Picture this: You’re in the middle of the bustling city of Manhattan, New York, U.S. An elderly woman cautiously awaits the changing of a brightly lit walk sign. Although her spirits are forever young, her body is slowing, making ordinary tasks, such as crossing the street tedious and scary. A young gentleman — on his way to meet his wife for lunch, let’s say — notices the inkling of fear within the older woman and asks if she needs assistance. The woman complies, they cross the street and part ways, never to cross paths again. Unfortunately, the news of this simple gesture of kindness and peace would never make the front page — or even be a headline of substance — of a newspaper, such as The New York Times.
Now, imagine the same scenario — only this time, the man approaches the elderly woman, steals her purse and darts between the hundreds of passersby. This, apparently, is newsworthy, and the man ends up in the next morning’s edition of the paper in an article about a robbery. But why do acts of wrongdoing and violence trump acts that are humane and benevolent?
In today’s world, murders, terrorism, robbery and crime in general often overshadow acts of kindness and good faith. Our society is fixated on violence, and publications find high readership with articles that entail mental and physical devastation. But again we ask, “Why?” It doesn’t have to be this way.
Peace journalism, an approach that is foreign to most contemporary journalists, is another option. Using word choice that is anti-inflammatory and story angles that show different sides of traditional news articles, peace journalists strive to shed light on things that emit more positivity.
Defined in their book Peace Journalism as “when editors and reporters make choices — of what to report, and how to report it — that create opportunities for society at large to consider and value nonviolent responses to conflict,” authors Jake Lynch and Annabel McGoldrick hope to inspire more reporters to dig deeper into the stories behind the stories. For example, choose to write about civilians of a war-torn country and how it affects their daily lives. Or, file a feature on Afghan mothers living their lives in the absence of their husbands because of an ongoing war. Or, what about a write-up that focuses on raising a child in a time of conflict? It could be a story of trials and successes.
Using word choice that is anti-inflammatory and story angles that show different sides of traditional news articles, peace journalists strive to shed light on things that emit more positivity.
When it comes to peace journalism, the example of war coverage is often used. Reporting on combat across the globe can often be misleading and force readers to develop a mental preference of one of the two sides of the story. However, with a peace journalism approach, reporters and editors build an awareness of nonviolence taking place amidst the violence.
The incorporation of peace journalism into our media will continue to be up-and-coming. But as it grows, “If it bleeds, it leads,” will soon be more strongly counteracted by “If it heals, it reveals.”