Senior Journalists Seminar

share

A Senior Journalist tours the Gawad Kaling Housing Project, a faith-based community project in Manila, Philippines.

Launched in 2003, the Senior Journalists Seminar (SJS) is an immersive dialogue, study, and travel program intended to enhance media coverage and elevate the public debate regarding identity and religion’s role in and resulting impact on the public sphere.

Designed for senior print, radio, broadcast, online, multi-media, and photo journalists from the U.S. and countries with substantial Muslim populations, the seminar offers an opportunity for journalists to engage their peers, experts, and the citizens of those countries visited on issues that are thematically relevant  including:  the identity, treatment, and representation of minority and religious groups, specifically Muslims; the religiosity, religious diversity, and religious freedom/rights; the political context, structures, and policy influencers that shape domestic and foreign policymaking; the impact of religious and cultural identity on the national and political identity of citizens; and initiatives to reduce religious or racial/ethnic tensions, and domestic extremism. Another key component of the Senior Journalists Seminar is the exploration of religious and minority identity within those countries visited and the role of art and pop culture in building bridges between and across communities. The media’s role in choosing, framing, and disseminating stories with a religious element and its effective shaping of public perception and U.S. relations with the Muslim region is also explored. It is a signature program at the EWC due to its demonstrated outcomes and impact:

  • Nuanced understanding of religion’s role in the public sphere, specifically as it concerns U.S. geopolitical and cultural relations with Muslim majority regions gained by participating journalists through discussions at the EWC and during study tour meetings with government, military and business officials, religious leaders, academics, journalists, authors, artists, filmmakers, musicians, educators and students, and community activists.
  • Informed regional perspective of religion’s role in the public sphere in the countries represented by participating journalists through their engagement with one another throughout the seminar and beyond via social media.
  • Development of reliable professional and personal information networks upon which journalists may draw for future coverage and analysis of U.S. relations with Muslim majority regions.
  • Enhanced media coverage and increased public awareness of religious and minority experiences, religion’s role in the public sphere, and U.S. relations with Muslim majority regions through:
    • interactive dialogue between SJS participants and outreach to local communities via panel discussions, student forums, interviews with local media, observance of religious services and interaction with adherents, host family dinners, art and cultural activities, and public events;
    • tweets, blog postings and stories written, produced, and edited by participating journalists;
    • greater depth and balance to future media coverage of stories with a religious element.

To date, 195 journalists from 23 countries have participated. For a complete list of our Senior Journalists Alumni, please click here.

The East-West Center has made the difficult decision to cancel the 2020 Senior Journalists Seminar (SJS), scheduled to take place August 19 - September 11 with travel to Washington, DC; Charlotte, North Carolina; Colombo, Sri Lanka; and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The SJS team believes it would be unsafe to host this immersive program, which is founded upon first-hand experience, interactive learning, and face-to-face networking, but intends to continue as planned in 2021.

 

2021 Senior Journalists Seminar

Tentative Dates:  August 18 - September 11, 2021

Tentative Destinations:  Washington, DC; Houston, Texas; Algiers, Algeria; and Sydney, Australia

Summary:  The 2021 Senior Journalists Seminar will bring together 10-14 multinational journalists for an immersive three week dialogue, study, and travel program to Washington, DC; Houston, Texas; Algiers, Algeria; and Sydney, Australia. The Seminar will begin in Washington, DC with an overview of the American political system, including the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment, federalism, the separation of powers, and congressional influencers on foreign policymaking. Other foundational sessions will examine the religious make-up, diversity of religious identity, and the prayer and attendance practices of the American public. The Washington, DC study tour will also feature participant presentations summarizing religion’s role in their home countries. In Houston, journalists will experientially explore America’s multicultural and multi-religious society, the experiences of minority religious communities, initiatives bridging faith divides, and how religious identity is expressed in the literary, visual, performing, and media arts. Interactive experiences will also be included to deepen journalists’ understanding of Islamic culture through the arts and new media. Travel to Algiers, Algeria and Sydney, Australia will contextualize and compare religion’s role in the public sphere across democratic nations; provide first-hand exposure to and more nuanced understanding of the diversity of religious societies; and build the professional networks of participating journalists. Throughout the seminar, journalists will consider the geopolitical and cultural engagement of the U.S. with Muslim majority regions as well as an intersecting immigration/migraition subtheme, which ties the study tour destinations together and encourages journalists to consider minority expereinces more broadly. The media’s role in choosing, framing, and disseminating stories with a religious element and its effective shaping of public perception and U.S. relations with the Muslim region will also be explored throughout the seminar. Finally, the 2021 Seminar will include attendance at the Center’s 6th International Media Conference in Sydney.

As the Senior Journalists Seminar requires participating journalists to attend various religious services as respectful observers and includes both high level government meetings and tours of impoverished areas, it is important to note that the seminar is both mentally and physically very challenging.

