conflict & communication online, Vol. 4, No. 2, 2005
ISSN 1618-0747




Monika Spohrs
On the News Value of Peace Journalism - Results of an experimental study

According to news value research, the decision on whether a news article should be published and subsequently will be read by the audience is dependent on the news factors of the relevant events. Examples of news factors are negativity, simplification and personification. Peace journalistic works often differ from some of these criteria in trying to describe the events in all their complexity and without focussing on negative events, considering structural topics as well. But are they therefore less worth being published?
On the basis of an experimental study, the following article demonstrates how peace journalism can be accepted by the reader, despite contradicting some of the theories of news value research. Furthermore it describes the impact of constructive coverage on the readers' mental models of the conflict and the relationship between the two results.
In the following study, news articles on three different events in former Yugoslavia were presented to a sample of n = 128 subjects, representative for the German quality press with respect to age and level of education. The experimental material consisted of three original moderately escalation oriented articles of a German quality newspaper (Die Welt, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Süddeutsche Zeitung), that is to say one for each of the three events, and three different modifications of each original: (a) with moderately de-escalation oriented framing, (b) with strongly de-escalation oriented framing, and (c) with increased escalation oriented framing of the events.
Each subject had to read one text version on each of the three events and subsequently renarrate the content of the articles in their own words. In addition, a questionnaire concerning the acceptance, credibility, balance, news content, evaluation and entertaining function of the texts had to be completed. The subjects' mental models of the events were reconstructed by means of quantitative content analysis.
The results of this study advocate the publication of peace journalistic articles. De-escalation oriented text versions were in no case accepted to a lesser degree than the original ones and the de-escalation oriented framing of the conflicts had an impact on the participants' mental models.



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On the author:
Monika Spohrs, born 1965 in Eppstein/ Germany. 1999-2006 studies of Psychology und Media Science at the University of Konstanz, Germany. Since 2002 member of the Peace Research Group at the University of Konstanz. Special areas of interest: Experimental reception research. Recent publications: Reception and acceptance of constructive conflict coverage - Design of an experimental Study (with Ute Annabring, 2004); Glaubwürdigkeit und Attraktivität von eskalations- und deeskalationsorientierten Nachrichtentexten (with Burkhard Bläsi, Susanne Jaeger and Wilhelm Kempf, 2005).

Address: Department of Psychology, University of Konstanz, D-78457 Konstanz, Germany.