Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Yes, Dear Critic, PJ is objective, achievable, vibrant

This reply is in response to a blog post from Stephanie Bosset, a photographer and journalist based in London, who “disagrees with the concept of peace journalism.” 
Dear Stephanie:
I’d like to thank you for your thoughtful post on peace journalism. While we don’t agree, there is certainly value in the discussion, and in the issues you raise.

First, like many critics of peace journalism, you misunderstand the role of PJ when  you state that “peace journalism starts to advocate for activism over impartial reporting.” In fact, this is not the case. Indeed, peace journalism’s principles embrace the traditional journalistic ideal of objectivity.

     In fact, this notion that peace journalists have abandoned their objectivity by openly advocating for peace is perhaps the most prevalent misperception about PJ. None of the literature produced by Jake Lynch, Johan Galtung, or the Center for Global Peace Journalism has ever suggested that journalists become open advocates for peace or for a particular peace plan. Instead, the literature urges journalists to put peaceful alternatives and peacemakers on the agenda—to begin a discussion.

     In their book “Reporting Conflict: New Directions in Peace Journalism,” Lynch and Galtung rebut what they call the “misconception” that peace journalists actively advocate for peace. “Peace journalism comes with no matching commitment to ensuring that violent responses get a fair hearing: as discussed, the action of the news filters ensures they seldom struggle for a place on the news agenda. On the other hand, if society is afforded opportunities to consider non-violent responses, and decides that it dislikes them, then there is nothing more that journalism can do about it, while remaining journalism.” ( )

You also state that “The methodologies prescribed by peace journalism are ideal, but also idealistic.” You’re right. Peace journalism, like true objectivity or 100% accuracy, many not be achievable in its purest form. However, the pursuit of this ideal makes us as reporters and journalism as a profession better. As my colleague Professor Shazana Andrabi (Islamic University of Science and Technology, Kashmir) so succinctly put it, “Idealistic? Yes. Elusive? Yes. Worth striving for? Of course yes!!!”

Finally, you list a number of logistical obstacles to implementing peace journalism, including time and resources needed to research more extensively, pressures by employers, danger and inaccessibility of conflict zones, etc. You are correct—these impediments are real, and make the practice of peace journalism difficult. As I have taught PJ around the world, my reporter/students and I always list and discuss the local obstacles, which vary from place to place.

Despite these obstacles, we have found that it’s always possible to implement some level of peace journalism even in the most difficult circumstances. So while resources and time may not be available to provide all of the context in a story that PJ desires, reporters attending my workshops say there is always time to get one more quote to provide a bit more context. Little things like eschewing inflammatory language are easy, and free. And even when politically charged media owners seemingly prevent journalists from balancing a story, reporters have found that it’s usually possible to add just one more quote or fact that makes a story a bit more balanced. Sometimes baby steps are the best we can do, but we think these steps toward the peace journalism ideal are worth taking.

These steps toward peace journalism are occurring around the world, in high profile outlets (New York Times/Nicolas Kristof, The Guardian) and lower profile outlets (Radio Pacis, Arua, Uganda and Rising Kashmir newspaper, in Indian-administered Kashmir). Non-traditional media (International Voices of Hope, U.S; Corresponsal de Paz, Mexico) also practice PJ. And a number of organizations have sprung up that are dedicated to spreading the peace journalism message and supporting peace journalists, including the Center for Global Peace Journalism (U.S.); Media Association for Peace (Lebanon); Pecojon (Philippines); and the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies (Australia).

Finally, I invite you to peruse the pages of the Peace Journalist magazine, which contain examples of PJ and PJ projects around the world.

Thank you again for this discussion.


Steven Youngblood
Director, Center for Global Peace Journalism
Editor, The Peace Journalist Magazine

Monday, August 17, 2015

Is the public responsible for violence journalism?

Recent tweet:
The media often show us what we want, are we responsible for #violencejournalism ?
Jillian Mourning
@ jillianmourning
Charlotte, NC

Dear Jillian, Peace Media Coop Class:

Good question.

If I as a parent feed a toddler nothing but junk food, and the child gets fat, is the toddler responsible for his obesity? Yes, the toddler likes the junk food, but does this absolve the parent of negligence?

By the same token, the media know, or think they know, what audiences like: junk news like incessant, hysterical crime coverage, inflammatory race baiting, and blow-by-blow “breaking news” coverage that lacks substance or context. 

Peace journalism would argue that journalists have a higher responsibility to inform their public in a way that allows them to be productive, responsible citizens. There’s nothing wrong with the occasional burger and fries. However, that doesn’t mean that we can shirk our responsibility to provide vegetables—substantive, contextual news that informs rather than shocks; news that objectively presents multiple perspectives ; news that offers analysis.

Media worldwide buy into the notion that audiences will only consume junk news. Research has shown this to be false. One study, by Professor Jake Lynch, shows that audiences prefer peace journalism framed stories that offer more substance than show. (See Peace Journalist magazine; page 3). Another study shows that readers prefer journalism that offers solutions rather than just spotlighting problems. 

Peace journalists, good journalists, must assume responsibility for what they report and how they report it.

Thursday, August 13, 2015


The Peace Journalist magazine is seeking submissions for our October, 2015 edition. The Peace Journalist is a semi-annual publication (print and .pdf) of the Center for Global Peace Journalism at Park University in Parkville, Missouri. The Peace Journalist is dedicated to disseminating news and information for and about teachers, students, and practitioners of peace and conflict sensitive journalism.

