Thursday, August 21, 2014

Media Literacy: War And Peace Journalism

Source: ASIDE, 2014
This summer we’ve seen unprecedented violence and conflict, from our own backyard in Ferguson, Missouri, to the Ukrainian-Russian border. We’re sure that our learners have seen it, too. Wherever the conflict is, you can rest assured the media is there in full force as well.

The sound bites, prompts, replays, jolts per minute never end. The hyped negativity abounds with each new event. The good news is relegated to filler material that is never enough to make anyone feel good for long. No wonder parents are reluctant to let their children watch the news. In some ways our media is like the Capitol of Panem in The Hunger Games spicing up the story to keep the masses engaged. In the competition for viewership, ratings matter.

So what is Peace Journalism? The principal founder of the concept is Johan Galtung. He claims that our common daily news should be classified as War Journalism, because it tends to present conflicts as endless battles, or war.  According to the Center for Global Peace Journalism, the practice of “Peace Journalism is when editors and reporters make choices that improve the prospects for peace.” These journalists carefully choose their words to create an atmosphere favorable to peace in order to make non-violent solutions more visible and viable.
Source: Center for Global Peace Journalism

Now more than ever we need to include discussions about war and peace journalism as part of media literacy instruction in our classrooms. It's important to help learners sift through messages from the media to find ways to change the view from a culture where aggression sells to one that diffuses turmoil by finding commonalities in humanity. By guiding students to seek solutions to conflicts, they become better peacemakers and peacekeepers. If we can flip classrooms, let’s get kids to flip the news to look for positive ways to present current events.

The following video was created by Oded LevRan as a project in visual communication studies at Holon Institute of Technology. It’s called Chickpeace. It presents the main principles of Peace Journalism using hummus as an analogy to reality that this is a staple dish for both Israelis and Palestinians.

chickpeace from Oded LevRan on Vimeo.

Depending on grade level, students could take a topic, event, or place and present it as a way to build common ground. Aiding students in this type of endeavor teaches them the art of framing a topic around a positive approach to the world around them. Using reframing techniques, they can take an existing report and come up with a way to down play the hostility to foster a greater understanding. As always, teaching students to deconstruct messages, call out biases, or highlight sensationalized reporting builds stronger media and news literacy skills.

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