conflict & communication online, Vol. 5, No. 2, 2006
ISSN 1618-0747




Annabel McGoldrick
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 of war.
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



  full text in English  
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 of conflict.