Why are there no peace correspondents?
War correspondents are omnipresent on cable news networks—in fact, they're the superstars of TV journalism. Anchors are just a pretty face, perched on swivel chairs and shuffling papers on top of laminate countertops. The war correspondent, however, plays the role of the beautiful, disheveled hero brazenly sending dispatches from a conflict zone.
Compare Anderson Cooper, the fluffy daytime television show host, to Anderson Cooper, reporting live from Kandahar—rolled-up sleeves, wind-swept hair, bombs literally detonating behind him. One of these two versions of Anderson made himself into a superstar — and it's not the one in front of a studio audience, discussing the finer points of “Real Housewives.”
But why are there no peace correspondents? Why can't that superstardom, sex appeal, heroism, and daring reportage focus itself on something more strange, beautiful, and interesting than war— the lack of it?
It's a question that I've been pondering in light of the tenth anniversary of the Iraq War. And I can't help but feel that were the media as dedicated to reporting on peace activism, reconciliation and concord as diligently as they covered the Battle of Fallujah and Operation Shock and Awe, things today would be different.
What strikes me about the anniversary of the Iraq War is that it has been downplayed to hell by the media, a stark contrast to the utter genuflection reserved for the tenth anniversary of 9/11. I suppose that remembrance of one terrible morning of terrorism on American soil is much less complicated than processing ten terrible years of devastating bloodshed abroad. But I also think that the media has not made a fuss because of its complicity; everyone knows that it was less of a fourth estate, and more of a cheerleader.
But the media is making another mistake now, by sheepishly look over its shoulder at its errors and then traipsing along as normal. What it needs to do is ask: What can we do differently so that this doesn't happen again?
The answer is adherence to a basic journalistic principle: balance. When war breaks out, the media combusts with enthusiastic and dazzling reportage. But doing so is inherently imbalanced, unless you complement that war journalism with reportage at the same fever pitch for war's foil: peace.
We need peace correspondents—Anderson Coopers that update the public on the status of peace, with as much passion, panache and gravity as they update us on the status of our wars.
We need fewer interviews with five-star military generals on Sunday Morning talk shows, and more interviews with the Mareid Maguires, Leymah Gbowees, and other unsung heros who advocate for concord over conflict.
We need journalists embedded with organizations with Women for Afghan Women, the Free Gaza movement, and Code Pink in addition to U.S. Military units.
When wartime is over, we need reporters to send dispatches from the field, showing what it's like to have families whole and together, lives restored, and money spent on more fruitful endeavors than bloodshed—and how all those gains can all so quickly disappear, as they did ten years ago.
Maybe this is a pipe dream. But if we want things to change, the media needs to take a step back and look a hard look at how it broadcasts war—and the role it plays in perpetuating the bloody course of history.
Erik Lorenzsonn is an editorial intern at The Progressive.