest and unprepared countries in the EU and Iraq, where ISIS began to influence the amount of displace residents.
Feldman’s main points surrounded the media and how they embrace the public’s interest of emotional imagery, but don’t exactly help to sustain or prevent the issues – in this case, the refugee crisis and the infamous photo of the child washed upon shore in Turkey. She also mentioned the media’s emphasis on the European perspective of the refugee crisis, rather than the millions of people affected in Turkey, Lebanon or Jordan.
At one point in her speech, Feldman made a striking comparison between the history of Kent State and the rise of the Syrian war.
“The military fired live ammunition at Syrian protesters, who in turn, decided to fight back,” she said.
Feldman described that situation as similar to the history of the protests in 1970 on May 4 on Kent’s campus. It was moments like those that helped for a successful, informative forum.
Katelynn Braunegg, a senior communication studies major who live-tweeted the event, seemed to have thoroughly enjoyed the informative nature of the forum.
“I had no prior knowledge about the refugee situation. This forum shed light on a very important matter that affects people in a major way,” Braunegg said.
The forum presentation was accompanied with charts, statistics and explanations on why people are leaving their home countries. Feldman shared experiences from people in these areas, including a firsthand experience from a family in Aleppo, Syria, who had no access to water and electricity. Feldman introduced the audience to a little girl named Sana from Syria, whose little brother was born in Turkey, but is not legally a Turkish citizen. It was stories like these and the stories of the ships of immigrants on their journey to safer living conditions in other places that shaped the tone of the forum.
Feldman closed out the event with facts supporting the positive outcomes of the refugee crisis. She mentioned the thousands of Syrian refugees currently being taken in by the United States, Bulgaria, Turkey and other welcoming countries. She also mentioned the stigma of terrorism scares, immigration safety and a political cartoon that showcases the impact of simply lending a hand.
Communication studies marketing assistant Margaret Garmon, who was integral in planning the forum, spoke candidly on what she thinks the outcome of these types of events should be.
“We need to make ourselves more aware of what goes on in rest of world. To do that, we need to seek out reliable news sources and media outlets. Being a citizen of the world is more important than simply just being a citizen of the United States,” Garmon said.
Anyone interested in watching the Global Issues Forum should visit the archived footage on the School of Communication Studies’ YouTube channel.