By Jake Lynch
• Peace journalism is when editors and reporters make choices – about what to report, and how to report it – that create opportunities for society at large to consider and to value non-violent responses to conflict.
If readers and audiences are furnished with such opportunities, but still decide they prefer war to peace, there is nothing more journalism can do about it, while remaining journalism.
On the other hand, there is no matching commitment to ensuring a fair hearing for violent responses, if only because they seldom struggle for a place on the news agenda.
How come? To report is to choose. ‘We just report the facts’, journalists say, but ‘the facts’ is a category of practically infinite size. Even in these days of media profusion, that category has to be shrunk to fit into the news.
The journalist is a ‘gatekeeper’, allowing some aspects of reality through, to emerge, blinking, into the public eye; and keeping the rest in the dark.
Neither is this a random process. The bits left out are always, or usually, the same bits, or the same sorts of bits. News generally prefers official sources to anyone from the ‘grassroots’; event to process; and a two-sided battle for supremacy as the basic conflict model.
Peace journalism is more realistic, in the sense of fidelity to a reality that already exists, independently of our knowledge or representation of it. To report violence without background or context is to misrepresent it, since any conflict is, at root, a relationship, of parties setting and pursuing incompatible goals. To omit any discussion of them is a distortion.
So peace journalism is in favour of truth, as any must be. Of course reporters should report, as truthfully as they can, the facts they encounter; only ask, as well, how they have come to meet these particular facts, and how the facts have come to meet them.
If it’s always the same facts, or the same sorts of facts, adopt a policy of seeking out important stories, and important bits of stories, which would otherwise slip out of the news, and devise ways to put them back in. And try to let the rest of us in on the process.
Peace journalism is that which abounds in cues and clues to prompt and equip us to ‘negotiate’ our own readings, to open up multiple meanings, to inspect propaganda and other self-serving representations on the outside.