Peace and Compassion in the Media

Научная статья

Журналистика, издательское дело, полиграфия и СМИ

My original purpose is moving into journalism, from studying physics and chemistry at university, was to learn about the world from the bottom up, and avoid specialization. I wanted to be a generalist, and find out about everything, not confined to a laboratory in a white coat.



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Sharyn Steel

Peace and Compassion in the Media

I think the challenge in the media is to make peace and compassion as interesting and exciting as war and disasters.  That is just as much challenge for me today as it was when I started in journalism over 40 years ago.

My original purpose is moving into journalism, from studying physics and chemistry at university, was to learn about the world from the bottom up, and avoid specialization. I wanted to be a generalist, and find out about everything, not confined to a laboratory in a white coat. Over the intervening years, I have worked as a sports, political, diplomatic and business journalist in newspapers and magazines, before again deciding that I didn’t want to specialize.

I am now a news editor at Radio New Zealand, and a writer, with one book published, ‘Struggling to Fly’, about my first two decades in what was then male dominated news journalism. I also have two other books in progress. But I am not writing about them now. Anyone wanting more information on that can look at my website www.sharynsteel.com  As an editor, selecting stories for radio news, I am constantly confronted by the desire to make the news more positive, while the world in general often seems to become more negative with conflicts, power struggles, murders and crashes. I may struggle to find positive stories but I try to balance them with those of crimes and disasters.

Initially, as a 20 year old, I was curious and naïve. I am still curious, but I have become somewhat disillusioned with power, having often seen it associated with control, and incompetence. I am now more focused on increasing the amount of peace and compassion in the world. I believe the media has a role to play in that. Sometimes the media acts by putting a situation or person under the spotlight, publicizing the particular person or issue, positively or negatively. The media can also help work out crisis situations. I tried to do that as a diplomatic journalist for a newspaper – I would interview the protagonist, the opposition and then a neutral person about a particular world situation. As a diplomatic journalist, I had access to the ambassadors of countries, and my neutral person would mostly be a New Zealand Foreign Service analyst in that area. By the time I had interviewed at least three people, the difference between the propaganda and what was real would be obvious. I could then write a story based on that, showing the propaganda as such, and the real possibilities for future change. Although my stories didn’t change world crises, they had the potential to change people’s views about the particular situation. Changing even one person’s view can be positive, as you never know how that can spread.

In some ways, writing about wars and disasters is necessary, as a record of the present and past. But it is limited by being a record of what has happened. To make a particular article a possibility for the future, there must be a way to move forward.  In many ways writing, about wars and disasters is easier as they have more factual definition than peace and compassion, which tend to be amorphous. But writing about ideas, solutions, and possibilities can also be made exciting and engaging.

Something that always brings a story to life is focusing on the personal experience of someone in a particular situation. For example, instead of focusing on a disaster, write about the experience of someone experiencing that disaster and also how they are coping with their situation. Personalize the story as well as writing about the generalized situation. Then a story can become one of hope and survival rather than struggle and destruction.

Peace and compassion can be brought to life with the suggestions of solutions or options for progress.  Disasters, in contrast, have their own adrenaline and drama. But the excitement of a story could be a positive outcome, raising the conscious level of the reader by creating possibilities rather than leaving them mixing with antagonists.

In general, the world media follows war much more than peace. But I believe it is important to get the message of peace out and aid organizations have a role to play in that. While journalists get imbedded with military groups in conflicts, they don’t usually work alongside aid groups and there is surely scope to do more along those lines.  In some cases, all it would take would be an invitation for a journalist to join a particular group and their employer might pay the costs for the possibility of an inside story.

I believe people in general often have a suspicion about working with the media, which they may judge harshly. But the media is just as diverse as society itself with journalists coming from varied backgrounds. They all, however, have in common the desire to find good stories. Some can be blinkered with judgments and criticisms, but most are curious and non-judgmental. You can always find appropriate media by examining the media outcome, the newspaper, magazine, television or radio program, and approach the editor, who can assign the reporter most suitable for the exercise.

Publicity through the media, in stories or features, can be far more effective than paid advertising. Media promotion can be as easy a sending an email to the particular news organization with the story idea or person to interview and the name and phone number of a contact person; that person must be available to take any calls in response, or at least respond promptly to messages. As news organizations are usually busy, they will not repeatedly call someone who doesn’t respond to their requests for an interview.

Media should not be seen as the enemy. Even if an individual in the media is negative, there is usually someone else more positive who can be approached.

As well as being a writer/journalist, I am an avatar master, in the avatar personal development program, not the movie. Avatar is a powerful, pure self-development program that is raising human consciousness one person at a time to create an enlightened planetary civilization. More information can be obtained from www.avatarepc.com or   from me.


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