Most everybody who follows the news has heard about the escalation of conflict in Afghanistan following the United States’ withdrawal from the region in August. What most people might not know, however, is what everyday life is like for Afghan civilians today, months after the departure of U.S. forces. Although hot-button issues change day after day in mainstream media, the unfortunate realities in conflict-ridden areas such as Afghanistan continue. War News Radio, Swarthmore’s student-run podcast covering war and politics, seeks to close the gaps in traditional media discourses on conflict and war.
The Phoenix spoke with WNR board members Sophia Becker ’24 and Jace Flores ’24 about the organization’s approach to covering conflict and war in a unique way that differs from the traditional media coverage of conflict, which usually panders to listeners in search of viewership and readership.
“People are looking for something totally new. They’re tired of hearing about Afghanistan … and even though the conflict is still going on, there are still problems and aspects of conflict that aren’t being covered in the mainstream media, but just sort of tend to drift by,” Becker said. “What War News Radio is hoping to do is highlight some of those things that aren’t covered by traditional media outlets.”
In particular, WNR plans to release a series of podcasts covering aspects of the war in Afghanistan that were overlooked during the escalation of conflict. Flores explained why the release of WNR’s Afghanistan coverage is significant despite the end of U.S. intervention in Afghanistan, as well as the types of questions that War News Radio seeks to answer in their reporting.
“Now, the longest war in our history, as Americans, is over. So what have the past twenty years, if not more, meant for Americans and the Afghan people, and what does the future hold? Just because [American troops] left doesn’t mean that things are just normal in Afghanistan,” Flores explained. “Afghanistan is governed by the most autocratic regime in recent history and dealing with one of the poorest and underdeveloped nations in contemporary history.”
The club’s Afghanistan series will cover a range of topics, including an episode detailing an in-depth history of Afghanistan and another episode touching on how artists and musicians have been impacted by war and persecution by the Taliban.
“[The episode on] musicians is a great example of an underreported topic. No one ever thinks about musicians when it comes to the war in Iraq, or Afghanistan, or Ukraine. We really focus on these unknown aspects to really show the effects of what war can do to a civilization beyond what is essentially popular culture,” Flores explained.
Flores explained that not only does War News Radio seek to cover the underreported elements of Afghanistan, but they also hope to report on a wider range of conflicts and political topics across the world that most people do not know about because they are overlooked by mainstream media.
War News Radio hopes to release a series of podcasts covering the ongoing civil war in the Tigray region of Ethiopia that began in November 2020. The war in Tigray has had disastrous consequences for Ethiopian safety and security, as well as civilian livelihoods, which are impacted by famine and an absence of humanitarian aid in certain areas of high conflict.
Despite these facts and the very real consequences of war on everyday life in the Tigray region, Flores observed a lack of media coverage on this conflict.
“No one’s really talking about the fact that the largest war currently going on is in Ethiopia right now. It’s a country a third the size of the United States embroiled in a full civil war, but no one’s heard anything since you know, maybe summer of last year,” he said. “In the spirit of War News Radio’s values, we want to cover Ethiopia and discuss a region that makes up such a large part of the world and is extremely important in the past, present, and certainly the future. It’s not being discussed nearly enough, so we hope to change that discourse a little bit by having the next unit of podcast focus on the Tigray War in Ethiopia.”
In highlighting underreported aspects of well-known conflict and reporting on wars that are not frequently discussed, War News Radio aims to highlight the voices of those who are impacted by war. For example, Flores mentioned that War News Radio anticipates interviewing an Ethiopian-American whose family has been impacted by the Tigray War. Because of the audio format that highlights individuals’ stories, Becker explained, the podcasts offer a more rounded, three-dimensional form of reporting.
“When you can actually hear people’s voices, it doesn’t get distorted in the same way that writing might, and you feel even closer and more connected to what’s going on, especially because we do want to emphasize the more human aspects of these conflicts,” she said. “Our podcasts tend not to be interviews per se, but more of a story where we try and let most of the speaking go to the people we’ve interviewed.”
In the coming weeks, War News Radio will release one podcast every week covering Afghanistan, after which they will report on Tigray. The episodes will be available on podcast platforms such as Spotify and Apple Podcasts, and can also be found on the War News Radio website (warnewsradio.org).
War News Radio meets on Monday nights in Lodge Six from 8 – 9 p.m. For those interested in aiding War News Radio in their mission of reporting on underreported issues, please reach out to any of the board members below:
Sophia Becker [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Max Winig [email@example.com]
Martin Tomlinson [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Jace Flores [email@example.com]