I’ve often found myself living in communities full of people with worldviews very different than my own. This taught me to approach controversial topics in a very unique way. For example, I completed my undergraduate studies at a southern fundamentalist school where theories of pacifism and gender equality were only received through a Biblical framework. During that time, I facilitated a debate on the Afghanistan war, convinced conservative students to attend the Vagina Monologues, and hosted activist and feminist theologians to speak on campus.
Those experiences led me to pursue an independent study of conflict transformation and mediation. While volunteering for a home repairs organization in Tuscon, Arizona, I observed a juvenile restorative justice program and participated in child-parent mediation sessions. Soon after, I enrolled in journalism school and began volunteering for the community mediation center in Bloomington, IN. That’s when I realized conflict management skills can inform research and reporting in a very powerful way. Using tactics of conflict transformation allows language to soften political posturing. It trains the practitioner—or writer—to listen more fully to a range of perspectives and to dig into the conundrums of a given issue. This approach compels a writer to confirm the merits of an opposing perspective—a tactic that in mediation or writing, has the potential to disarm an otherwise defensive listener/reader. This nurtures an environment of problem-solving and mutual respect, a necessary foundation for the dialogue that many journalists hope to inspire.
These skills are also transferable to teamwork in a newsroom. I’m driven by the sort of collaboration that allows me to learn from both seasoned and inexperienced co-workers, and to pass my skills on to to others. I’m currently seeking a company or non-profit in which I can exchange skills like these with my colleagues, attract unreached audiences through my unique style of reporting and research, and contribute to the mission of the organization.