News, On Campus

McGillycuddy-Logue Fellows Program Talks Role of Media in World Conflicts

News outlets all around the world have a tendency to reduce tragedies to a “single story,” according to Lara Santos, a Portuguese exchange student studying at Boston College.

“As I was getting on the plane, my mother called me and she started crying profusely, saying ‘Please do not get killed by a stray bullet,’” Santos said. “I was like ‘Why? Why would that happen?’ And she said, ‘There’s a lot of gun violence in the United States.’”

The McGillycuddy-Logue Fellows Program hosted a panel discussion on media bias and the dominance of U.S. news around the world on Wednesday night. The event featured Santos, Sister Jeanmarie Gribaudo of the Woods College of Advancing Studies, and Christine Caswell, director of internships and career readiness in the communications department.

The round table discussion began by introducing the concept of a single story with a screening of Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED Talk, “The danger of a single story.”

“When we reject the single story, when we realize that there is never a single story in any case, we begin a kind of paradise,” Adichie said in the video.

Gribaudo discussed how her experiences working with prisoners at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution-Shirley taught her there is no single story to someone’s life.

“Often the students will say, ‘I don’t want that [mistake] to define me,’” Gribaudo said. “‘I do not want that story to define me.’”

Caswell shared some of the affirmations she teaches her daughter—whom she adopted from Ukraine—to overcome the single story.

“I say to her, ‘Christina, your story is your story to tell,’” Caswell said. “‘You do not have to be defined by where you came from, but that makes you resilient. You have many layers that make you who you are today.’”

Caswell also discussed how the single story has led to generalizations about the Russia-Ukraine war today.

“Right now, we are looking at Ukraine as one particular story of the vulnerable, the weak, and of the oppression of Putin, and what the Russians are doing,” Caswell said. “But not all Russians are bad, not all Ukrainians are good.”

Later in the panel, Santos shared that during the COVID-19 pandemic, there was no commentary from the news anchors in Portugal. Instead, news channels displayed a graph accounting for the amount of deaths around the world from the disease.

“In Portugal, we had statistics on our television the entire day,” Santos said. “So, we just saw this one graph going up and up all day. We did not have someone speaking—we had complete silence in the background.”

Nearing the event’s end, Caswell said social media helped her gain a more nuanced understanding of global issues, especially in the case of Israel-Palestine conflict.

“When Israel-Hamas broke out and we began being inundated with everything going on there, I would say that a lot of us did not know a lot about the historical context,” Caswell said. “I found social media to be helpful for me to learn more and not just take one side or the other.”

December 10, 2023