conflict & communication online, Vol. 8, No. 2, 2009
ISSN 1618-0747




Dov Shinar & Wilhelm Kempf (eds.) (2007). Peace Journalism: The State of the Art. Berlin: regener.

The present book deals with the concept of peace journalism from various perspectives. The first part gives an overview of the theoretical approaches that underlie peace journalism. In the second part, concrete examples of existing news discourses are analyzed and peace journalistic vs. war journalistic representations are compared. The third part deals with the practical implementation of peace journalism and presents modules for peace journalistic training. In the fourth part, Dov Shinar summarizes these contributions and draws concrete conclusions.
In the first part of the book, Annabel McGoldrick examines the connection between the usual conventions of journalistic objectivity and their predisposition to a "war journalistic" representation. Systematic distortions arise from the framework conditions of journalistic work, e.g., dependency on official sources. The requirement of brevity in news reports constrains the opportunity to give background information. Dualistic reportage favors the interpretation of conflict as a zero-sum game. McGoldrick provides arguments for why we need peace journalism in order to uphold the claim of freedom of the press and what constraints and influences hinder truly objective reportage.
Samuel Peleg elucidates the concept of peace journalism from the viewpoint of conflict theory. On the basis of news examples from the conflict fields of the Basque region, Northern Ireland and Israel-Palestine, he illustrates Galtung's conflict triangle and Schattschneider's contagion model and demonstrates how reportage has effects on the interpretation of the opponent's actions. He contrasts to the analysis of conventional reportage three articles that are characterized by balanced, solution-oriented reportage. He concludes from his studies that there is no one-dimensional connection between peace journalism and conflict theory, but rather that these two areas can mutually enrich each other.
Susan Dente Ross relativizes the negative picture of the current news discourse and clarifies the conditions that influence the work of journalists. She provides an extensive overview of the existing media landscape in which conflict reportage occurs. Thereby she distinguishes between war media and peace journalism. In war media conflicts are seldom represented neutrally, but rather often distorted due to direct pressure from governments in accord with the dominant political perspective. Often win-lose or us-them representations can be found that ignore or underrate the chances for peace. Peace journalism to the contrary has various facets: Peace journalists try to bring neglected perspectives into conflict reportage and to provide more extensive information. Characteristic is a neutral and critical distance from all the participating parties that extends to the solution-oriented examination of a conflict. Insofar as media steer public attention to negotiations and improve the information exchange between conflict parties, peace journalism can have a peace-supporting effect.
Robert A. Hackett takes up criticism of peace journalism and explains how it can fulfill its normative claims. He compares the Hermann & Chomsky propaganda model with the Shoemaker & Reese "hierarchy of influences" model in regard to their respective limitations and advantages and supplements the analysis of the two models with a critical evaluation of the social-theoretical viewpoint of Bourdieu & Foucault, whose model is less linear and more discursively designed. In conclusion he offers considerations of how a media system would have to be constituted in order to make it easier to implement peace journalism and how one can achieve these structural preconditions.
In the second part of the book, Lea Mandelzis examines the conflict reportage of two Israeli newspapers after the signing of the Oslo Accords and supplements this analysis with interviews of political decision-makers Shimon Peres, Yossi Beilin and Ron Pundak. On the basis of the representation of the conflict, the conflict parties and the possible solutions, she thereby distinguishes four types of reportage: war, peace, reconciliation and harmony reportage. She finds these types at respectively different points in time over the course of events. The interview data reveal the importance of the context for the acceptance of peace journalistic reportage.
Rune Ottosen focuses on the importance of visual aspects of reportage. He clarifies their effect not only with the example of the Mohammed caricatures that appeared in the Danish newspaper Jyllands Posten, but also with a comparison of the representation in the media of coffins during the repatriation of US soldiers from the Iraq war in the winter of 2004 with that during the 2005 tsunami catastrophe. He argues that the power of visual elements in reportage is not to be underestimated, because people remember visual impressions better than verbal ones and tend to recognize what they visually perceive as a representation of reality as true. Beyond this, pictures represent a shortcut to our emotions and are especially preferred as an information source by young people. At the end of his article he offers practical suggestions for the implementation and visual support of peace journalism.
Wilhelm Kempf describes two experiments that investigate the acceptance of peace journalism by the readers of supra-regional and regional presses. In both cases the research material consists of newspaper texts about events during the Yugoslavian conflict. The first experiment additionally measured how the type of reportage is mirrored in the cognitive models that readers form of the reported events. It was found that peace journalistic texts are accepted to the same extent as conventional journalism and that they also lead to a less polarized conflict perception on the side of the recipients.
In the third part of the book, Jake Lynch gives instructions, organizational tips and assignment examples for peace journalistic training. On the basis of a case study of reportage on the 2005 conflicts in the Philippines he juxtaposes the actual war reportage with peace journalism and supplements these practical examples with information on the theoretical fundamentals that peace journalistic instruction should include. To this belong, among other things, knowledge of structural violence, conflict dynamics, objectivity, journalistic ethics and propaganda.
Beverly Keever focuses on the linguistic elements of conflict reportage. She tries to make journalists aware of the thoughtless, inappropriate employment of violence-imbued formulations and trivializing euphemisms like "collateral damage." Keever thereby draws on a 2005 presentation by political scientist Glenn Paige at the University of Hawaii and describes how students work with Paige's principles of "non-killing" journalism, in that they, e.g., search for euphemisms in the Internet and develop original alternatives to a vocabulary of violence.
Summarizing the preceding book chapters, Dov Shinar gives a balance of book's theme by naming some of the difficulties that face the realization of peace journalism and presents an agenda for how to contribute to the improvement of the situation.
Peace Journalism: The State of the Art is a successful compilation of various approaches to and topic complexes of the subject of peace journalism. The volume stands out in particular because abstract theoretical concepts are illustrated with concrete examples.
Not only are the theories elucidated, criticized and evaluated, they are also analyzed in regard to their relevance for the practical implementation of peace journalism. The empirical works show that peace journalistic approaches already exist and meet with a quite positive response from the public. The analysis of the case examples gives tangible reference points for factors that could be beneficial in the implementation of a peace discourse, and the examples of concrete pedagogical application excellently supplement the theoretical section.
With this multi-perspective collection the volume offers a thoroughly interesting reading that is refreshing due to the individual signatures of the different authors. The contributions are not only informative and stimulating for peace scholars of every subject orientation, but also for journalists and especially for instructors in journalistic training.
Anyone who is looking for a comprehensive book on the topic of peace journalism with high theoretical standards, exciting empirical facts and clear instructions for action in practical engagement, not only in conflict reportage, but also in journalistic training, will find that this book is more than worth its price

Monika Spohrs




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); On the News Value of Peace Journalism - Results of an experimental study (2006).


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