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Deliberation and Exposure to Differences: The Importance of “Hearing the Other Side”

The below is adapted from my book on deliberative communication. A full citation appears on the “deliberation issues” page.

One of the key issues for the news media, either print or broadcast, with respect to its contribution to deliberation is its ability to expose people to the other side of a conflict. This is an essential component of any conflict-resolving endeavor on the part of the media. Ethnopolitical conflicts face the problem of cognitive and moral differences that emerge from different conceptual frameworks used by different cultural groups. These differences can undermine the possibility of finding common ground. It is true that different conceptual frameworks surface from a lack of common ground and the different moral and cognitive grounds are greatest between groups with the greatest cultural and political differences. But the first requirement for invigorating the discourse of opposing views is exposure to the other side, or exposure to disagreement. The media in a conflict can play a particularly important role in exposing one party to the arguments, perspectives, and emotions of the other side.

Exposure to conflicting groups with different political and conceptual moral domains is the essence of the media’s role in the deliberative and democratic process. It is the media’s most fundamental contribution to conflict resolution. Peace and conflict resolution does not depend on similarity among conflicting parties because such a condition will never be met. Rather, the ability to create meaningful discourse between divergent groups is most important. The psychological tendency to balkanize and polarize ourselves is powerful and has become a concern to conflict specialists as a result of increasing tendencies toward emphasizing differences and distinctions. The press has been increasingly remiss at stimulating significant discussion across differences and people retreat into media enclaves and are exposed to different political discourse. In general, as Mutz (2006) reports, exposure to divergent opinions is a positive quality of democratic values because it helps people understand the arguments and rationales for those who think differently. And democratic values are even more encouraged when people actually reach across differences and try to engage others. True, that engaging those who are different than us can be dangerous and risk termination of the relationship, but the rewards are considerable if the risk is overcome. The elite press in particular must confront the effects of fewer opportunities to learn about others by making conflicting discourses available to its audience.

Hearing the other side, which makes one aware of legitimate and defensible arguments from the other side, also improves tolerance for differences. The ability to see more than one side of an issue translates into tolerance because recognition of a defensible argument makes it easier to accept the argument or lend it credence. I may not accept the opposing argument in the full sense of the word, but I can tolerate it. I will be more willing to compromise my own position and extend recognition to the other. This tolerance for differences is invigorated should the differing parties to a conflict have any sort of personal relationship. Typically during protracted ethnopolitical conflicts, where peace processes are often started and stopped, the participants to the conflict have contact with one another which results in trust improvement and some sense of a personal relationship. This development of even an imperfect personal relationship between “enemies” can weaken the identity-based differences between the two and lessen the probability of conflict erupting because of differences. Even a small personal tie will contribute to tolerance.

By demanding that the media expose publics to disagreement and different opinions, I am not suggesting that the media fail if they do not meet an idealized standard of perfect balance. Such balance is probably impossible to define, let alone attain. And it is impossible to impose such a requirement on any one news outlet. It is probably true, however, that the marketplace of ideas works well enough as long as there is sufficient diversity and competition in the information environment. Competition for news and information is effective and clear ideas will find their way into both conflicting communities. The crucial factors for a deliberative media are competition and diversity. When opposing viewpoints contend shared values are more likely to emerge. The online environment poses an interesting example because as Wojcieszak and Mutz (2009) discovered, exposure to the others who disagree occurs more with nonpolitical groups. They studied chat rooms and message boards and discovered that politically oriented networks tended to agree with one another in the first place. Thus, one is more likely to be exposed to political disagreement in casual networks not devoted to politics.

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Right-Wing Blood and Soil Nationalism in London

Just a few days ago I returned from a conference in London (the International Communication Association). Reading the local newspapers is one of the pleasures of international travel. I thoroughly enjoy immersing myself in the local issues and journalistic agendas of wherever I am. Of course such “news of the world” is easily available these days online, but I reserve regular online reading for a few particular favorites. In any case, in reading the English newspapers I was struck by the resurgence of the English Defense League (EDL).

