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March 20: "Zooming Out: Perspectives on the Middle East and Its Evolving Media from Both Sides of the Atlantic"

An American journalist and an Arab journalist talk about their worlds at Marian College

When: Monday, March 20 7:00 PM

Where: Marian College, Allison Mansion 3200 Cold Spring Road Indianapolis

This very interesting evening will bring together two reporters who are both very experienced in covering the Middle East, although their experiences are quite different. Jon Sawyer was until recently award-winning international correspondent and Washington Bureau Chief for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch; he is now in the process of founding a center for the study of conflict reporting. Habib Battah is Managing Editor for the Middle East Broadcasters Journal in Beirut.

This conversation began in fall of 2005, when the Stanley Foundation and Reuters Foundation brought a half dozen American reporters from the US to Beirut to spend a week with a half dozen of their Middle East counterparts. Sawyer and Battah were in that group, as was Fran Quigley of Indianapolis. It was, every participant agrees, a life-transforming experience, looking at the region through the eyes of the "other side." You can read some of the articles that resulted:

"Assumptions take their lumps as West meets Middle East: Journalists comparing notes"As part of a St. Louis Post-Dispatch series titled "Muslims and America: Faith on the Line," veteran journalist Jon Sawyer reports that participants in the Beirut workshop may have learned as much from each other as they did from the course instructors.

"Beirut on the Brink" Sean Harder of the Savannah Morning News wrote that Americans and Middle Easterners need to talk and encouraged his readers to begin the conversation with their own visit to Lebanon.

"Lunch with Hezbollah, Tea with Hamas" Blogger Jacob Resneck details his one-on-one conversation with a leading Hezbollah sheik.

"Terrorists or Freedom Fighters?"Freelance writer Fran Quigley explored the question of the difference between a terrorist and a freedom fighter for the foundation's Fall 2005 edition of Courier, which also includes an overview of the Lebanon trip.

The Stanley Foundation has decided to continue that conversation by periodically bringing the program participants to locations in the US: the hope is that they can share their new perspectives with a wider group. This is a great opportunity.

A word of explanation about the title of this discussion, "Zooming Out -- Perspectives on the Middle East and Its Evolving Media from Both Sides of the Atlantic" ... says one of the participants:

"'Zoom out' is a reference to the signs some Lebanese carried in the large
demonstrations that followed last spring's assassination of former PM Rafik Hariri. The first big demonstration that followed his death drew about a million Lebanese but that number was downplayed by Syria's president, who claimed the cameras were 'zooming in' on a much smaller protest. That prompted the Lebanese to carry signs reading 'ZOOM OUT!' during the next demonstration -- and I think the idea of 'widening perspectives' -- or onsidering the bigger picture -- will fit nicely with the presentations that will be made."
Jon Sawyer is director of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, new a non-profit organization that funds independent reporting with the intent of raising the standard of media coverage of global affairs. Sawyer became the center’s founding director earlier this year, after a 31-year career with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch as a national and foreign correspondent. Sawyer was the Post-Dispatch Washington bureau chief from 1993 through 2005. Sawyer has reported from some five dozen countries during his career, and was selected three years in a row for the National Press Club’s award for best foreign reporting. Since 2001 he has focused much of his reporting on the Middle East and predominantly Muslim countries. In 2003 he made a five-nation tour through the Middle East just before the Iraq war and to Iran just after. He reported from Afghanistan in 2004 and from Beirut and England last fall as part of a project on Muslim communities in the United States and abroad. He recently returned from a three-week reporting trip in Sudan, including Darfur, for the public-television program Foreign Exchange.

Habib Battah is the Managing Editor of the Beirut-based Middle East Broadcasters Journal. He has been a print and broadcast journalist for some of the Arab World's leading news organizations including Qatar-based Al Jazeera, Lebanon's Daily Star newspaper and the Beirut-based satellite channel, Future Television. He has covered a range of political events from across the Middle East, including the Iraq war and recent turmoil in Lebanon, as well as a wide spectrum of Arab economic sectors, with a focus on telecommunications, information technology, real estate, construction and energy. Battah has also worked for a number of non-governmental organizations such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, World Vision and Creative Associates International Inc.

IndyBuzz will provide more details as they develop. A few other discussions for Sawyer, Battah, and Quigley are being set up for March 20-22, so if you have suggestions, please leave a comment.

For more information about this topic, you could attend the discussion of the US news coverage of religion in the Middle East on January 31. Several talk on US-Iran relations will be held: February 1, Febraury 14, and April 5. And you should attend the Citizens Diplomacy Summit at Marian College April 3 if you want to act on what you learn from Sawyer and Battah.

This conversation is free and open to the public, but Marian college would like you to pre-register.

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