Journalists as Parties to the Conflicts They Cover


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 ???).

A: Your next question if I remember correctly because you gave me some of these, is what should journalists know or where are we going to now?

Q: Whether journalism escalates or de-escalates conflict?

A: We, journalists and conflict resolvers, agree that we both have to analyze a conflict and therefore what social science has to offer are lessons about conflict analysis which again can be given to journalists if that kind of material is offered in journalism school and it's not. My argument is that it should be because 80% of what they do is conflict reporting.

Q: So that's it then, if I'm a journalist and I'm doing my regular journalism thing without any understanding of this conflict resolution field you would tell me you need to learn about conflict analysis and you need to recognize that you are a party to a conflict or that you at least have an impact on?

A: Yeah, I wouldn't say that you are a party to a conflict but you at least have to understand that you are a part of a social process and what you write will have an impact on it. It's like a system that you interact with, you write something and that information gets fed back into the system. The only way that I think it would be right to say we just do the facts is if you were to write about something that happens in DC and you go publish it in another part of the world where the people who you reported the story on do not read the story. Because every thing we do about reporting on something that's a social interaction and we report on that and that information gets fed back into that social interaction.

So therefore we have an impact.