Complicating the Narratives

What if journalists covered controversial issues differently — based on how humans actually behave when they are polarized and suspicious?


As a life-long journalist, I know how tough it can be to report the views of people who are bitterly divided. We think we’ve got it right. But the emails and social media messages often scream back that we are biased and can’t be trusted.

Are they being unreasonable? Or are we missing something?

Nationally noted author and journalist Amanda Ripley says she was missing something. Ripley regularly reports for The Atlantic magazine, Politico, the Guardian and other leading publications. By any measure, she is a pro at what she does. Yet, she discovered she was doing something wrong when she reported on people who were deeply divided.

On March 14-15, Ripley comes to Charlotte to explain what she learned from people who are experts in conflict mediation: peace negotiators, diplomats, marriage counselors and others. She will show how they turn conflict into an opportunity to accurately illuminate the views of both sides.

Ripley believes that anyone can benefit from these insights, given the polarized times we live in. But she is particularly passionate about reaching journalists. She knows that our profession is experiencing a credibility crisis. She believes the lessons of conflict mediation can help journalists in their efforts to regain that credibility.

That’s why we’ve arranged a workshop especially for journalists as part of her visit. Come and hear Ripley make her case. Then, join other journalists in the workshop and try these techniques for yourself.

Among the facilitators for the journalist’s workshop will be David Bornstein, a columnist for the New York Times and co-founder of the Solutions Journalism Network. Bornstein originally encouraged Ripley to explore how conflict mediation might be applied to journalism.

There is no charge for this event, but registration is necessary because seating will be limited. So, register here now to secure your place.

If possible, I encourage you to attend both Thursday evening for Ripley’s lecture and Friday afternoon for the workshop. Our sponsors are the North Carolina Humanities Council, Queens University of Charlotte, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Solutions Journalism Network.

I am happy to answer other questions you may have. Reach me at, or 704-688-2879.

Charlotte and North Carolina are sure to see their share of divisive issues in the months to come. Use this rare opportunity to get better prepared to cover them in ways that both build credibility and add to our understanding.

Rick Thames