Jake Lynch: Give peace a chance
Jake Lynch: Give peace a chance
Jake Lynch, journalist and Director of the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies (CPACS) at the University of Sydney, explains the concept and impact of peace journalism.
1. How do you define peace journalism?
Peace journalism is when editors and reporters make choices, of what to report and how to report it, which create opportunities for readers and audiences to consider and value non-violent responses to conflict.
2. What is the goal of that kind of reporting? What should journalists pay attention to when they want to report in the manner of peace journalism?
The goal is to give peace a chance. It struggles to get one, usually, because of reporting conventions that arise from the structures and interests of news industries. A classic example is the widespread bias in favour of event over process – leading to conflicts being portrayed in news as a series of big bangs, with little or no explanation. The operation of these conventions predicates a dominant diet of War Journalism, serving to legitimise violence and/or inure us to ongoing injustice. Peace Journalism is needed as a remedial strategy. It can take root in mainstream media, and also in the growing independent and digital media sectors, where the structures and interests are different.
3. What are the differences between war journalism and peace journalism? In your opinion, which one has greater impact on the audience?
A good and simple list of characteristics of Peace Journalism is adapted from a study by Dov Shinar of published research in the field. Peace Journalism can be recognised as journalism that:
a. Explores backgrounds and contexts of conflict formation, and presenting causes and options on every side so as to portray conflict in realistic terms, transparent to the audience;
b. Gives voice to the views of all rival parties, not merely leaders from two antagonistic ‘sides’;
c. Airs creative ideas, from any source, for conflict resolution, development, peacemaking and peacekeeping;
d. Exposes lies, cover-up attempts and culprits on all sides, and revealing excesses committed by, and suffering inflicted on, peoples of all parties;
e. Pays attention to peace stories and post-war developments
My own research has shown that Peace Journalism can make significant differences to audience responses. My partner, Annabel McGoldrick and I visited four countries – Australia, the Philippines, South Africa and Mexico – and created, in each, two versions of a set of familiar stories from television news. One was coded as War Journalism, the other as Peace Journalism – displaying some or all of the characteristics a-e set out above.
These two versions were then played to different audiences, who filled in questionnaires about their changing emotional state; wrote narrative responses in the form of notes as they watched, and took part in Focus Group Discussions. PJ viewers tended to be more hopeful and more empathetic; to perceive structural and/or shared problems, and favour cooperative nonviolent treatment recommendations.
The effects were strongest where the story was told through the experience and perceptions of a non-elite person: a successful Afghan asylum seeker in Australia; a spokesperson for the communist New People's Army in the Philippines; a reformed rapist, now campaigning against gender violence, in South Africa; a bereaved father in Mexico who now campaigns for the drug trade to be regulated.
So, Peace Journalism can make a difference to the meanings TV audiences make from conflict situations. It can give peace a chance. Full discussion in my book, A Global Standard for Reporting Conflict, which is published by Routledge.