Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Peace Journalism research highlights conference

At the International Peace Research Association conference in Tsu, Japan, presenters discussed many aspects of peace journalism. See previous post for details from the first few days of the conference. Here are some presentation highlights from the last part of the get-together:

Media coverage of UN peacekeeping in DRC: In a presentation titled “Bad news with little context”, Virgil Hawkins analyzed NY Times coverage of peacekeeping in the Democratic Republic of Congo. His first finding was that there was little coverage—only 43,000 words over a three year period. By comparison, 49,000 words worth of coverage were printed during one week of the recent Gaza conflict. Second, Hawkins found that 23,000 of the 43,000 word total of DRC peacekeeping coverage was negative, focusing on failures, attacks on peacekeepers, etc. As his title implies, the Times coverage was context free, again focusing predominantly on specific incidents.

Human wrongs journalism: Ibrahim Shaw examined U.S., British, and French newspaper coverage of the NATO intervention in Iraq. His thesis was that converging media and political/corporate interests have led to a war journalism framing. Interestingly, he told the gathering that the struggle for oil skewed coverage in favor of NATO intervention, and that media all too often simply accept what they are told by authorities. Shaw also discussed how NATO’s intervention was a failure in humanitarian terms, but that this aspect of the intervention was ignored or glossed over by the media.

Reporting on the legal aspects of the use of drones: Researcher Rune Ottosen looked at whether two newspapers, The New York Times and a Norwegian newspaper called Aftenposten, address the legal issues raised by America’s drone wars. His analysis concluded that the legal issues were largely ignored in news coverage over a six month period, and that editorial consideration of the topic wasn’t much better, with only one column in each newspaper examinining this vital issue.

Media as Bridge Builders: In this session, Matthias Mogekwu talked about moving beyond content analysis and considering other models of examining media. He suggested looking at conflicts using an interpersonal communications approach—that is, applying interpersonal communication elements like listening and perspective to larger national and international contexts and conflicts.

Making sense of the crisis in the 2011 horn of Africa: Julia Hoffmann, in this presentation, discussed her study of U.S., African, and online media coverage of the crisis. She began by presenting criticisms of humanitarian crisis reporting, including negativity, emphasis only on acute phases, tribalizing, ethnocentrism, and passive victimization. Hoffmann’s research indicated, among other things, a heavy reliance on non-African sources by reporters, the invisibility of non-elite sources, and a tendency by U.S. media to suddenly lose interest in the story.

At the media and peace plenary, there were three participants. In the first, Ibrahim Shaw discussed how media framed the Arab Spring. He said the coverage clung to an event orientation, providing reporting without context in part to feed the 24 hour news cycle. Shaw showed several British TV reports from the Libyan revolution, and took them to task for failing to reveal that the events covered therein were actually managed media events.

In the second plenary, Julia Hoffmann spoke about the consequences of the prevailing war journalism, including compassion fatigue, societal inertia, the vulnerability of journalists to manipulation and propaganda, and the pre-emption of non-violent responses to conflict. She also presented a communication for peace model that showed peace journalism’s relationship to other elements such as media law, journalism education, public information, and new media.

The final plenary speaker was Jake Lynch, who presented his research, “A Global Standard for Reporting Conflict”. One strategic objective of his research, he said, is to supply evidence to donors that the peace journalism approach does indeed deliver results. Lynch continued his presentation in the peace journalism commission session by noting that his trans-national research does indeed demonstrate that peace journalism has a measurable impact on TV news audiences. For example, in South Africa, research subjects were divided into two groups. One group was shown a story with a peace journalism frame, while the other saw a report with a more traditional war framing. Both stories were about the same topic, a tragic series of rapes in South Africa. Viewers of the war story tended to blame individuals for the crime and to favor punitive solutions. Viewers of the peace-framed TV story were more likely to blame the rapes on systematic causes, and tended to favor cooperative solutions to the problem. In short, Lynch’s research demonstrates the peace journalism approach meaningfully impacts audiences.

Professor Komagum ebook and print book now available

Professor Komagum, my book about teaching peace journalism in Uganda, is now available in print, in full ebook, and in an ebook preview (the first 100 pages for only 99 cents). Click here to get yours today.

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