Eligibility:  Media professionals from print, broadcast, online, and multi-media news organizations, including editors, reporters, columnists, editorial writers, producers, bloggers, videographers, and photo journalists with a minimum of ten years of experience are eligible to apply. The Senior Journalists Seminars will include a total of 10-14 journalists from the United States and countries with substantial Muslim populations. Journalists who cover foreign and diplomatic relations, security, military affairs, domestic politics and government, religion, human rights issues, culture, and the arts are eligible.

Journalists covering all relevant beats from the following countries are eligible to apply:  Afghanistan, Australia, Bangladesh, Brunei, Burma, China, India, Iran, Iraq, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nepal, New Zealand, Pakistan, Palestine, the Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam, and the United States. In addition to the list of countries above, journalists who specifically cover art and/or culture, including race and/or minority issues, from the following countries are also eligible to apply:  Algeria, Belgium, Canada, Chad, Cyprus, Egypt, France, Germany, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Mali, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Somalia, Sudan, Tunisia, Turkey, UAE, United Kingdom, and Yemen.

Successful candidates represent the diversity of religions (e.g. covered and non-covered Muslims, Buddhists, Catholics, Christians, Hindus, and Jews)s, ethnicities, and regional differences within the United States, Africa, Europe, the Near and Middle East, Southeast Asia, and South Asia. Preference is given to those journalists who offer compelling story ideas and clear dissemination strategies. Fluency in English is required. As the Center requires journalists to file at least one story or a series of blogs and/or tweets resulting from their participation in the Seminar, journalists must offer specific story ideas and how they will fulfill this requirement in their application.

Funding:  The Senior Journalists Seminar is funded by the East-West Center, Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, and the Roshan Cultural Heritage Institute and collectively supports the participation of journalists from the United States and countries with substantial Muslim populations, as defined below. Valued at approximately USD$10,350 per person, funding includes:  

  • Roundtrip airfare to and from your home country and throughout the study tour
  • Ground transportation and airport transfers
  • Lodging in each of the study tour destinations
  • Provided program meals and a modest per diem to cover meals not provided
  • Cultural activities and networking opportunities
  • Interpretation in-country, when necessary
  • Pro-rated speaker honorariums, cooperating organization costs and meeting rooms
  • Participant Resource Binder
  • Seminar flash drive of program documents, speaker PowerPoint presentations and photos

All participating journalists must pay an $800 program fee to cover costs not provided by the scholarship funds. Journalists are also responsible for all visa-related expenses, health insurance, and baggage fees. The Center encourages additional participant cost-sharing of programmatic costs and considers cost-sharing in the selection of applicants.

 
2019 Senior Journalists Seminar

Dates:  September 4 – 27, 2019

Study Destinations:  Washington, DC; Chicago, Illinois; Dhaka/Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh; Istanbul, Turkey 

The 2019 Senior Journalists Seminar took place September 4 – 27 with travel to Washington, DC; Detroit, Michigan; Honolulu, Hawaii; Djerba/Tunis, Tunisia and included 11 journalists from 11 countries. Immersive study tour visits to three democracies – the United States, Bangladesh, and Turkey – provided the participating journalists with much needed context and firsthand perspectives on the theme. This was achieved by engaging with 98 government and military officials, academics, business owners, religious leaders, activists, journalists, students, and artists as well as visiting 21 non-profit projects, places of worship, museums, and cultural heritage sites during the course of the Seminar. These people-to-people interactions contextualized the complex role religion plays in society and were overwhelmingly mentioned together with the foundational sessions as highlights of the Seminar, reinforcing the relevance and importance of these experiences and the long-term learning acquired.

The Seminar began in Washington, DC with an overview of the American political system that covered the impact of federalism, the separation of powers, and congressional influencers on foreign policymaking. Another session provided an overview of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment, the rights guaranteed, and how those rights have been interpreted and limited by the courts with specific emphasis on the definition of hate speech. Another foundational session studied the use of religious symbols and language as a rhetorical tool by American politicians and how voters respond to this rhetoric. In addition, a meeting at Pew Research Center examined the religiosity, religious composition, practices and political leanings of the American people as well as how American Muslims view their role in society. Finally, a session at the University of Chicago explored Chicago’s racial, religious, and immigrant history in an effort to provide context to the Muslim American experience. In Bangladesh and Turkey, the Seminar also included foundational sessions examining each country’s governmental structures and key political parties; the constitutional basis for religious and press freedoms; and the political, religious, and cultural pluralism of both. These background sessions, thus, provided a basis from which the journalists better understood the political, economic, and cultural role religion plays in society along with the tools necessary to analyze U.S. relations with Muslim majority nations. 

