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Writing/righting truths across borders : learning from transnational peoples' journalism and politics Plaut, Shayna Gilana


My dissertation explores how journalists who self-identify as “transnational” shape their journalism to make human rights claims that trouble, open up and go beyond the nation-state. The project is a multi-sited, ethnographic, comparative case study of journalism education among two different transnational peoples: Romani/Gypsy and Saami (the Indigenous peoples in the current states of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia). Drawing upon 45 interviews with journalists and journalism educators, my research suggests there are two distinct strategies in how transnational peoples’ journalism is conceived, taught and assessed. These strategies influence and are influenced by larger socio-political contexts: the Saami media work within an Indigenous rights framework; their goal is to engage with journalism as a form of self-determination. This differs from Romani media programs, which are funded by non-state donors who aim to use Romani media as a form of claiming citizenship. These citizenship claims are both within a specific state as well as within Europe. In short, the political, economic and cultural contexts shape the journalism, and the journalism in turn shapes the politics. Although the differences are significant, both transnational groups recognized the power of journalism in agenda setting within, between and across borders. Through the framing of information in particular ways, journalists, editors and the media outlets, as well as the funding sources for this journalism, were all engaged in a form of agenda setting (Carpenter, 2007; 2009) and productive power (Barnett & Duvall, 2005). My findings indicate that a unique feature of transnational peoples’ journalism is recognizing and operationalizing power beyond that of the state; another contribution is a more robust understanding of objectivity in journalism – one that demonstrates how journalists can be credible, without pretending to be neutral. These are all important contributions to reimagining human rights advocacy beyond current discussions of transnational advocacy which still often privilege the state and tends to pay scant attention to journalists themselves. Learning from transnational peoples who are creating, teaching, and participating in journalism education in its many places, forms, and media allows us to make more sound connections between human rights and journalism.

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