By Dr Maria Rieder and Dr Marta Giralt
‘Tell your own story’ is a new project promoting inclusivity and diversity in Limerick and the Mid-West region through a sustained media campaign. It emerged as a response to racist incidents that took place on the UL campus and Limerick city in 2021. These included sustained intimidation and verbal abuse of PhD students from Algeria, many of whom are Muslim. This large group of scholarship holders who only arrived a few months ago will therefore be chosen as a pilot group for this project.
Research has shown that stereotypes are created and altered based on first-hand and single experiences with members of stigmatised groups, but also, and more importantly, driven by second-hand information from sources such as mass media, friends, and family. Hence, it is often a lack of knowledge that causes stereotypes and incidents of racism. In particular media and news exercise great power over their audiences: prolonged exposure to biased media content has the potential to cause highly automatic stereotypes and behaviours towards other cultures.
A large amount of research already exists on bias and a lack of diversity of voices in the media, both in terms of who is employed in media organisations and the way organisations portray the ‘Other’. Following from this lack of diversity, there is often a perception that media is ‘done’ to people and that people become victims of the media. This project is a media-based intervention for stereotype and prejudice reduction at the University of Limerick, Limerick and the Mid-West Region where trained students will engage in sustained and narrative-based contributions to media platforms and add to the diversity of voices in the media.
To achieve these aims, the project will be composed of the following building blocks:
1- A media assessment to establish and map the media channels that the UL community and wider Limerick population use. After the mapping exercise, we will carry out an evaluation of Irish print and digital media in terms of the wording and terminology used to refer to people from other cultural backgrounds and identify the main myths about ‘foreigners’. A data-driven methodology using corpus linguistics will be used. Furthermore, the degree of diversity in media organisations and their work force will be investigated.
2- The research outcomes of this first stage will inform the training courses that will be developed in the second stage of the project. The courses will entail training on: cultural awareness, transculturality, self-empowerment, transcultural communication and media training and will be held from the 8th-11th June 2021.
3- The third stage will be a Sustained Media Campaign: ‘Tell your own story’. In collaboration with Narrative 4 and various local media organisations, previously trained students will contribute to the diversity of voices in the media by giving their own accounts of their lives, culture and experiences including widely misunderstood or controversial concepts that serve as obstacles to respect, cooperation or understanding. In the long run, a conference will be organised for journalism students with the aim of raising their awareness of common myths and language-related pitfalls in journalism.
The media campaign seeks to be a representation of the rich multiculturality present on our campus, in the city and the local community. Such stories may promote tolerance and inclusivity, expand our knowledge and understanding of the others and help us to build bridges between cultures.
This project is driven by members of the MLAL Internationalisation Committee (as one of the projects working to promote internationalisation and support the ISPhD students) and collaborates strongly with colleagues from the Department of Journalism and the Department of Psychology. In relation to long-term goals and sustainability of the project, the project members aim to build links with the civic community and local organisations, such as Doras, Limerick City and County Council, LCETB, Limerick Chamber of Commerce and community groups involved in the Limerick Intercultural City project.
PI: Dr Maria Rieder, Maria.Rieder@ul.ie, School of Modern Languages and Applied Linguistics
Project members: Anita Barmettler, Michelle Daly, Dr Angela Farrell, Dr Marta Giralt, Dr Florence Le Baron-Earle, Dr Niamh Lenahan, Stephanie O’Riordan