Who Tells Ukraine’s Story and How Should it be Told?

Documenting Ukraine: Bearing Witness to War
Panels and Discussions

This round table was part of the event Documenting Ukraine: Bearing Witness to War. The full program is available here.

On 7-8 February, three round tables brought together experts from Ukraine and across Europe and the United States to spotlight the insights gleaned from the multifaceted work of Documenting Ukraine and to explore some of the crucial thematic and methodological questions raised in the program’s initial months.

The third round table considered how with easily available technologies that give access to audiences of millions, coupled with changes in attitudes to trusted news sources, there has been a disruption of traditional models of war reporting and who is able to tell the stories of war. Despite persistent gatekeeping, how reporting on war works and who it empowers and leaves out has been transformed. It considered the changing media landscape as it pertains to the Russo-Ukrainian War.

The round table was split into two sessions: Disrupting the media: Formats, structures, and audiences and Whose story? Representation and themes. In the first session, the focus was on new approaches to storytelling and the technologies that make them possible; the second session concentrated on questions of authorship, agency, and representation.

These round tables were followed by an evening event on 8 February that gave program supporters, members of the IWM community, and media the chance to hear first-hand from leading Ukrainian intellectuals and cultural figures.


01:30 – 03:15 PM

Afternoon Session 1: Disrupting the Media: Formats, Structures, and Audiences

Coverage of the Russo-Ukrainian war has thrown into sharp relief the transformation of the media sphere in recent years. Innovation in news reporting comes from journalists themselves rather than media brands, and well-resourced legacy media are challenged by fresh and insightful newcomers. Unpredictable events require nimble responses; changing audience expectations drive new approaches to delivering information. Highly visual journalistic storytelling—whether interactive content, short-form video, or via image-centric media such as Instagram—and podcasting have become primary sources of news for many millions of people worldwide. This new configuration makes it possible to reach carefully targeted audiences who previously may not have been taken into account, but to do so requires specialized knowledge and insight into messaging. This session reflected on these changes and the opportunities and challenges they present.

03:45 – 05:30 PM

Afternoon Session 2: Whose Story? Representation and Themes

Questions under discussion in this session, which concentrates on the intellectual and practical principles of storytelling in wartime, included:

• How should we think about the notion of “objectivity?” What is the role of local expertise and insight? How can and should international media and journalists work ethically with local experts and professionals?
• What is the role of the “other” reporting through storytelling, whether from artists, writers, or public intellectuals?
• What stories get overlooked? What needs are being served and what neglected?