The EDL is a right-wing movement, characterized by all the standard fears of foreigners and militaristic jingo we have come to expect from these groups. The EDL is particularly anti-Islam and has been reenergized recently by the large-scale immigration of Muslims into Europe and in particular by the murder of Lee Rigby. Briefly, the EDL has much in common with sports hooliganism but has developed into a right-wing nationalist group that calls for the support of particular political parties and mobilizes up to 3000 supporters when necessary. Little is known about their membership or actual size but they have been successful at gaining public attention in turning out larger crowds.

I asked two British colleagues about the EDL and one said they were a minor nuisance and not to be particularly concerned about. The other said their influence was growing and we should definitely pay attention to them. I think we always need to “keep our eye on these groups” even if they do not seem to be effective. They are associated with violence and other groups such as fascists, racists, and violent civil disobedience. The EDL has been accused of burning down mosques, fire bombings, ugly graffiti, and all sorts of provocative street behavior designed to incite violence.

An interesting reason for the resurgence of the EDL, according to an article in The Guardian and a few other analyses, is that the press in general and the population is more put off by Islam and sympathetic to Islamophobia. The media are generally full of hostile attitudes about Islam and Muslims whereas in the past they were more sympathetic to targeted groups such as Jews. The EDL has all of the organizational and discursive standards of highly nationalistic groups whose particular ideology is rooted in racism but flowers in immigration laws. These groups are in serious conflict with democratic values and can represent harsh blood and soil nationalism. The possibilities of violence are always present in these groups and things get tense very quickly.

The Home Secretary, for example, last week was asked to ban the invitations for two right-wing American speakers whom the EDL invited to speak. On June 29 the EDL is planning a march on Armed Forces Days as a show of military might and militaristic symbolism in support of “pure” English culture. The two American speakers are Pamela Geller leader of the American Freedom Defense Initiative and Robert Spencer who manages a Jihad watch website.

Violence is the most defining characteristic of these groups and is justifiable grounds for preventing speech. Even though extreme opinions are not by themselves necessarily dangerous, they are typically the inducement to violence. Unfortunately, over the last few years we have increasingly defined others as “enemies.” This language immediately categorizes the other as more extreme and potentially dangerous and hence justifies more extreme behaviors. The word “enemy” is the language of the military and responsible for the ethos of undemocratic and morally indefensible tactics.

Through the growing network of television and new media it’s easier to reach large audiences by organizations like the EDL. Moreover, the immediacy of new media keeps emotional intensity stimulated and makes it easier to continue the vision of politics as warfare. The maintenance of principles for free expression will always require nuance and disagreement, but we should never lose our outrage for extremism wrapped up as nationalism.

What’s Happening in This Picture?

It’s always a legitimate question to ask whether or not a photograph is telling the truth.

Mideast Israel Palestinians
This photograph was captioned by Time magazine on April 29, 2013. It is reproduced here from Hariman and Lucaites’ No Caption Needed. The photo was slightly enhanced but apparently within journalistic limits.The original caption had an incorrect date and location and although such mistakes can be important it is not my concern at the moment.

You can see, however, that there are additional issues at stake. If you look closely the man being restrained by the police is rubbing his eyes and the one soldier is holding a spray can and pointing it toward him. The restrained man apparently resisted and the soldiers resorted to spraying something in his eyes. You can actually see a small cloud of the spray coming from the canister.

Every time I see one of these photographs I’m reminded of the Eddie Adams photograph of the Saigon chief of police holding a gun to the head of a Vietcong and about to pull the trigger. You can see it here.
Eddie Adams Photo of Vietcong

This is a Pulitzer prize-winning photograph. Regardless of what you think of the picture it is a powerful and compelling moment that communicates the tension and anxiety just before the instance of having your brains blown out.

