“Due to lack of time, space and resources, media concentrates on who threw the stone and does not seek out to explain the circumstances under which the stone was thrown”
Today’s modern coverage of conflict is characterised by the notion of ‘war journalism’ where the depiction of global crises thrives off sensationalism and emotion. Heavily orientated around the depiction of an ‘us’ and a ‘them’, objectivity is somewhat compromised as media outlets report in accordance with the wider society’s beliefs and ideas, wherever in the world they may be. While often unconscious, the power of the media within society and the reality of reporting is having a detrimental effect on global politics, breeding intolerance rather than understanding.
A Google search of the term ‘Iraq War’ produces a plethora of articles centered around violence, conflict and the deep cultural divide fuelled by political tensions. Despite the fact that peace keeping efforts are occurring and campaigns to curb the violence are taking place worldwide, an overwhelming amount of media coverage is centered around the war effort rather than the efforts for peace.
An interesting look at the concept of war journalism and ways in which the media can move towards peace journalism
This may be, as Wolfsfeld notes, because;
“A peace process is complicated; journalists demand simplicity. A peace process takes time to unfold and develop; journalists demand immediate results. Most of the peace process is marked by dull, tedious negotiations; journalists require drama. A successful peace process leads to a reduction in tensions; journalists focus on conflict. Many of the most significant developments within a peace process must take place in secret behind closed doors; journalists demand information and access.”
This modern journalistic practice in grounded in the consumerist nature of society where war ‘sells’ more than peace. It is the war-focused depictions of news that breed intolerance between different cultures as the ‘other’ are identified as wrong with little understanding of circumstance. It then becomes evident that while there is no doubt that journalists report on real events, the issue lies in the way stories are spun to match local sensibilities. This centers around the notion of creating an ‘us’ and ‘them’ as facts regarding events are presented in ways that oblige with the cultural sensitivities and ideas of the target audience.
This then creates a domino effect where the media-oriented nature of today’s society breeds attitudes of fear toward the ‘other‘. A war can signify both ‘a protection of national security’ and an ‘invasion from foreign forces’ depending on where you pick up the newspaper. Because these attitudes stem from global media outlets, the power to transform the methods of reporting on conflict lies heavily in the hands of those responsible. However, a transformative media requires cooperation from governments (who may then have to admit wrongdoings), wider society (who may resist conflicting depictions of their own cultural attitudes) and large media corporations (who may lose money in the process). So while we all know who threw the stone, it might take a while before someone explains why…
Ahlsen, P, 2013, Peace Journalism: How media reporting affects wars and conflicts, The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation, vol. 1, pg. 1-20,
El-Nawawy, M, Powers, S, 2010, Al Jazeera English; A conciliatory medium in a conflict driven environment?, Global Media and Communication, vol. 6(1), pg. 1-21
Puddephatt, A, 2006, Voices of War: Conflict and the role of the media, International Media Support, pg. 1-19
Shinar, D, 2007, Peace Journalism- The State of Art, Conflict and Communication Online, vol. 16, no. 1, pg. 1-7
Tehranian, M, 2002, Peace Journalism: Negotiating Global Media Ethics, The International Journal of Press/Politics, Vol. 7, no. 2, pg. 58-83