Side by side comparison:
Peace Journalism and Traditional Journalism
Peace Journalism and Traditional Journalism
Traditional “War” Reporting
Skopje, UPI—Peace talks aimed at ending the conflict in Macedonia lay in ruins last night after the massacre of eight policemen by Albanian rebels who mutilated the bodies. The atrocity took place at the mountain village of Vecje, where a police patrol was attacked with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades, said a spokesman. Six other men were wounded and three vehicles destroyed.
The bodies were cut with knives after they died, he said, and one man’s head had been smashed in. The attack was believed to be the work of the National Liberal Army terrorists from the hills near Tetevo. Ali Ahmeti, a political leader of the NLA, said that his men may have fired “in self-defense”… (From Peace Journalism, Lynch/McGoldrick, p. 58).
This is a traditional report in every way. Notice first how the writer begins with the inflammatory comment that peace talks are “in ruins.” If indeed peace talks are in ruins, this is a determination that readers should make themselves. A peace journalist would ask: what is the consequence of this kind of reporting? Does this make peace more or less possible? If peace is not possible, then one might logically conclude that violence and war is the only viable solution. This story is also unbalanced and is largely based on the claims (propaganda?) made by one government source. Notice also the emotive language that may incite and inflame.
Here is the same story, framed differently.
Peace Journalism Story
Skopje, UPI—There was condemnation across the political spectrum in Macedonia after a police patrol suffered the loss of eight men. Both the main parties representing the country’s minority Albanians distanced themselves from the killings, believed to be the work of the self-styled National Liberation Army. Ali Ahmeti, a political leader of the NLA, denied that his men had attacked the patrol, saying they may have fired “in self-defense.” But the Macedonian government said it had done nothing to provoke the machine-gun fire and rocket-propelled grenades which destroyed three trucks. A spokesman added that the bodies appeared to have been cut with knives and one man’s skull caved in … (From Peace Journalism, Lynch/McGoldrick, p. 58).
This story is much better. Notice first how instead of hopelessness, the writer highlights an area of agreement—condemnation of violence. While the violent acts aren’t ignored, they aren’t sensationalized, either. The imprecise, emotive language is gone. The story is more balanced and doesn’t present as gospel truth claims by the government spokesman.
In this second example from the NewYork Post, we see the difference between traditional journalism and peace journalism in stories about the aftermath of a school shooting.
Disgraced deputy haunted by failure at Florida school shooting
The disgraced Florida sheriff’s deputy who stayed outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School as a killer stalked its halls has spent the 90 days since the massacre wondering why he failed to save lives, according to a report.
Since the Valentine’s Day attack at the Parkland school — where 17 people were killed and 17 more injured — Peterson has lost his job with the Broward County Sheriff’s Office, been dubbed the “Coward of Broward” in local media, and been served with a lawsuit from a parent whose daughter died in the shooting.
According to the newspaper, he now spends most of his days hiding in the duplex he shares with his girlfriend, armed with a motion detector and a sheet covering his front door, replaying every minute of the shooting.
He’s re-watched surveillance footage, read witness statements, and studied dozens of pages of documents, trying to figure out what happened. Prior to the shooting, the former school resource officer mostly chased down stolen cellphones, confiscated weed, and broke up the occasional fight…
Peterson had gone to annual conferences about school shootings, taken a class on confronting active shooters and led lockdown trainings for teachers — but in the moment, he didn’t know how to react. (Lapin, 2018. Edited for length only.)
This is a traditional, sensational news report. It uses inflammatory language (“massacre”, “disgraced”, “coward”, “stalked the halls”, etc.) It strives to frame the deputy in the worst possible light (“hiding”), impugning his motives and qualifications (“chased down cell phones”). It offers no alternative explanation for his actions. It offers little of value to the reader, other than stoking hatred against the officer, who is essentially tried and convicted by the article.
Here’s a different version of the same story, pieced together with information from the Post article and another, later article on the same topic from an article in USA Today.
Peace Journalism Story
Deputy questions his actions at Florida school shooting
The Florida sheriff’s deputy on duty at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School during a shooting has spent the 90 days since the event questioning his actions, according to a report.
Reports say Peterson remained outside the school while the shooting occurred inside.
Since the Valentine’s Day shooting at the Parkland school where 17 people were killed and 17 more injured, Peterson has lost his job with the Broward County Sheriff’s Office and has been served with a lawsuit from a parent whose daughter died in the shooting.
According to the report, he now spends most of his days in the duplex he shares with his girlfriend, replaying the shooting. He’s re-watched surveillance footage, read witness statements, and studied dozens of pages of documents.
Previously, Peterson attended annual conferences about school shootings, took a class on confronting active shooters, and led lockdown trainings for teachers.
Peterson’s attorney Joseph DiRuzzo said his client has been scapegoated for what happened at the school. Vanderbilt University Sociology Professor Jonathan Metzl adds that “focusing on the actions of one person raises the risk of overlooking much bigger, systemic issues that impact mass shootings.” (Bacon, 2019)
Notice the differences in this story, starting with the headline. The inflammatory language is gone, along with the accusatory and denigrating tone. The “questioning his actions” angle is still in tact, but without the sensationalism. It offers a more balanced approach, along with an alternative perspective (scapegoating). The information on Peterson’s background is still present, but without the disparaging “he didn’t know how to react” comment.
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