For those of us who do not live in areas of violent conflict, our experience of war is via the media—in stark newspaper headlines and conflict reporting, in Twitter timelines and blogs, in magazines and television images and in the sounds of voices and gunfire on the radio.
We consume media accounts of refugees desperate to escape bombs and special forces on the trail or terrorists. On Sunday mornings, we listen to experts explain the finer points of military strategy in between ads for defense contractors. Bombs dropped, targets destroyed, civilian casualties, body count—we know what to listen for. We read magazine stories and the details and pictures haunt us all day. And we worry about the reporters who put themselves in danger to share what they see with us.
Reporting shapes our perceptions. We know war isn’t the only ways to resolve conflict, but the drama of peacebuilding does not have the same visceral impact as the drama of war.
Every story is different. Every reporter sees and tells the story in a different way. Every witness comes with preconceptions and sometimes an agenda.