conflict & communication online, Vol. 6, No. 2, 2007
ISSN 1618-0747




Thomas Hanitzsch
Situating peace journalism in journalism studies: A critical appraisal

Most wars were not brought to our attention if there were no journalists to report on them and no news media to send reporters to conflict spots. At the same time, the media often give priority to conflict and war at the expense of playing a positive role in attempts to bring about peace. The concept of peace journalism is, therefore, seen as an alternative model to traditional ways of war reporting. This article argues, however, that the idea of peace journalism comes as old wine in new bottles. Although carrying a noble goal, it ignores the manifold nuances in the media and tends to highlight the exceptional, spectacular and negative of war coverage. The idea of peace journalism tends to overestimate the influence journalists and the media have on political decisions; and it often understands audiences in terms of a passive mass that needs to be enlightened by virtue of peace reporting. In addition to this, peace journalism is, to a considerable extent, based on an overly individualistic perspective and ignores the many structural constraints that shape and limit the work of journalists: few personnel, time and material resources; editorial procedures and hierarchies; textual constraints; availability of sources; access to the scene and information in general - just to name a few. All this suggests that the conduct of peace journalism is not a matter of individual leeway, and media structures and professional routines cannot be modified from the position of the individual journalist. Modern corporate journalism involves processes of organized news production, thus giving priority to organizational and institutional factors as well as processes of professional socialization. To have any impact on the way the news is made, and its critical scrutiny, the advocates of peace journalism must address the structural constraints of news production. The discussion of peace journalism, and particularly of its practical implications, must be tied to the realm of journalism studies where it resonates with ongoing efforts to promote excellence in journalism.


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On the author:
Dr. Thomas Hanitzsch is Assistant Professor in the Institute of Mass Communication and Media Research at the University of Zurich, Switzerland. His main areas of research are comparative media research, journalism studies and war coverage.

Address: Institute of Mass Communication and Media Research, University of Zurich, Andreasstrasse 15, 8050 Zurich, Switzerland,