Next week, USF’s campus will lie quiet as students break for the spring. Outside of using this time to rest and recharge for the second half of spring semester, our staff felt that students need this time to reflect on the unsettling crisis unfolding in Ukraine. In our weekly meeting, we discussed our reactions to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and our role as young journalists in an increasingly unstable world.
When news broke of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine’s border Feb. 24, it was difficult not to watch the 24-hour coverage that virtually all news outlets were providing. For the first time in our lifetime, the global order had been significantly disrupted, and any resolution to the conflict was met with nuclear threats from a dependably menacing power. The news was overwhelming, gut-wrenching, and deeply terrifying.
We are heartbroken for Ukraine, and we cannot begin to imagine the immense bravery and courage of both the Ukrainians and the Russians who are protesting this war and fighting for peace. While this crisis doesn’t impact us personally, it does make us scared for the future of our world and scared of the people with the power to determine it.
Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, we have struggled to wrap our heads around the conflict as it challenges the history of NATO that we were taught and further complicates the global political climate. Switzerland’s decision to break its commitment to neutrality to join in sanctioning Russia further emphasizes the unprecedented territory this conflict is in.
The invasion of Ukraine is emblematic of the tumultuous and uncertain epoch we find ourselves in. It shows how fragile our global environment is, and how easily everything can be destabilized. Everything in recent years — Trump’s presidency, the pandemic, the spread of misinformation and hate speech online, climate change, growing distrust in the media, etc., and now this war — has felt like the beginning of an end. It is overwhelming to be a young person in this unstable environment. It feels like the world is collapsing all around us, and as individuals, we have very little power to change the course we are on.
However, we must not give in to apathy. We can’t support the division that is festering in our global community. We need hope, especially the younger generation. We need resilience, determination, and we need to care.
It is frustrating that the situation is out of our hands in the U.S., but we believe it has nonetheless been a source of inspiration for many to raise awareness and donate to funds to support Ukraine. Protests in support of Ukrainian freedom have swept across the world, and we have seen USF students engage in activism here in San Francisco, such as the peace vigil held March 9. We are also glad to see Ukrainians receiving support from surrounding countries like Poland and Germany who have opened their borders to take in those fleeing the country.
Conversely, since news of this crisis broke, we have heard people complain about how it affects them when they pay at the pump. These ignorant comments speak volumes of the interconnectedness of the global conflict and economic relationship, and yet how out of touch Americans can be. As a publication team for a University, we want to publish stories that inspire our generation to be aware, empathetic, and invested in global happenings whether or not they involve our country directly.
Furthermore, it has been disheartening to see the racist rhetoric used when discussing the attacks. Reporters like CBS’ Charlie D’Agata saying things like: “This isn’t a place like Iraq or Afghanistan…this is a civilized city,” or ITV News’ Lucy Watson saying: “And now the unthinkable has happened to them, and this is not some developing third world nation… this is Europe.” These reports imply that it’s horrifying when Kyiv is bombed but expected when it is Baghdad or Kabul, and are grotesquely biased.
The problem of biased reporting and misinformation is not restricted to American news sources. Russia has actively spread propaganda suggesting that Ukraine is the main aggressor in this war, attempting to influence Russian citizens and anyone else exposed to their media of this lie. This reminds us of how fortunate we are to have access to relatively ethical news outlets here in the U.S. As aspiring journalists, it is a reminder of the power we hold. We want to continue to have the heart, courage, and care needed to follow global instability as it unfolds and to be able to report on it in a concise and empathetic manner.