Why isn't Peacebuilding in the News?

By Safiya Songhai

International news often focuses on violence but rarely on peacebuilding news. To figure out why, War Stories Peace Stories held an event in New York in April, bringing together leaders in media and peacebuilding fields.

Conference organizer Jamil Simon, from Spectrum Media, said addressing the gap in mainstream media is essential. "Peacebuilding is invisible to the public, and that's a real problem,” he said, “because how can we ask the public to advocate for peace if they never see it in the news."

"[With] peace activities the only thing you ever see are two people signing a treaty. There's very little story showing how they got there, or what happens afterwards."

One of the problems is resources, explained journalist Mariana Palau. "A lot of editors worldwide, they might be interested in the stories but they don't have the money to send us where we need to go to report on these very meaningful stories."

Jon Sawyer, from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, agreed. "It's a matter of getting funding to go into the regions, to tell stories that have value - more than just the body count, the death count, in a day in a war situation, but underlying causes of conflict and possible solutions of conflict."

Another challenge is finding an interesting angle.

"Peacebuilding has liabilities when it comes to telling stories because it's nuanced, it's quiet," Mr Simon said. "To conventional news media, there's no story if there's no violence."

Experts recommend humanizing conflicts and talking to peacebuilders on the ground.

"From the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar to Gaza to across the Middle East to Congo to South Sudan, I think that the common theme for the stories that are successful is capturing a human voice in those conflicts,” Mr Sawyer said. “What the impact is on people living in those regions - not the policy makers - but the people, the families, the mothers, the fathers, the children, the grandparents, what the effect is on them."

"One thing I would encourage journalists to do is to try to reach out to organizations that are trying to reduce the violence, that are trying to prevent it in one way or another," Mr Simon said, "because there are unarmed heroes all over the world, working to prevent violence."

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