OTPIC Officially Retired

As of December 2, 2005, the Online Training Program on Intractable Conflict (OTPIC) has been officially retired, and is no longer open to new registrations.

The successor to OTPIC is a course called Dealing Constructively with Intractable Conflicts (DCIC). The new curriculum is built around one of our major projects, Beyond Intractability, and offers a much more extensive and informative set of learning materials than that available through OTPIC.

usiplogo.gif (1499 bytes)

International Online Training Program On Intractable Conflict

Conflict Research Consortium, University of Colorado, USA

Inflammatory Media

Opening Page | Glossary | Menu Shortcut Page

Although the media usually claim that their purpose is to inform the public about public events, they often do so in an inflammatory way. Part of this is due to differing interests. In countries with a free press, journalists want to write pieces that get people's attention (so they can get more readers, listeners, and/or viewers). To do this, they often focus on extreme events and negative stories, because those generate more interests than do stories about cooperation or peace. Although this bias does not occur in countries where the government controls the press, in those nations, the press usually gives the government view of issues, which may be highly one-sided and inflammatory as well.

In addition, many reporters simply do not understand enough about conflict dynamics in general or the particular issues or people that they are writing about to avoid making misstatements or statements that make the situation worse, rather than better. Further, they usually work on tight deadlines, interviewing as many people as they can in a few hours or days.  Then they have to write their story and move on. This does not give them time to develop the deep understanding of an issue that is necessary to analyze it accurately and clearly for the public. As a result, media coverage of a brewing conflict which is intended to clarify the problem can actually obscure and escalate it.

This becomes an even greater problem when negotiations are occurring, as people bargain very differently if they know they are being watched than they do if the negotiations are private. In private negotiations people can brainstorm, raising and exploring all sorts of new, creative ways to define the problem and generate solutions. If they are being watched by the public, however, they tend to stick much more closely to their standard positions, for fear of alarming their constituencies. Negotiators will often make speeches that are designed more to appeal to the outside audience than the people at the table. For this reason, mediators usually prefer that negotiations be kept private, although this can at times be difficult, especially in democratic societies where the press and the public expects to be allowed into most decision-making processes.


Links to Examples of This Problem:

Mediating the Oslo Accords on the Middle East
One of the factors that made the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations in Oslo as successful as they were was the fact that they were secret, thus avoiding the inflammatory media coverage that would have certainly occurred in a public process.
Religion and Reconciliation in Bosnia
In this short article about Bosnia, the author observes that the local mass media kept promoting nationalistic stereotypes, even after the war ended and the populations were supposed to be trying to build new, peaceful relationships.
The Role of the Media In Reporting Less-Tractable Conflicts - a Discussion with Jerry Bell, Dave Lougee, and Clifford May.
This article reports on a roundtable discussion between three Denver, Colorado area news people about the role of the media in reporting escalated and intractable conflicts
Helen Wolle--Interpreting Violent Conflict: A Conference for Conflict Analysis and Journalists: Summary of Proceedings
This article discusses how frames of interpretation (essentially biases) affect media coverage of conflicts.
Christopher Young--The Role of Media in International Conflict
This article explores issues that media face when covering military conflicts and examines the role of the media in international conflict.  One area of emphasis is how the media can contribute to conflict escalation.
Peter M. Sandman--Explaining Environmental Risk
Non-scientists interpret uncertainty and risk very differently from scientists, often rate some risks as much bigger than they really are, while other big risks are ignored.   The media, which is usually made up of non-scientists can add to the confusion and make accurate risk communication even more difficult.  This article discusses how scientists can help the media and the public can better understand and deal with environmental risk.


Links to Outside Sources of Information:

The Influence of the Media on Sociopolitical Conflict
Part of "Creating Systemic Interventions for the Sociopolitical Arena," by Richard Chasin, M.D. and Margaret Herzig, The Public Conversations Project.
Rwanda: Accountability for War Crimes and Genocide--United States Institute of Peace - Special Report
As this article illustrates, the media greatly contributed to the intensity of the violence in Rwanda.

Links to Possible Treatments of This Problem:

Private Meeting

Media Management


Links to Related Problems:

Inaccurate and Overly Hostile Stereotypes

Tactical Escalation


Misinterpretation of Communication

Copyright 1998 Conflict Research Consortium  -- Contact: crc@colorado.edu