War Journalism and 'Objectivity'
This article opens
by considering an apparent paradox. Many professional journalists, working
on many media in many countries, consider themselves 'objective'. They
do not, at least, set out to skew their coverage of important issues in
favour of one side or the other. And yet much of their coverage of conflicts
shows a discernible dominant pattern of War Journalism - biased in favour
This is not because of a lack of objectivity, the article suggests, but
a surfeit. The set of conventions many editors and reporters regard as
defining 'objective' journalism arose in response to economic and political
conditions which rewarded news that could commend itself as unobjectionable
to the maximum number of potential customers.
Three of the most important conventions privilege official sources; a
dualistic construction of stories and event, over process. Each of these,
when applied to the representation of conflicts, leads readers and audiences
- or leaves them - to over-value violent, reactive responses and under-value
non-violent, developmental responses.
Industry conventions sit uneasily alongside equally time-honoured expectations
of journalism. These are encoded in rules and regulations governing the
content of broadcast news, in many jurisdictions which have a public service
concept for radio and television.
In some respects, War Journalism can be shown to make it more difficult
for broadcast news services to fulfil their public service obligations.
Awareness is now growing, of the tension between these two pressures on
journalism and its influence on the way pressing public debates are shaped
and mediated. More Peace Journalism would help to bring public service
news back into line with legitimate public expectations.
On the author:
Annabel McGoldrick is an experienced reporter and producer in television
and radio news. She has reported from conflict zones in Indonesia, the Philippines,
the Middle East, Thailand and Burma.
She has led training courses for professional editors and reporters in many
countries, and has taught postgraduate students at the universities of Sydney
and Queensland, Australia. Her film, News from the Holy Land (2004) and
book, Peace Journalism (2005) are published by Hawthorn Press.
She is also a trained psychotherapist specialising in trauma and the reporting