In conflict & communication online Vol. 4, No. 2, 2005, I reviewed a book edited by Martin Löffelholz (2004), War as a Media Event II. Crisis Communication in the Twenty-First Century. This provided me with an opportunity to offer an in-depth discussion of Thomas Hanitzsch's critique of peace journalism.
The main points of my critique of Hanitzsch concerned his form of argumentation, which seemed far too polemical, and so I took him to task for ignoring the relevant basic research. By peace journalism, I countered Hanitzsch, nothing more is meant de facto than competent journalism that meets the professional norms of objectivity, neutrality and truthfulness and successfully avoids slipping into propaganda and public relations. Instead of discussing this program, Hanitzsch would write against peace journalism as he understands it, "as a program of journalistic news coverage … that makes a journalistic contribution to peace and conflict resolution" - this was sufficiently vague to keep open the borders to public relations and to make what were in fact untrue imputations concerning the peace journalistic project, against which he could then take the field.
Toward the end of my review, I concluded by calling for an end to the mutual polemics and instead to commence a scientific discourse based on empirical research. Both sides can only benefit from this, and who knows, perhaps someday even Hanitzsch's prognosis could come true that no one speaks of peace journalism anymore - quite simply because the quality of journalism and journalistic training will have reached a level where it has become the rule that conflict coverage will be competent and will meet the professional norms of journalism.
With a succinct comment, "Anyone who dishes it out must also be able to take it," Thomas Hanitzsch very sportingly responded to my critique at that time and spontaneously accepted my invitation. Together we have developed the concept of the present topical issue of conflict & communication online, in which two of the most prominent critics (David Loyn and Thomas Hanitzsch) and two of the most committed advocates of peace journalism (Jake Lynch and Samuel Peleg), one of each pair a journalist (David Loyn and Jake Lynch), and one of each a social scientist (Thomas Hanitzsch and Samuel Peleg), exchange arguments. At the explicit wishes of Thomas Hanitzsch, I as editor of the journal have undertaken the task of bracketing the texts between the present editorial and a concluding synthesis. (That as with the other papers the latter was submitted to the usual peer review process goes without saying.)
That the "peace journalism controversy" in the form we conceived it could be realized is due in large measure to the energetic participation and cooperation of the authors and reviewers. Insofar as by recruiting David Loyn and Jake Lynch we succeeded in integrating into this project two experienced journalists with outstanding international reputations, conflict & communication online has also made a major step along the path to becoming not just a discussion forum for social and cultural scientists, but also to beginning a dialogue between the great variety of scientific perspectives under which conflict and communication are researched, on one hand, and practical journalistic experience, on the other.

Konstanz – Berlin
October 2007

Wilhelm Kempf

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