The photograph has been associated with lawlessness and the street justice that took place during the Vietnam War and rightfully so. But the man who was shot was a known Vietcong sympathizer who apparently had committed violent acts of his own and was far from innocent. Again, I am not in any way defending the street lawlessness portrayed in the photograph but it is helpful to know what happened immediately before the moment of the photograph. Israelis often complain about a lack of context or understanding about what preceded an Israeli military incursion and that using tanks as weapons is usually a response to earlier aggression rather than an initiative. It is typical for newspapers around the world to show for example an Israeli tank destroying a house and leaving it at that – with the conclusion that Israel is engaging in excessive force. The Israelis are always chagrined at how no one asks who was in that house and what preceded the tank attack. It’s a matter of context.

We might ask the same question about the fellow rubbing his eyes and the soldier holding a spray can. I presume the soldiers are trying to disable the man so that he is no longer a threat.The caption for this picture could have read “Israeli police pepper-spray protester” and directed attention to perhaps improper behavior on the part of the police. Or, the caption could have read “man being arrested” and framed the protester as a criminal.

Lucaites and Hariman (see No Caption Needed link above) elaborate on the role of captions by pointing out that they can tell you what to think about as well as tell you what to ignore. Moreover, it’s interesting to note that this photograph is typically cast as an Israeli “peace image.” Such a classification equates peace with security which, on the one hand, is consistent with the Israeli sense of existential threat that it lives with on a daily basis. Yet, it is not an image of a warm peace rooted in cooperation and mutuality.

Images are powerful and persuasive. The public often forgets that images are designed for particular audiences on the basis of the message they express. Sometimes these designs are highly calculated and represent strategies to reinforce or create new attitudes. The role of images in the peace process – the strategic role – remains reasonably unexamined. There are, for example, moral questions that still challenge the best practices of using photographic images.

The Deficient Traditional News–and Then There are Blogs

To the dismay of many communication scholars, the Internet and forms of new media have not become very effective mass communication outlets. Most websites do not reach as many people as television or other traditional forms of media. It is true that some blogs have become more effective than traditional media and this is because they satisfy reader needs and help compensate for the deficiencies in the typical press. An interesting article pertaining to these matters appears here. The article makes the case that the media fail to reach standards of democratic expectations as well as not living up to their own professional expectations. There are four reasons for a deficient traditional media and I will describe and elaborate on these four below.

1. The author of the article in the link above (Deva Woodly) begins by making the point that too much of the press originates with public officials and represents elite opinion. This charge has been leveled for some time and charges the press with hegemonic political communication. The press is owned by influentials who have interests in managing the debates in society. The solution to this problem is for more information and dissent to bubble up from the populace. I think this happens more than the author realizes but remains a difficult process. The relationship between the press and a democratic community is often characterized as a conversation. In other words, an exchange where elites and owners present ideas which are responded to in an effort to continue the conversation. The conversation metaphor is appealing but strained.

2. The second symptom of an anemic press is the emphasis on entertainment and titillation designed to attract viewers. Again this point has been made numerous times and is a standard criticism. It carries plenty of truth but it applies less to quality press then to the numerous press outlets available in the United States. It is true enough that news has increased its entertainment value but the literate reader and consumer of news can find serious information-based news sources easily enough. Moreover, a new story will focus on celebrity personality over deep analysis of social conditions but again these analyses can be found even if it increases the burden on the consumer. It is more common to leave consumers on their own to fend for themselves in finding quality news.

3. One of the most basic principles of American journalism is objectivity even though any high school senior knows that true objectivity is impossible. Still, objectivity can be at least approached or remain an ideal to strive for when the story calls for a straightforward narrative. I have always thought the burden on the news reporter for objectivity is too great. He or she is required to adopt a neutral pose and take a position on a story that is usually contrary to their instincts. There is a difference between bias and perspective – where bias is conscious distortion and manipulation – but perspective is just fine. Some media environments for example in European countries avoid the appearance of objectivity altogether by stating their perspective upfront and expecting the reader to realize the perspective of the press outlet. So, one will choose to read a communist newspaper or conservative newspaper realizing altogether that these perspectives are present. The literate consumer purposely seeks out the Communists press or the conservative press in order to see what they are thinking. This is a more uses and gratifications approach to reading the news because the consumer is making active intellectual choices. I prefer this approach to news.

