Peace journalism is great idea, in theory


In my Freedom of Expression class at the University of Miami, we have been discussing peace journalism.  Advocates for peace journalism recognize that today’s media are too eager to focus on violence and tend to favor what they consider to be the victimized parties and assign blame to the “others.”

Peace journalism attempts to give everyone a voice and expose untruths on all sides, while promoting peace and reconciliation instead of war and violence.

In this style of writing, journalists are not supposed to use words like “terrorists,” as these words are considered demonizing language. Instead, they are supposed to call groups by what they call themselves, like al-Qaeda.

Our assignment was to find articles and rank them according to a peace journalism rubric.  As I read through articles, I realized how difficult it would be to adhere to the peace journalism standards. For example, “murdered” has negative and obviously violent connotations, but what else are you supposed to say if that’s what happened? Saying that a man “killed” somebody may have a little less of a negative connotation, but the connotation is there nonetheless.

I agree that an author should make every effort to quote or at least talk to and write about all parties involved and I do think that in many cases this can be done better than it is done now. Sometimes, though, it may be too dangerous.

Should journalists have to reach out to a group that just bombed a civilian’s house? And how are they supposed to talk about this incident without victimizing the civilian? I’m not sure how peace journalism advocates would answer these questions, although it seems to me that the rubric is arbitrary; the person rating an article can interpret the categories and define them however he or she chooses.

One part of the peace journalism rubric is “writer advocates for one side/position.”  (A score of three indicates deviance from the peace journalism philosophy.) This is where peace journalism contradicts itself: it says that authors should be objective, but one of its main goals is to promote peace and reconciliation rather than violence.  Even peace journalism has its own agenda and is inherently biased.

I believe that peace journalism is a noble concept, but it is impractical. It is an unattainable ideal, but we can at least shift toward it, combining some ideas, like less thirst for blood and more open-mindedness, with traditional reporting styles.

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