Journalism that reports on conflicts and crises
Before you finish your reporting, ask these questions:
- Is this news necessary? Does it tell both sides of the situation?
- Will this news story lead to violence, prejudice, or community distrust of negotiators for peace? If so, can you tell this story in a different way?
- Do you have different voices and different opinions in your reporting?
- Do you talk to the people, whose lives have been affected by the situation? Or did you only talk to experts and government officials?
- Do you use words or scenes or narratives that will offend people or cause more strife or conflict? How can you avoid doing this?
Explaining conflicts and crises:
Ask yourself these questions as you report:
- What are the causes of the conflict?
- What do the different sides believe? What separates them? What do they have in common?
- What is the history of the conflict according to the different sides? What is the bigger picture?
- Who are the major individuals and groups involved?
- How has the crisis or conflict evolved over time? Provide a time line.
- What solutions have been heard? What do you know about the reality of these solutions? Explore the options considered by the different groups. What options are likely to bring about peace or healing?
- What steps are needed to reconcile past problems?
- Are there proposals for temporary solutions?
- What are the major obstacles to peace or healing?
- Suggestion: treat the emotions as symptoms of the crisis? How?
Do not just talk to leaders and officials.
Do not tell only about one’s side suffering and problems. Tell the whole story of all involved.
Do not repeat the words or statements of leaders without offering you own explanation of their meaning and the facts.
Do not downplay or ignore efforts to reach a solution
Do not use words that inflame and stir hatred or images
Do not report on rumors or gossip without giving the full context.
Find out the facts about rumors or gossips that appears to add fuel to the conflict or crisis. Let your reporting explain the facts behind the rumors. Explain who may be behind the rumors and what they have to gain.
Let your news outlet become a source for filtering rumors and gossip on a timely basis. Create a website that responds to these forces that drive the public.
Add documents and other resources to your website to educate your audience on all of the issues involved
Do not ignore the suffering or problems. Show that you are presenting a whole picture of the past and of what has happened to all sides. But don’t let that become the whole story.
Show the impact of violence or problems in the past. Explain what might happens if these issues continue in the future.
Conflicts are complex. Avoid simple descriptions of the causes.
Show the humanity of the people involved and on all sides
- You should remember that your reporting will affect the conflict and the lives of people in it. How can you monitor this?
Avoid being used by one side or the other and to report – and if you can, avid attempts to use your reporting to figure one side or to continue the conflict.
A Basic Reminder
Do what is possible. Do not cross redlines that will cause problems for your and your news organization or your family. Move slowly forward with your news reporting. Do not rush into problems that will halt your reporting. Stay focused on what you can tell honestly and completely and what matters.
Stephen Franklin, 2016
This is a collection taken from many reports and studies by organizations across the globe involved in better reporting on peace and justice and conflict resolution. Steve Youngblood’s work has been especially important. Please share your work and advice.