4. And, according to Woodly, media consolidation is the fourth deficiency of so much news. The media market is dominated by a few large corporations and this is a disturbing development for democracy. This is the result of the tension between the news media and their commercial profit-making interests as opposed to their responsibilities for an informed citizenry. The influence of corporate parents can be even more insidious as the corporation directs the news. Profitability and bottom-line concerns are truly troubling but there’s also little that can be done. News organizations must turn a profit and size is sometimes an advantage in terms of the development of new products and administrative ease.

Traditional media is still powerful and reaches more people than other forms of media. But the blog sphere and the easy availability of user generated content is influential on the structure of political communication. For example, some traditional media use websites and twitter messages to circulate new ideas and influence the debates including what counts as newsworthy. New social media are increasingly an effective pathway to more powerful media and help amateur users influence the issues. Finally, some research seems to indicate that blogs are more argument and evidence-based. This clearly has the potential to expand political knowledge and turn blogs into a more commonly accessed resource.

Trends in Digitial Technology and Palestinian Media

The data below show interesting trends with respect to media use and news. The data were reported in the Journalist Resource (journalistresource.org/studies/) and represent current trends in the sources of news. The conclusions from these data are not my primary concern here because they reinforce what we pretty much already know. That is, newspaper circulation is in decline, television viewership has dropped and more and more people get their news from social media – online and digital outlets in particular. These are the only two lines moving upward in the graph. But what is interesting is the theoretical possibilities of this trend for any international community. In other words, what are the potential consequences of this shift from traditional media to digital outlets. Below I speculate about a few possibilities with respect to groups in conflict and the Palestinians in particular. Again, the data in the graph do not pertain directly to any other international community, but they do represent a very common trend and one that either does or will influence allcommunities.

PewChart_NewsSources_2013

Historically, journalism and stories reported in media outlets provided a sense of coherence and at least a certain amount of consistency. Journalism was part of the power network in a culture with considerable respect and cultural capital. This was particularly true in less developed political systems such as many of those in the Middle East and of course the Palestinian Authority would qualify. There was typically one primary news outlet and everyone was exposed to the same information.
In the West Bank political communication was very limited by a combination of Israeli restrictions and undeveloped cultural traditions. From the 1980s into the 1990s penetration rates for news and media outlets were very low. This was because of poor communication infrastructure, economic development that was insufficient to improve access, lower literacy rates, and the general resistance of the culture to adopt new technology.

Things improved as a result of the Oslo Accords in 1993 where the Palestinians gained more control over their own technology. But the Internet became a revolutionary change. Because of the cross boundary capabilities of the Internet, and the fact that the Internet respected no borders, the Palestinians began to thrive with respect to information access and distribution. Internet penetration in the West Bank and Gaza is higher than in many other places such as Syria. New technology has energized Palestinian NGOs, human rights organizations, and made the formation of online communities possible. Also, during periods of violence and uprising when there is damage to buildings and Palestinian communication infrastructure, they are typically back on the air quickly because of availability of advanced technology.
But given that the PNA in the West Bank and Gaza has digital access and opportunity at least comparable to many political systems, it means that they also experienced the consequences of the digital age. One consequence is that Palestinians are now more involved in the media industry and thus more influential. Foreign news organizations use Palestinian talent and there are more young people involved in the news business with more ambition along with critical sensibilities.

There is still the problem of media control with no shortage of leaders who would like to use the media as a voice of propaganda. But multiple media outlets and the possibilities of user generated content make this more difficult. The ease and accessibility of digital forms of communication performs its democracy work in the West Bank and Gaza as well as any other place. Multiple voices and outlets are important and effective constraints on power. Where authoritarian media are governed by obedience and respect for political power, new digital media are more likely to broaden possibilities and make government monopolies difficult.

