This lesson comprises four parts. The first throws light on the social psychological mechanisms and specific conditions of news production. Then it illustrates the opportunities for journalists to influence public opinion. The third part asks the question of what peace journalism should be and discusses Galtung's Transcend model of the constructive transformation of conflict. Finally, the section looks at the implementation of peace journalism.
The learning activity has four main goals: (1) to introduce the social mechanisms that influence conflict coverage, (2) to demonstrate that journalists can indeed have an impact on public discourse, (3) to increase our understanding of the differences between war and peace journalism, (4) and to show that an interdisciplinary approach is necessary if we are to understand the constructive transformation of conflict.
The object of this lesson is to impart knowledge of what psychology can achieve within the framework of peace journalism . At least four questions can be asked here
This learning activity is made up of four short sections and exercises on the issues presented. Please click on the Continue button to work on the first question.
With regard to the first question on social-psychological mechanisms, we can cite some well-known findings from social psychology about how the cognitive representation of conflicts (cf. Deutsch, 1976; Kempf, 2000b) and the social structures of groups (cf. Sherif & Sherif, 1969, Deutsch, 1976) change during conflict escalation. Based on the understanding that human beings do not react to the (objective) properties of events and things in their environment per se, but rather to the (subjective) meanings they attribute to them (Blumer, 1973), Deutsch concludes that conflict escalation and the accompanying group processes are not inevitable, but instead result from the cognitive-emotional framework in which conflict is interpreted. According to Deutsch's theory, which has gained great influence in the field of conflict management (cf. Fisher & Brown, 1989; Glasl, 1994), conflict is open to being interpreted as either a competitive or a cooperative process , depending on whether it is framed with a win-lose or a win-win model . Studies of the social structures of groups show that inter-group conflict strengthens intra-group solidarity. Group members can increase their social status by taking a strong stand against the enemy. During conflicts, group members increase their identification with their group and its positions, and the degree of identification rises as conflict escalates. In conflict situations journalists do not behave like outsiders to the group, but are subject to the same intra-group mechanisms.
Summarizing these results, we conclude that: (a) journalists tend to frame conflict reports using the same types of mental models that prevail in the respective society and/or agree with the political agenda. (b) Journalists adapt the mental models with which they interpret conflict to changing political conditions and, in turn, (c) the escalation vs. de-escalation oriented framing of conflict coverage influences the media audience's mental models of conflict in the same direction.
However, in addition to these general social psychological mechanisms, the specific conditions of news production must also be considered. These include structural factors such as the type of medium, existing formats, spaces, (transmission) times, news selection criteria, editorial procedures and expectations, the economics of the media and their connections with politics and the military. The social climate also exerts pressure on journalists to take a position, because of factors including historical, cultural and geographic proximity to the conflict region and/or to the participants in the conflict. The effects of these institutional and social factors are further magnified by the situation at the location of the conflict. The availability, or lack of infrastructure and logistics, the accessibility and credibility of sources and the possibility to check information influence reporting. Further factors are the security situation in the crisis region, the dangers journalists themselves face when they report from war zones, and the group dynamics of accredited journalists on location (Bläsi, 2004, 2006).
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Do you still remember the theoretical assumptions introduced in the previous section? Don't worry if you have forgotten some of them! They will be explained in more detail in the next lesson. What we would like you to keep in mind at this point is that conflict does not automatically escalate, and escalation is related to group interpretations of conflict. Two different types of interpretation are introduced in the text.
The text states that the specific context of news production influences the role journalists play in the escalation and de-escalation of conflict.
Very good! In addition to general social psychological mechanisms such as the cognitive representation of conflicts, institutional , social and situational factors are also involved.
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With regard to the second question, the theories of Jaeger (2002a) and Moskovici (1979, 1980) can be cited. According to former, journalists can contribute to social change if they are willing to abandon existing models of journalism. According to Jaeger, reconciliation is furthered by courageous journalists and committed mass media that are not afraid to challenge both the conventional media rules and routines and the beliefs of the societal majority. Moskovici has shown that even when peace journalism is not the dominant journalistic approach, it can still make a difference. Minorities can influence public opinion if they maintain their point of view consistently against the majority. Acting on this principle, minorities may produce an internalized change of opinions based on convictions. On the other hand, we should not forget that the opportunities journalists have to influence the public are limited by the above-mentioned group processes. Censorship and self-censorship of the media are only the tip of the iceberg. As can be expected, the social pressure that journalists face is strongest in societies directly involved in conflict. But it can also be quite strong in societies which are not (yet) involved militarily. A good example is the hostility expressed during the Bosnian conflict toward Peter Handke (1996) for his report "Justice for Serbia." During the Kosovo conflict, Greek journalists who deviated from the conventional anti-NATO and pro-Serbian discourse then characteristic of the Greek media and of Greek society found themselves in a similar, though reversed situation (Kondopoulu, 2002).
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Conflict coverage can play a role in the process of conflict transformation, but various obstacles must first be overcome.
Once these barriers are overcome, peace journalism must become the predominant approach if it is to have an impact on the process.
You are right! Minorities do not need to become the majority in all cases. We have learned that even minority positions can influence public opinion by convincing the majority with logically and factually convincing arguments.
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The third question is normative and hints at what peace journalism ought to be. Thus Galtung (1998), for example, makes a distinction between violence-oriented war journalism (and/or violence journalism), on the one hand, and solution-oriented peace journalism (and/or conflict journalism), on the other. Of course, such suggestions cannot simply be plucked out of thin air; they require a theoretical basis, which in this specific case can be provided by Galtung's Transcend model of the constructive transformation of conflict (cf. Graf & Bilek, 2000). However, in addition to the theoretical basis of the suggestions, there is also the question of whether they are realizable.
Let us work through the different orientations that Galtung considers in his model.
Please click the arrow button to see an overview of the differences between war journalism and peace journalism as elaborated in this exercise
|War and/or Peace Journalism||Peace and/or Conflict Journalism|
|I. War and/or violence oriented||I. Peace and/or conflict oriented|
|II. Propaganda oriented||II. Truth oriented|
|III. Elite oriented||III. People oriented|
|IV. Victory oriented||IV. Solution oriented|
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The three previous lessons lead directly to our fourth question and, as with the previous questions, what is required here is not just a contribution from psychology. Thus Galtung, for example, shows that the criteria for the selection of news already provide a cognitive framework that permits a picture of reality to emerge which divides the world into elite countries and peripheral countries — and thus at the same time into good and evil. Terrible things occur at the periphery: catastrophe, violence, war, and the elites of wealthy countries seem to offer assistance and peace (cf. Galtung, 1998). The implementation of peace journalism therefore also calls for a fundamental change in how the media function. As this necessarily implies a change in the journalistic viewpoint, and with it a change in journalists' perceptions, this question of media sociology, too, is very closely associated with social-psychological questions. Fundamental peace journalism research is necessarily transdisciplinary.
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In terms of implementing peace journalism , one should take into account that various disciplines are making fruitful contributions.
1. Please fill in the blanks with the appropriate terms.
The implementation of peace journalism is essentially transdisciplinary.
In the following lesson we will take a closer look at the theoretical assumptions of peace journalism. Please click on the arrow button.
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