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Violence and Peace in the Print Media: News Discourse and Social Construction of Reality in Colombia
Unformatted Document Text:  Violence and Peace in the Print Media: News Discourse and Social Construction of Reality in Colombia 1 Introduction This paper analyzes the social construction of reality emerging in the coverage of Colombia’s armed conflict by studying the news discourses of two of the major newspapers in the country. This research sought to answer two questions: 1) What is the social construction of reality emerging through the news structure and objective social construction of messages related to peace and violence in the national press? 2) What is the contribution that the integration of the two theoretical concepts used in this study makes to a better understanding of the potential role played by print media’s coverage of the Colombian armed conflict? For more than five decades Colombia has been home to a long-lasting conflict that includes different actors such as the armed forces, guerrilla groups such as the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), and paramilitary factions. Scores of people have died over this period of time. For instance, homicide rates in Colombia are much higher than those found in industrialized nations and even in other nations in Latin America. Developed countries generally show rates below 10 violent deaths per 100,000 inhabitants, while in Colombia, as of 1999, this number jumps to 59/100,000. 2 In Bogotá, capital of the country, this rate reached 39/100,000 3 . This reality has led to increasing debates about the role of the national media and its coverage of the armed conflict. The complex dynamic of society prevents individuals from having the opportunity to learn directly about the conflict. Thus, they tend to rely greatly on the media news coverage to know what is happening with respect to the conflict. This paper seeks to provide some answers to how the print media cover the conflict by analyzing news discourse of newspapers El Tiempo, the largest and most influential news outlet of the country, and El Heraldo, the most influential newspaper in Colombia’s Atlantic Coast. Review of the literature and theoretical framework While there is increasing interest in analyzing how Colombia’s armed conflict has been covered by the national media, the few existing studies (Trejo 4 , Himmelster 5 , Bonilla 6 , Ferro & 1 This research was conducted with support from Colombia’s National Institute of Science and Technology, Colciencias. 2 2 POLICÍA NACIONAL. Revista Criminalidad. Bogotá, 2000., p. 225. 3 Ibid., p. 134, 191 4 TREJO, Raúl, Chiapas: La Comunicación Enmascarada, México, Diana, 1994... 5 HIMMELSTERN, Fanny, La prensa y la comunicación en situaciones de conflicto: Un análisis de contenido, 1994. 6 BONILLA VÉLEZ, Jorge Iván, 1995, Violencia, medios y comunicación: Otras pistas en la investigación, Bogotá: Trillas, 1995.

Authors: Obregon, Rafael. and Cura, Marta.
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Violence and Peace in the Print Media: News Discourse and Social Construction of Reality
in Colombia
1
Introduction
This paper analyzes the social construction of reality emerging in the coverage of
Colombia’s armed conflict by studying the news discourses of two of the major
newspapers in the country. This research sought to answer two questions: 1) What is the
social construction of reality emerging through the news structure and objective social
construction of messages related to peace and violence in the national press? 2) What is
the contribution that the integration of the two theoretical concepts used in this study
makes to a better understanding of the potential role played by print media’s coverage of
the Colombian armed conflict?

For more than five decades Colombia has been home to a long-lasting conflict that
includes different actors such as the armed forces, guerrilla groups such as the FARC
(Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), and paramilitary factions. Scores of people
have died over this period of time. For instance, homicide rates in Colombia are much
higher than those found in industrialized nations and even in other nations in Latin
America. Developed countries generally show rates below 10 violent deaths per 100,000
inhabitants, while in Colombia, as of 1999, this number jumps to 59/100,000.
2
In Bogotá,
capital of the country, this rate reached 39/100,000
3
.
This reality has led to increasing debates about the role of the national media and its
coverage of the armed conflict. The complex dynamic of society prevents individuals
from having the opportunity to learn directly about the conflict. Thus, they tend to rely
greatly on the media news coverage to know what is happening with respect to the
conflict. This paper seeks to provide some answers to how the print media cover the
conflict by analyzing news discourse of newspapers El Tiempo, the largest and most
influential news outlet of the country, and El Heraldo, the most influential newspaper in
Colombia’s Atlantic Coast.
Review of the literature and theoretical framework

While there is increasing interest in analyzing how Colombia’s armed conflict has been covered
by the national media, the few existing studies
(Trejo
4
, Himmelster
5
, Bonilla
6
, Ferro &
1
This research was conducted with support from Colombia’s National Institute of Science and Technology,
Colciencias.
2 2
POLICÍA NACIONAL. Revista Criminalidad. Bogotá, 2000., p. 225.
3
Ibid., p. 134, 191
4
TREJO, Raúl, Chiapas: La Comunicación Enmascarada, México, Diana, 1994...
5
HIMMELSTERN, Fanny, La prensa y la comunicación en situaciones de conflicto: Un análisis de
contenido, 1994.
6
BONILLA VÉLEZ, Jorge Iván, 1995, Violencia, medios y comunicación: Otras pistas en la investigación,
Bogotá: Trillas, 1995.


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