It is true enough that the Israeli-Palestinian problem is not easily addressed, but it remains the case that the rise in digital technology can structure in certain conflict resolution features that can contribute to a deliberative space responsible for helping to prepare the discourse of problem-solving. Some of the features of new digital technology that can enable the deliberative process are accessibility or availability of use to multiple citizens, equality or fairer access to media by a wider variety of people, along with the potential for more transparency and accountability. All in all, digital technology will benefit many aspects of West Bank and Gaza media. Even organizations that are more authoritarian such as Hamas cannot control digital technology sufficiently to manage the media environment. That is one reason why Hamas will maintain its reliance on violence as a form of control. Still, digital technology will facilitate the availability of mediated information that will one day at least find its way into the qualities of interaction necessary for progress toward mending political divides.

Julian Assange and Information Rights: Part 2

As I stated in the previous post, Julian Assange is clinging to free speech rights and access to information rights to defend his release of government documents. He’s being held criminally for releasing such information and violating presumed security rights of the state.

All speech is free speech except for that which is justifiably constrained. The nature of this constraint and meaning of “justifiably constrained” is what we will explore here for the moment. We begin with the entering assumption that freedom of expression is a basic human right and if we are going to error than we will error on the side of free expression. So, we take the most well-known example of yelling “fire” in a crowded theater when there is no fire, people rush to the exits and hundreds are trampled to death, and then “free speech” is your defense of what you did. You do not of course have the right to freedom of expression when it endangers so many people. You obviously cannot be responsible for the deaths of hundreds of moviegoers and stroll away comfortably on the basis of freedom of speech.

Moreover, the most specific constraint on freedom of expression is “imminence.” This means that you cannot cause imminent or immediate danger as a result of your expressive behavior. So the Nazis and skinheads have a right to express their political opinions (noxious as they might be) but they do not have the right to express those opinions while marching through a Jewish neighborhood creating imminent danger and clearly provoking violence. One of the legal arguments against Assange is that he retrieved government documents that had been classified and were not available to the public. But it is easy to “classify” something. And even though we cannot have individuals making their own decisions about what justifies being classified and what does not, the principle of available access to information and free expression does require justification if your rights are going to be constrained. Last February on this blog I wrote about bloggers and new media with respect to their contribution to the Arab Spring. I retrieved from Wikileaks a copy of a briefing (reference ID 09CAIRO544) about bloggers broadening their discourse. The briefing from 2009 warned that Egypt’s bloggers were playing an increasingly important role in broadening the scope of the acceptable political communication. Bloggers’ discussion of sensitive issues such as the military and politics represented a significant change from the previous five years and had influenced society.

As recently as 2009 the cable noted that a more open atmosphere had been created. Bloggers were influencing independent media to break important news and cover previously ignored or forbidden topics. One personal rights activist in Egypt stated that the youth were able to express their views about social and political issues in ways they never could before. Free speech tends to produce free speech, and the accumulation of effects from blogs in Egypt is apparent.

This post about blogs was an effort to explain how more information was circulating in Egypt and that was at least partially responsible for political uprising demanding even more freedoms. Was the release of a cable that reported on the general state of bloggers in Egypt a security matter? Surely such a cable does not rise to the level of significance of military secrets or something that can directly affect the safety of the state. In fact, if a government is tracking bloggers and writing reports about blogging in an effort to thwart access to certain information then this should be known to the public. It does not threaten the security of the state.

It does hold, and is imperative, that if citizens of a state are going to monitor the conduct of their government and engage fully democratically then they have to have access to state information – at least certain types of state information. Moreover, government should not be allowed to impose limitations on the citizenry under the pretext of national security and their rights to “classify” information.

