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Jake Lynch and Annabel McGoldrick , 'News from the Holy Land - Theory and Practice of Reporting Conflict'

Hawthorn Press 2004. Includes 48pp of teaching notes. ISBN 1 903458 54 4 / 978 1 903458 54 9

Peace Journalism should give a fair and balanced report on conflict without forgetting to set the context in which the fighting takes place.

This is what News from the Holy Land, an educational video for media students, civil society groups and NGOs, tells us. Using the example of the Israel-Palestine conflict, Jake Lynch and Annabel McGoldrick seek to show that in focusing on bloodshed and violence, standard news reports give British audiences the impression that the two sides are trapped in an inescapable cycle of violence. In their alternative approach, the authors emphasise the need to set violent events into context. For them, as much as reporting on suicide bombing, this means reporting on the daily lives of Palestinians and their struggle to cross checkpoints, preventing some from having access to their crops and therefore their means of subsistence. To show how context can be presented, in a follow-up story of a suicide bombing the authors propose a report on two brothers who have chosen different paths. One brother died as a suicide bomber, while the other one is recycling broken glass into art. Why have two people with the same background made such opposite life choices? We learn that the suicide bomber saw his best friend die in his arms after being shot by Israeli soldiers. The authors also suggest more positive approaches such as reporting on Israeli refuseniks rather than always on politicians and men with guns. As an example, there is an interview of hardline politician Binyamin Netanyahu's nephew facing trial for refusing to do his military service in the Occupied Territories.

The merit of this video is to suggest new ways of reporting rather than simply criticising how the conflict has been reported. Unfortunately, the video fails to give advice on how journalists can convince their editors, themselves pressured by their hierarchy, not to give in to sensationalism in order to attract audiences in an increasingly competitive and market-driven media environment.

Topics: Media | War and peace