One month into the Russian war on Ukraine, the Stony Brook School of Communication and Journalism (SoCJ) gathered a group of international correspondents and Ukrainian and Russian experts for a teach-in about the horrifying and evolving situation in eastern Europe. The event was hosted by the School’s Marie Colvin Center for International Reporting.
“We make sense of the world around us through stories, and journalism is a vital part of how we understand and engage with others,” said Laura Lindenfeld, dean of the SoCJ and executive director of the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science. “It is our responsibility as educators to bring our campus and the community together to share experiences and knowledge about the horrors unfolding in Ukraine and investigate the news coverage and communication about this situation. I am proud that we are able to carry on Marie’s legacy through events and conversations like these.”
More than 100 people from across campus and the local area came to the in-person event.
The teach-in was organized by Sarah Baxter, a journalism instructor and a U.S. correspondent for London’s Sunday Times. Baxter was a long-time colleague of Marie Colvin, an award-winning foreign correspondent who was killed by the Syrian government 10 years ago while she was covering the civil war there.
“Marie was my colleague for many years at the Sunday Times of London and also came from just down the road in Long Island, Oyster Bay,” Baxter said. “Marie felt it was very important to bear witness, to take risks where necessary to report the truth about war, and she used to say very humbly, ‘it’s what we do.’ Many of her friends are now in Ukraine reporting on the war there.”
The panel featured two reporters currently working in and around Ukraine: Louise Callaghan, of London’s Sunday Times, and Simon Ostrovsky, of PBS NewsHour. It also included the New York Times’ foreign editor Michael Slackman, who is responsible for coordinating coverage of the war and belongs to the School’s professional advisory board.
“One of the really, really difficult things to see and live through is the feeling of your future disappearing,” said Callaghan, who joined the panel from Romania on her journey back into the heart of the war zone in Ukraine. “Overnight, doctors, lawyers, baristas and middle-class professionals became refugees and had to leave everything behind. All plans have evaporated. Your family, your house, your job, your career – all of a sudden, it’s just gone.”
The panel also included several faculty from Stony Brook: John Frederick Bailyn, linguistics professor and former co-director of the New York-St. Petersburg Institute; Leonie Huddy, political science professor and department chair; Alexander Orlov, materials science and chemical engineering professor and expert to the EU Parliament and UK government on several topics including Ukraine; and Jonathan Sanders, journalism professor and former Moscow correspondent for CBS News.
“From Putin’s perspective, people like me and my parents do not deserve to live, do not deserve to have dreams, unless we are part of Russia,” said Orlov, whose parents are now refugees in western Ukraine. He called for friendship, compassion and support from the audience and international community. “We are freedom-loving people and we are independent. We want to dream like all of you.”