Covering Violence How Should Media Handle Conflict

| September 28, 2001

Covering Violence: How Should Media Handle Conflict?

Violent conflicts pose important challenges to journalists' ability to objectively cover events. Some argue that poor reporting of violence intensifies an already volatile situation.

Danny Schechter, the executive editor of recently attended a two-day seminar on media coverage of violence hosted by Jake Lynch, of Sky News. There he learned about the ideas and work of Peace Studies Professor Johann Galtung, whose theory about problems with media coverage of violence includes 12 areas of concern. The reoccurring theme throughout all 12 is context. Violence is not just an individual act, Galtung argues, there are 'structural causes, like poverty, government neglect, and military or police repression.'

In addition to adding context, Galtung's work urges reporters to avoid reducing a conflict to two side--one of which is often villified, and to include alternatives to violence as viable options.

Though Galtung's points may seem like common sense, not all who attended the seminar agreed. Nonetheless, 'the healthy back and forth suggested that seminars like this provide a needed forum, missing in the hectic environments in which many of us work, for more reflection about how journalists work and what journalism is for,' Schechter writes.
--Sara V. Buckwitz
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