Adam Westbrook // ideas on digital storytelling and publishing

Give peace (journalism) a chance?

Posted in Uncategorized by Adam Westbrook on February 4, 2007

Bob GeldofNews this week that the pope of poverty, Bob “da poyple are fookin’ doyin'” Geldof is planning on launching a TV channel devoted to promoting peace.

Funded by Point of Peace, Geldof’s developing the idea with his production company Ten Alps and will announce whether the channel will launch later this year. Let’s just hope it’s not 24 hours of black-and-white charity commercials set to Coldplay.

Among journalists there’s a parellel debate running: whether or not war correspondents should report conflicts with a bias towards peace.

Peace Journalism, as it’s known, has been enshrined in a book by Jake Lynch and Anna McGoldrick; I’m yet to read it, I’m afraid to say, but us City journos were given a taster this week courtesy of Roy Greenslade.

Essentially it argues journalists can and should promote a peaceful resolution to conflicts. It’s a noble aim, and you can’t argue its intentions, but pragmatically, it’s not to clear cut.

Asking too much?
War reporting is ahistorical peace journos say. Each day we’re told the bare facts: the what, where, when and who. But not the why and the accusation is that reporters don’t give us the origins and consequences of the violence we see on our screen.

Fair enough. I think we can see this in the day-to-day reporting in Iraq, Gaza and Afghanistan. We’re told the “latest”, and (in Iraq) reminded yet again “the country is sliding ever closer to civil war.”

So here-here for more indepth analysis on our screens. But it’s not so simple: reporters and producers suffer one major limitation – time.

Can you report the latest and give indepth analysis in 90 seconds?

And this is where the problem with peace journalism lies. If you look at some of its recommendations they jar with reality:

  • Avoid portraying conflict as a battle between two forces over the same goals.
  • Don’t just report a suicide bomber from one group killed scores from another – explain what the motivations are.
  • And show the invisible effects of conflict – mental illness, depression etc, not just the visible effects.

Great goals – but where’s the time to do it?

Noble aims
This isn’t to say I disagree with the concept at all. There are some really good recommendations from Lynch and McGoldrich that would really benefit journalism. Things like avoiding showing the human rights abuses and/or suffering of just one side; avoid showing opinion as fact and avoid blaming someone for the conflict.

Just try telling that to the hardened hacks in the field.

More stuff

Other bloggings on Bobby-G:

One thought on Live 8 (July 2005)

Band Aid 20: do they know what they’re singing about? (Dec 2004)

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