A Most Violent Year:
Eric Antebi Talks to Lori Dorfman of Berkeley Media Studies Group on 2014, the media & violence
A culture of violence is the antithesis to a Culture of Health. As The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s CEO Dr. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey recently said in a speech to the American Public Health Association, “We will never be a healthy nation, if we continue to be a violent one.”
Violence is always in the news. But 2014 saw several high profile stories about violence dominating news cycles, including major stories about child abuse (Adrian Peterson), intimate partner violence (Ray Rice), sexual assault on college campus, and, of course, the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and Eric Garner in New York.
Because media coverage influences the social and political response to violence in America, I wanted to hear from Lori Dorfman, who directs the Berkeley Media Studies Group. She has spent decades monitoring how the media cover violence and other public health issues, helping public health advocates work with journalists, and helping journalists improve their coverage. The following is an excerpt of my interview with her.
Outside the large hall where the keynote speakers held court, muralist Phillip Adams was easy to spot, with his paint-spattered chinos and rumpled shirt. His clothes weren’t the only thing that set him apart from the assembled crowd; he was at Communications Network #ComNet14 to paint.
“This felt like a good fit,” said Adams of his commission. He liked the connection to others engaged in social change.
For the past decade, Adams has been creating public art through the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program. He has a studio practice, too, but relishes how the public art projects he works on take him more deeply into issues he cares about. He has worked with nursing home residents and with post-9/11 vets which, as a self-described army brat, was particularly meaningful for him. There have been many others.
Adams finds inspiration from working in the public sphere, taking cues from the physical space where his works have been commissioned, and often engaging with community residents, or a specific population, on the creative process.
He wanted that for this project, too, and invited conference-goers, in-between their sessions on metrics and measurement and media, to put down their pens (and cell phones and tablets) and put paint to canvas.
“A couple of the first people who did it were so focused,” he said. “You could see they were really into a place of peace for those moments.”
He started the first morning of the conference with three canvases, on which he had penciled in his basic design. A pastel wash gave the background a watercolor effect. At the center of the middle panel is a rock cairn, “which any regular hiker knows… can always help you find your way.”
I think all of us know about looking for markers, signposts, and other guidance as we navigate through the complexities of our work. It’s what brought us to the conference in the first place, seeking the knowledge that we hope can enhance our efforts.
Adams also hoped his mural would help conference goers “think about the beauty behind what they do—not just the cerebral part. I’m hoping to capture that.”
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It’s easy to forget that for a nine-month window between the 9/11 attacks and the summer of 2002, public anxiety about the Middle East didn’t have anything to do with Iraq. In August of 2002, the Bush administration deftly re-framed the national conversation by emphasizing the threat posed by Saddam Hussein and his possible possession or acquisition of weapons of mass destruction, and the need to invade Iraq to mitigate that threat. Before that time, however, public anxiety coalesced around fears of an unfamiliar enemy, al-Qaeda, and the possibility that shadowy terrorists might somehow slip a nuclear weapon into a major American city. Often left unstated, these fears were deep.