Good journalism or peace journalism?
This paper argues
against the prescriptive notions of Peace Journalism, and in particular
its exclusive nature and attempt to define itself as a new orthodoxy.
Most of the paper is a critique of the work of Jake Lynch and Annabel
McGoldrick, in a book published in 2005, as well as their earlier Reporting
the World series. They condemn all other ways of reporting as 'War
Journalism, biased in favour of war.' I argue instead that the opposite
of Peace Journalism is good journalism.
Much of this Peace Journalism argument is derived from the work of Johan
Galtung, who accuses 'war journalists' of reporting war in an enclosed
space and time, with no context, concealing peace initiatives and making
wars 'opaque/secret.' Galtung specifically calls on journalists as part
of their mission to search out peace proposals which might begin as something
small and beneath notice, but which might then be picked up and owned
by politicians as their own. My response is clear and simple: creating
peacemaking politicians is not the business of a reporter.
I examine the traditional journalistic methods of using objectivity to
get at a version of the truth. I concede that perfect truth is unattainable,
(and paradoxically the tool of objectivity we use to get there is slippery
too.) I conclude that a more quotidian truth, or 'truthfulness' is though
a manageable goal. I engage with philosophers who examine objectivity,
concluding with the assistance of Thomas Nagel that it does still have
a value. Nagel's account also has the merit of explaining how practices
such as peace-reporting are bound to be less objective than alternatives,
'since they commit themselves to the adoption of particular perspectives,
in effect giving up on the ideal of stripping away as much
I examine the responses of the so-called 'journalism of attachment' framed
as a desire of journalists faced by the horrors of Bosnia to cast off
impartiality and emotional detachment and take sides in their reporting.
I argue that holding onto objectivity could be a useful vaccine against
the relativism of 'attached journalists'.
I conclude with a detailed examination of two case studies, Kosovo, and
Northern Ireland, arguing that in these complex visceral conflicts, the
solution to known problems is better application of old tools, not a new
In the twenty-first century the world has moved on from the classic Clausewitzian
vision of war as a continuation of politics 'by other means', to a situation
where threats of asymmetric conflicts will continually wrong-foot diplomatic
solutions, as they are normally constructed, as well as conventional armies
- 'war amongst the people' in the new jargon. The tools of the reporter
need to be sharpened not altered.
On the author:
David Loyn has been a foreign correspondent for more than 25 years, mostly
with the BBC. He is one of only two journalists to win both of Britain's
leading awards in television and radio news - Sony Radio Reporter of the
Year and Royal Television Society Journalist of the Year.
He has considerable experience of conflicts including Angola, Kashmir, Afghanistan,
Kosovo, Bosnia and Iraq. After a period as Delhi Correspondent in the mid-90's
he was appointed the BBC's Developing World Correspondent based in London.
His book Frontline the true story of the British mavericks who
changed the face of war reporting was short-listed for the 2006 Orwell
Prize. He is currently writing a history of foreign engagement in Afghanistan.
Address: Room 2505, TV Centre, Wood Lane, London W12 7RJ, UK. Telephone:
+44 (0)20 8624 8458