In addition, the Seminar incorporated numerous visits to historical and contemporary temples, shrines, churches, mosques and cathedrals built as places of worship and expressions of religious and cultural identity. Included among these visits were:  Masjid Muhammad, Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Temple, Summit Church, Masjid al-Rabia, St. Mary’s Cathedral, Armenian Church Dhaka, Star Mosque, Dhakeswan Temple, Blue Mosque, Suleymaniye Mosque, and Neve Shalom Synagogue. For several of the journalists, these visits marked the first time they had ever stepped into a mosque, synagogue, temple or church. Olugbenga Adeniji wrote, “In the U.S., I visited a synagogue and observed a Sabbath service for the first time and, in Bangladesh, I similarly attended a Hindu service for the first time.” For others, attending religious services and meeting with congregants challenged previously held biases and provided a better understanding of religious pluralism within the three study tour countries. Fahim Abed wrote, “The Seminar gave me a better understanding of religious diversity and the many ways of worshipping one’s God.” Shereen Youssef shared this sentiment: “I was inspired by the diversity of religious groups we met throughout the program and surprised by how the same religious belief is practiced differently in different countries. As a Christian Egyptian, there are certain narratives about Jews and Muslims that I accepted as factual. The Seminar challenged these narratives and left me better for it.” Shakil Ahmed similarly wrote, “Meeting the Jewish community in DC allowed me to ask radical questions and appreciate our shared humanity and desire for peace.” Substantive visits to both MCC Academy – an accredited, private, Islamic school serving more than 675 K-12 students in the Chicago area – and Madrasah-E-Alia – one of the oldest Islamic educational institutions in Bangladesh – further underscored the diversity of religious interpretation and experience even within a shared faith.

Another significant opportunity afforded by the 2019 Seminar was the ability to study firsthand two of the most critical global issues of today – hate speech/violence and migration. Both issues intersect the Seminar theme and are increasingly prominent issues of political and societal relevance in the United States, Bangladesh, and Turkey. On hate speech/crimes, for example, the journalists met with the Anti-Defamation League in D.C. for an overview of the definition and incidences of hate crimes in the U.S. as well as who has investigative and adjudicating authority for these crimes. Another panel discussion with the representatives of Life After Hate, the Chicago Commission on Human Relations, and a synagogue attacked in a 2019 hate crime enabled the journalists to explore why people are drawn to hate groups and racial/religious violence along with state and non-profit efforts to build resilient, integrated communities better insulated from extremism. A session in Istanbul regarding the Hrant Dink Foundation’s “Media Watch on Hate Speech Report” also examined the media’s role in escalating social tensions and polarization, with specific emphasis on growing anti-Semitism and anti-immigrant sentiment within Turkey. A site visit to an Istanbul-based non-profit responsible for providing services to refugees, Hayata Destek, further allowed the journalists to meet with Syrian refugees to discuss their personal experiences while another session with the International Refugee Rights Association provided an opportunity to better understand the influx of more than 3.4 million Syrian refugees in Turkey and their rights within the country. Similarly in Bangladesh, the journalists met with UNHCR’s Head of Operations in Cox’s Bazar to better understand the number of Rohingya refugees living in the Kutupalong Refugee Camp as well as the services provided and the environmental, social, and security challenges of maintaining adequate shelter and basic needs. A site visit to a women’s learning center operated by OBAT Helpers also provided the journalists with a rare opportunity to meet with Rohingya women regarding the challenges they faced prior to and now within the camp. Ruth Cabal wrote, “For me, the visit to the Kutupalong Refugee Camp was a highlight of the program. It provided a first-hand look at the refugee crisis and allowed us to speak with refugees. It also allowed me to reflect on how the Rohingya situation compares to that of displaced persons in my own country as well as in Turkey.” A panel discussion with Chicago-based advocacy and service providers regarding the resettlement and integration of immigrants into America provided an additional point of comparison.

The 2019 Senior Journalists were:      
  • Mr. Mohammad Fahim ABED, Reporter, The New York Times, Kabul, Afghanistan         
  • Mr. Olugbenga John ADENIJI, Head Features Desk, Weekend, Punch Nigeria Ltd., Magboro, Nigeria
  • Mr. Shakil AHMED, Head of News, Ekattor Media Ltd., Dhaka, Bangladesh
  • Ms. Ruth CABAL, Senior Correspondent, CNN Philippines, Manila, Philippines
  • Ms. Sarah DINGLE, Reporter, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Sydney, Australia
  • Mr. Ethan EPSTEIN, Deputy Opinion Editor, The Washington Times, Washington, D.C., USA
  • Ms. Charlotte GRAHAM-MCLAY, Freelancer, The New York Times, Wellington, New Zealand
  • Mr. Muhammad Ayyaz SHUJA, Bureau Chief, NEO News, Lahore, Pakistan
  • Ms. Nurni Kasim SULAIMAN, Correspondent, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta, Indonesia  
  • Mr. Jalees Ahmad SYED, Correspondent, Agence France Presse, New Delhi, India
  • Ms. Shereen Sherief Fahmy YOUSSEF, Broadcast Journalist, BBC World Service, London, Great Britain/Egypt

 

For more information on East-West Center journalism fellowships and exchanges, see https://www.eastwestcenter.org/professional-development/seminars-journalism-programs

 

Contact Information

Liz A. Dorn
Seminars Program Coordinator
East-West Center
1601 East West Road
Honolulu, HI  96848  USA
Phone: (808) 944-7368
Fax: (808) 944-7600
Email: dorne@eastwestcenter.org