Friday, November 17, 2017

Inadequate coverage underscores need for PJ approach
Studies about press coverage of recent events in Las Vegas and Puerto Rico confirm the inadequacy of traditional news reporting while they underscore the need for peace journalism.

Both studies were conducted by the left-leaning media analysis organization Media Matters.

The first study confirms what every viewer of cable news knows: that coverage of major events essentially ends shortly after these events cease being “breaking news.” The first chart (right) shows how coverage dropped off the table within two weeks of Hurricane Maria, and notes how this is similar to “lackluster” media coverage of Flint soon after reports surfaced about dangerous lead levels in the city’s drinking water.

The second study about coverage of the Las Vegas shooting mirrors the news coverage pattern of Puerto Rico: lots of segments for a seven days or so, followed by almost complete silence a week later. (See chart, left) Even worse, the Las Vegas coverage was dominated by nuts-and-bolts “breaking news,” and featured little reporting about gun policies or other solutions to mass shootings. (See chart, below) 

These studies, and similar studies in the past, confirm several facts that every news consumer knows:  Media have a short attention span, and are quick to move on to the next “breaking” story. Also, news coverage often omits context, and causes and solutions are frequently ignored or marginalized.  We’re good at the superficial, and not as good at the substantive.

Peace journalism offers an antidote. Its principles encourage journalists to lead a societal discussion about not just problems, but about solutions as well. PJ asks reporters to avoid superficial “blow by blow” or “play by play” style coverage, and instead seek context behind the sensational words and images of downed power lines (Puerto Rico) and bloody victims (Las Vegas). 

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