Informal Third Parties

Jannie Botes

Assistant Professor, Program on Negotiations and Conflict Management, University of Baltimore

Interviewed by Julian Portilla, 2003

This rough transcript provides a text alternative to audio. We apologize for occasional errors and unintelligible sections (which are marked with ???).

I am very interested in people that do conflict resolution type work but who are not officially so designated. It spans from mothers, preachers, nurses, policemen, and journalists. I've written in the textbook that I've just shown you a piece on informal third parties and I mentioned journalist in passing and it was really on being managers or bosses in an office that have to be informal third parties all the time. And there's some written on all of this.

So, my interests is in the informal third parties and also in the fact that journalists like all those others not by virtue of being formal mediators or formal 3rd parties, but by virtue of their position or profession get thrown into a situation where they are A versus B. Two ideas and two people in conflict. A real dispute, and it could be over an idea or over a bridge being built or a real war; it could be all of those things. At the moment I am ending off a series of interviews and starting to write an article on something that is related to this. I'll give you an idea and that is my series of interviews with public radio specifically talk show hosts that again, find themselves, the Diane Reams of Washington and the Mark Steiners of Baltimore, you find them in every big city and even in smaller cities all over the country. And they do what I deem serious talks over a conflict.

Over my interviews with them, I find that most of them agreed that at least for 50% and sometimes for as much as 85% of their time, they agree that what they do is to bring people around to the microphone that disagree about something. Again our definition of news is conflict. So then they have discussions with those people and what I found fascinating, there was one gentleman who I interviewed in Seattle. I actually spoke with him in the Pointer Center down in Florida, but he's from Seattle, his name escapes my mind but he takes his hour-long show and breaks it into 3 pieces. The first twenty minutes are essentially positions; tell me about where you stand, the way you feel, why you feel like that. The second session is sort of talking about that, bringing callers in, its in a sense a reality checking. The third part is, so what are we going to do about this?