Submissions are welcome from all. For the next edition
of The Peace Journalist, we are seeking short submissions (300-550 words) detailing peace journalism projects, classes, proposals, academic works in the field, etc. We also welcome longer submissions (800-1200 words) about peace or conflict sensitive journalism projects or programs, as well as academic works from the field. The Peace Journalist will not run general articles about peace initiatives or projects, but rather seeks only articles with a strong peace media/peace journalism/conflict sensitive journalism angle.

Please submit your article via email to Also send a 2-3 sentence biography of the author, as well as a small head and shoulders photo of the author. In addition, please submit photos and graphics that could accompany your article.

The submission deadline is September 7. However, given the limited space available in this issue, it’s advisable to submit your article early.

Click here to see a .pdf of the April 2015 edition.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Peace Journalism: One ingredient in Kashmiri peace recipe
AWANTIPORA, INDIAN-ADMINISTERED KASHMIR—As our last peace journalism class ended at the Islamic University of Science and Technology, one student couldn’t restrain himself as he asked me the million dollar/rupee question: How would you solve the conflict in Kashmir?
I tried not to answer flippan​tly, since the question is important. However, I was honest. I responded that after two weeks in Kashmir, that of course it would be impossible for me to come up with a solution that has been elusive to the world’s best minds since 1947.
I do understand the young man’s impulse, and the feelings of everyone here who want answers and solutions to this ongoing conflict. Indeed, I was asked repeatedly during my peace journalism classes if implementing PJ would solve the crisis here. The answer, of course, is that good, responsible journalism is just one of many ingredients required for peace to occur. This led to a discussion of Dr. Johan Galtung’s principle of “positive peace,” wherein peaceful societies possess the conditions necessary for all citizens to reach their full potential. Positively peaceful societies are those without discrimination, where access to quality education and health care are rights and not luxuries, and where economic benefits are equally distributed. Peace journalists, I suggested, have a responsibility to lead societal discussions about these elements of positive peace.

Aside from the role of media in achieving peace, the second major overarching theme of my seminars and lectures inevitably veered into objectivity vs. subjectivity, whether this involves language (martyr, tragedy, oppressor) or story framing (casting or implying blame). I was reminded how difficult it is for reporters in conflict and post-conflict situations to set aside their biases. If your brother or cousin or neighbor was harassed or even killed by authorities, how can you report objectively about this? Reporting without bias may not be possible, especially here in Kashmir. But, I said, reporting as objectively as possible, presenting all sides as much as possible, is still a laudable goal.

As I told my colleagues and students at the Islamic University, it was my good fortune to have the opportunity to visit this beautiful place and to learn about the opportunities and challenges in Kashmir. We are already planning future projects that will expand the scope of peace journalism here. Based on the support we received this month, it's hard to not be hopeful for the future of PJ in this breathtaking, troubled place.

SUBMIT TO THE PEACE JOURNALIST MAGAZINE: See link for details on how to submit an article for the October edition of the Peace Journalist magazine.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Kashmir journalists debate PJ label, approaches
SRINIGAR, INDIAN-ADMINISTERED KASHMIR--SRINIGAR, INDIAN-ADMINISTERED KASHMIR--Whenever journalists get together, a spirited discussion usually follows. This was certainly the case as I met the news team yesterday at Rising Kashmir newspaper.

The meeting was organized for me to very briefly introduce the principles of peace journalism. As it turned out, it was much less presentation and much more me answering thought-provoking questions about PJ and journalism in general. 

Editor Shujaat Bukhari opened the discussion with a question about the label peace journalism. While he encourages his reporters to take a facts-based, unbiased approach, he asked if the term peace journalism was itself inflammatory and unnecessary. Bukhari said PJ principles could be simply taught as good journalism, or, just journalism.

Bukhari’s point is well taken. As practitioners and teachers of PJ have observed and written, the word peace itself is  ironically inflammatory, stirring strong emotions and conjuring distorted images of 1960’s style long haired, pot-smoking, tree hugging hippies. In the groundbreaking 2005 book Peace Journalism, Jake Lynch and Annabel McGoldrick admit that the term peace journalism doesn’t appeal to everyone, and indeed will be misunderstood as open advocacy for peace and an abandonment of the cherished journalistic notion of objectivity. Lynch and McGoldrick wrote that the strength of the term peace journalism lies in its ability to “galvanize, shake up, and send a seismic energy through sedimented layers of (journalistic) tradition, assumption, and definition.” 

Agreeing with the notion that the label peace journalism “shakes things up,” I asked Bukhari if I would have been invited to speak to his reporters if all I was peddling was plain vanilla “journalism?”
Setting aside the label discussion, Bukhari and I seemed to agree on the principles of balance and objectivity offered by the peace journalism approach. The reporters asked pointed questions about subjective terms like massacre and martyr. I suggested that if reporters use these words, they lose their objectivity.

Editor Shujaat Bukhari is in the center wearing
white; I'm on the left relaxing.
 One reporter asked, what if her cousin was murdered by the authorities—how should that be reported? I said that peace journalism, and indeed good journalism, asks that news reporters set aside their biases. Understandably, in this example, and indeed in everyday life in Kashmir, remaining unbiased is an especially tall order. Nonetheless, I suggested that she report her cousin’s death factually, without finger pointing, and in a way that gives balance to both accuser and accused. I acknowledged, however, that this is easy for me to say. I hope I would stick to my principles under such circumstances.

The discussion concluded with a more general discussion about the business of journalism and the transition from traditional to digital media. At Rising Kashmir, their website is becoming increasingly popular, and like their counterparts everywhere, they are seeking sustainable economic models that maximize their online revenues. 

Overall, I admire the work done by Rising Kashmir in not sensationalizing or irresponsibly reporting the news here under extremely difficult circumstances. They can certainly teach their colleagues in New Delhi a thing or two about responsible journalism.