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Covering Conflict

Posted by Mike Robertson on September 11, 2008

What a fitting day for this event. Even seven years after the attacks, they still play such an important part in our lives, especially the video coverage of the planes crashing into the towers. Richard Reuben, one of the lecturers of the event, summed up our reflection on the attacks by saying that the media went above and beyond the call of duty of merely reporting the facts by delving deeper and finding the reasons why the attack happened.

But talking about the 9/11 attacks was only a small little part of Covering Conflict. Michael Grinfeld and Reuben took me on a whirlwind tour of the process of reporting conflict. They gave me reasons for why conflict is so integral to the profession of journalism, which I am delighted to share here. They said that conflict is everywhere, so we would lose a lot stories if we chose to ignore them and that these types of stories are unique in the fact that they allow the media to stir up trouble and escalate the people’s views (which of course could either be a good or bad thing).

The one thing that blew me away was that they basically said that media is doing almost everything wrong right now, that they’re not covering conflict very well right now. They said that most news consists of the process of the conflict (merely reporting what happened) without necessarily understanding why it happened. They also said the 5W&H method leads to episodic coverage, only telling a part of the story, which definitely creates a problem. They really emphasized substance over process, which is one of the biggest things I walked away with.

The biggest thing they said other than that talks about journalism in general and it goes like this: “No journalism is done alone” although “self-interest permeates everything we do.”

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