The burden, if you will, must be not on access to information but on the government’s decisions to constrain that access by classifying information; that is, freedom of information and symbolic expression is the default political condition and the burden of proof that communicative rights must be limited is on the state. Below are a few more specific principles:

  1. As much as possible any restrictions on freedom of information must be prescribed by law beforehand. Restriction conditions should be drawn as precisely as possible.
  2. There must be opportunities for independent courts to judge the quality of safeguards for freedom of information.
  3. To restrict freedom of expression or information there must be a compelling explanation for the protection of national security. Some examples are in cases of war or military threat, internal sources of discord, or incitement to overthrow the government. This explanation must not only be compelling but able to show specific harm.

I’m not defending Julian Assange per se. His methods are of course illegal and of all the thousands of documents he gained access to and released there are probably more than a few that could have been classified as genuine security threats. But it becomes a little easy to accept government restrictions on freedom of information rather than honor the rights of a democratic society. A good way to keep the proper balance between democratic rights and security is to remember the principles below:

  1. People have the right to information about public officials in the workings of the state. Limitations on those rights must be clearly and strongly justified. A security justification designed to deny information must be unequivocal with respect to protecting national security interests.
  2. The public’s right to know is the most foundational assumption.
  3. There should be a clear system in place which provides independent review and credible oversight of situations where information rights are limited.
  4. If a person discloses information that is not harmful and is found not to pass the test of legitimate constraints, then that person should not be criminally charged.
  5. It should be possible for the public’s right to know to outweigh the importance of disclosed information.
  6. Confidential sources should be protected.
  7. New technology should make information as available as possible and open to scrutiny by the public.

Assange is not the newest hero for freedom of information. He not only has a grandiose ego and sees himself as the great liberator of information, but Assange goes at the problem with a machete rather than a scalpel. He captured access to thousands of documents with no concern for the nuances of their importance. Still, he has infused new energy into a tired but important democratic principle.

WikiLeaks and Freedom of Expression Versus Security: Part 1

Julian Assange is currently seeking refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. Assange is an interesting character with some quirky and brilliant personality traits, but these are not my main concern. Assange is considered a criminal in the United States because he gained access to secret documents by way of an American soldier named Bradley Manning. Manning is imprisoned in the US for leaking documents to Assange.

Assange manages the website Wikileaks which organizes and makes available thousands of government and diplomatic documents once classified as “secret.” Assange makes the argument that his work is centered in the long tradition of open expression and the importance of citizens keeping an eye on their government. Wikileaks publishes information from whistleblowers and seeks to make political governance a far more open process. Assange is no fringe character. He considers himself a revolutionary democratic leader devoted to freedom and has been the recipient of awards from Amnesty International, Time Magazine, and other journalistic outlets. The governments from which he took documents do not quite see it that way. They see Assange as challenging the security rights of the United States and violating laws designed to protect the nation. The US wants to charge Assange with jeopardizing national security, a charge that could result in life imprisonment. Hence we have the tension between freedom of information and security.

In what has been described as an Evita moment, Assange gave a speech from the Ecuadorian Embassy balcony which you can see here:    Wikileaks

There was a large crowd and he spoke of freedom of the press. There have been other cases where journalists have reported from what is considered to be improper access to government documents. The Pentagon papers in the United States, albeit under quite different political and military conditions, were also considered a potential threat to national security. Israel has more than a few examples of journalists writing stories based on classified documents.

Opinions differ on this matter. Some see Assange, Bradley Manning, and journalists who report from secret government documents as traitors who reveal government secrets and expose the nation to damages that result from security breaches. On the other hand, they can be seen as advocates for free speech and transparent information for exposing the public to a full critical analysis of issues facing them. Some people take a third position by parsing the issues into justified and unjustified release of information. Thus, they criticize hacking into American government sites but support the release of documents from authoritarian governments such as those in Syria, Zimbabwe, or Saudi Arabia.

Because Assange is an interesting and charismatic figure, and because he has been accused of sex crimes (always a matter of interest), he has been able to use his celebrity status to rally thousands of people around the world and perhaps delay his arrest and generate interest in his cause. But it remains the case that all governments support their own security interests. And they will all in the end oppose improper access and leaking of classified material. Moreover, they will continue to sing songs of media freedom but maintain a common refrain about their own security rights. The tension between freedom of the press and security will continue because many documents marked “secret” are not really very important. It is easy to classify a document as secret but much less easy to justify the content of the document as truly requiring a “secret” classification.

