Advocacy journalism: Photographers ‘build bridges’ in USU event

Pastor Debendra Singh at the site of what they hope will be a new village for the Koraput Survivors.

LOGAN—Veteran photographers and activists Lynn Johnson and Jen Saffron come to Utah State University this week to discuss how journalism, art and activism can work together to tell powerful stories and raise public awareness of humanitarian challenges.

<strong>“Building Bridges: When Journalism and Activism Meet”</strong> is sponsored by the USU Caine College of the Arts and the Department of Journalism &amp; Communication’s Morris Media &amp; Society Lecture Series, from 11:30 a.m.-12:45 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 16, in the USU Performance Hall, followed by an informal discussion with interested students and others. The event is free and open to the public.

<a href=”″ rel=”attachment wp-att-8679″><img class=”alignleft size-full wp-image-8679″ src=”” alt=”06-03-49_kora2_420″ width=”420″ height=”236″ /></a>

<em><strong>• See more images from Koraput <a href=”” target=”_blank”>here</a></strong></em>

<a href=”” target=”_blank”>Johnson</a> is a veteran National Geographic photojournalist with more than 35 years of experience documenting the global human condition whose work exposes and challenges contemporary issues such as disease, landmines, and threatened languages. <a href=”” target=”_blank”>Saffron</a> is a longtime activist and photography instructor in Pittsburgh and Grove City College.

The duo’s work came about when they created the Koraput Survivors Project, which supports villagers in India, and report and publish about the problems of religious sectarian violence in Odisha State in India. In 2008, 3,000 armed Hindu extremists burned the village to the ground, seeking to force the 500 residents into an oppressive caste system. The community, now destitute, banded together and relocated to Koraput.

In their USU presentation, Johnson and Saffron will address the emerging practice of advocacy journalism, in which they and other contemporary photojournalists leverage new media platforms along with community collaborations not just to bring awareness to critical issues, but to create and cause positive change.

“The Koraput Survivors Project has us skating a fine line between camera work and social work,” <a href=”” target=”_blank”>writes Saffron</a>. “Should we photograph and write about the boy in need of lip surgery—or take direct action to address his humiliating deformity?”

It is the kind of question that often torments journalists and photographers. Johnson and Saffron’s work uses both traditional and new media to report about the problems of religious sectarian violence in Odisha, and to help bring peace to the region.

“This work is both exciting and inspirational, not only for journalists but for everyone,” said JCOM department head Ted Pease. “Johnson and Saffron’s images and the story they tell are powerful and heart-breaking. This kind of storytelling demonstrates the potential of committed individuals and journalism to make a difference in the world.”

Their work uses both traditional and new media to report about the problems of religious sectarian violence in Odisha, and to help bring peace to the region.

To read this article in its entirety, <a href=”″ target=”_blank”>visit Hard News Cafe</a>.

Johnson and Saffron will be guests on KVNU’s Crosstalk program Tuesday morning at 9:10 a.m. on 610 AM/102.1 FM and <a href=”” target=”_blank”></a>.

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