This paper contains
some initial insights from a long-term study of German post-war press
coverage about France and the French from 1946 until 1970. The method
chosen was quantitative content analysis. The study is based on a news
factors model of mass communication proposed by Johan Galtung. According
to him, news factors determine the selection of events that become news.
But routines of news selection may actually deepen conflicts instead of
containing them or making them negotiable without violence by providing
a better understanding of the conflict background. In the post-war period
they could instead create obstacles to increased mutual understanding
and reconciliation. But how does post-war news coverage actually look?
Did the mass media display a willingness to make changes in their coverage?
The case of the French-German reconciliation process, which can be regarded
as successful, shows that peace processes can in fact be covered by the
media in a constructive manner: For example, this is the case if the number
of "positive" topics and the amount of coverage they receive
is consistently higher than that of the "negative." The number
of non-elite topics increased in the study period, revealing much about
the rising German interest in and fascination for the French way of life
and culture. The study shows that a "bad-news-orientation" is
not inevitable, but can be actively overcome if peace and reconciliation
are placed on the public agenda.
On the author: Susanne Jaeger, Dipl. Psych., born 1966 in Würzburg. Studies of psychology and sociology at the University of Konstanz. Since 1999 a member of the Peace Research Group at the University of Konstanz, she is currently working in a project on "News media as mediators of democratization, peace-building and reconciliation in post-war societies" and writing her doctoral thesis on the performance of the German press during the German-French reconciliation process after World War II.
Address: Fachgruppe Psychologie, Universität Konstanz, D-78457 Konstanz.