There is no easy answer to these issues but the following are necessary in a democratic society, which is where we must begin. Openness to information is a far less threat to the general body politic than excessive secrecy or security. From the Johannesburg Principles on National Security and Freedom of Expression (http://www.article19.org/data/files/pdfs/standards/joburgprinciples.pdf) we can quickly pose the following requirements for a democratic society that wants to limit freedom of expression:

To establish a restriction on freedom of expression or information it is necessary to protect a legitimate national security interest, a government must demonstrate that: (a) the expression or information at issue poses a serious threat to a legitimate national security interest; (b) the restriction imposed is the least restrictive means possible for protecting that interest; and (c) the restriction is compatible with democratic principles.

In the next post I will turn our attention more specifically to the legal and philosophical issues that we must grapple with in order to balance the freedom of expression versus security scale.

Peace Journalism

One of the best ways to transform ethnic conflict is by means of consensus democracy or the sharing of power between groups. Consociation is an ideal to be sure, but it remains an important aspiration. At a minimum, it rules out the use of force for achieving unilateral objectives. An additional deliberative goal is a media that is oriented toward peace and solving problems rather than intensifying them. This would be part of a consensus democracy project and would represent a shift in priorities from sensationalism trying to attract readers to conflict resolution. This has been termed peace journalism by McGoldrick & Lynch, a term often met with skepticism as too simplistic.

Journalist organizations remain convinced that the media are not only positioned to illuminate conflicts but to actually resolve them and encourage cooperation. By practicing the best journalism the media can contribute to bridge building between conflicting groups. This calls for an activist journalism that relies on a set of practices that go beyond straightforward reporting about conflicts. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) calls on reporters to be trained in conflict resolution and to have the promotion of peace as their goal. They are asked to be well versed in the narratives of both sides of an issue and scrupulously avoid reinforcing violence. Moreover, journalists should be equally as concerned with solutions and common ground as much as the basics of a story. McGoldrick and Lynch pose a set of guidelines for the coverage of conflicts that are too numerous to list here, but include techniques such as (1) avoid simplifying the contest by enumerating the various goals of the conflicting parties,  (2) avoid stark distinctions, (3) see ourselves in others, (4) avoid reporting on only violence, (5) report on peace initiatives, (5) identify wrongdoers, (6) avoid demonizing words, (7) do not see signing documents and military victories as creating peace, and others.

These recommendations can lead one to believing that clear reporting and sensitive concerns will enlighten readers and advance peace. But journalists live and work in political, economic, and power systems like everyone else. They are not independent actors who can determine effects. Hence, a biased and aggressive media will have less impact on an educated audience than and uneducated one; a prosperous and comfortable society will be less responsive to a challenging media. Nevertheless, it remains the case that the media can contribute to a helpful deliberative environment. Transparency, rationality, diversity, and the promotion of quality journalism are all part of peace journalism as well as deliberation. Bell (1997) refers to a sort of peace journalism as the journalism of attachment, that is, the concern is more for people than issues. Attachment journalism is not necessarily deliberative but it does represent a broadened sensibility to balance. It helps quiet the persistent refrain about how violence and drama captures attention, and peace is boring. Most journalism related to conflicts is “war” journalism and preoccupied with propaganda and violence. But “peace” journalists can be easily manipulated and subjected to propaganda that they are not able to understand. Gowing (1997) explains how journalists are easily manipulated and not always able to check facts. They sometimes begin to identify with one party and simplify or distort information. In the end, journalism must take a critical stance such that it does not encourage violence but also avoids disseminating peace propaganda. The critical stance requires transparency and, most important, a diversity of opinion that comes with exposure to quality disagreement and the avoidance of polarization.

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