Robert J. Rosenthal knows well how journalism can change the course of history. At 22, Rosenthal was an editorial assistant on the New York Times’ historic Pentagon Papers story — a story that had a dramatic impact on how policymakers and the public viewed the Vietnam war. He later joined the Philadelphia Inquirer and spent years reporting from war zones in several African countries as well, Lebanon, Israel, and more. Rosenthal is now an Executive Producer at the Center for Investigative Reporting.
Alexis Okeowo got her start in Uganda. After college, she undertook an internship at a paper in Kampala and became a different kind of conflict reporter. She was drawn to the stories of ordinary Africans in extreme situations finding the power to disrupt decades-long cycles of conflict. Okeowo’s work earned her a staff writer position at The New Yorker. Okeowo and Rosenthal will join us on April 11th for a conversation about conflict reporting. These two journalists understand the challenges of connecting audiences with narratives that matter.
Rosenthal and Okeowo represent different approaches to conflict reporting. But the same questions hover over their work. The same questions drive them. What kinds of stories should we be reporting? Do war stories inspire compassion and action from the public? Do they “normalize” the violence of war? Can journalists help bring peace into focus?
“We need more stories that challenge Westerners’ limited perception of what it’s like to live in a war zone,” Okeowo has said. “Even in places like Mogadishu, there are strivers going about everyday life, chasing their dreams, and trying to carve out a comfortable life from all the chaos unfolding around them.”