Professional journalists Jake Lynch and Annabel McGoldrick draw on 30 years' experience reporting for the BBC, ITV, Sky News, the London Independent and ABC Australia. They teach Peace Journalism in departments of Journalism, and Peace Studies at several universities. They have led training workshops for editors and reporters in many countries, including the UK, USA, Indonesia, the Philippines, Nepal, the Middle East and the Caucasus.
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As preparation for my upcoming trip to Bradford to study Peace and Conflict Resolution, I picked up a book at the Langara Library called “Peace Journalism”. Exactly my two fields of interest: peace and media. Exactly what I hope to explore with my master’s degree - but I was skeptical before even opening the cover. Why? Although intriguing, the title caused me to immediately put my guard up.
“Journalism” in my mind, should be just that, journalism. Perhaps I’m a purist, but any modification or alteration of a process that I expect to be neutral, unadulterated, unbiased transmission of facts from source to reader, is suspicious to me. Not that I’m na´ve enough to believe that news is ever truly objective, but I’m just not used to the bias being advertised! We all agree that “Peace” is desirable, the alternative being hatred, destruction and war, but it seems paradoxical to me to force it, or it’s ideals upon anyone. As soon as we start to use journalism to support any dogma, whether it’s for good, or bad, it becomes propaganda. No? Well, that’s what I thought BEFORE opening the cover to Jake Lynch and Annabel McGoldrick’s book.
I'm happy to report, however, that what is held within its covers is far from a call to turn journalism into left-wing, banner waving peace propaganda. Instead, Lynch and McGoldrick plot out a structure of journalism this is more real. They borrow their core concept from Professor Johan Galtung’s Peace Research to contrast what they call “Peace Journalism”, with the current dominant system of journalism which they call “War Journalism” (Galtung’s model is actually nicely laid out in table form on page 6 – if you read nothing else, read page 6!). But don’t let these titles throw you off. What they’re really getting at is developing guidelines for journalists that ensure that the whole story is reported. Currently, as is so blatantly obvious from reading between the lines of most major publications, a standard of vilification of ‘enemies’ and polarization of conflict has become status quo. If we were ever to turn off our critical minds while reading the paper, we’d believe that the outside world is full of non-human psychopaths! Everyone who isn’t an ally is developing evil nuclear programs aimed at global domination or destruction (ours, of course, are for good, so they’re ok!). Everyone who disagrees with western structures are bent on destroying them – for no good reason. Does this make sense? Of course not, but that’s often the way it’s written, or broadcast. There is ALWAYS a reason. Always several sides. Always history when it comes to conflict. The archenemy, the diabolical plan, and the nemesis are dramatic structures that work really well to tell riveting fairy tales, but should really be kept out of the news.
Lynch and McGoldrick make the excellent point that it’s the way a story is structured and presented that can cause the most damage. Even though we may not believe the negative spin a news story is given, it’s the connotations and the words that slowly seep into our consciousness, and before we know it, we’re all spreading the diseases of stereotyping, prejudice, and worst of all, apathy. The authors explain how there is a “Feedback Loop”, where the media is actually responsible for shaping public opinion and in turn effecting real world actions and reactions. Think about that for a minute. Let’s hope the papers are including ALL of the facts, and are resisting the temptation to sell us exciting fairy tales.
All things considered, this is a good book that you should send to all of your media friends!
The Peace Journalism Model
Conflict Analysis Anchorage for Journalists
What do we mean by Peace?
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