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Violence and Peace in the Print Media: News Discourse and Social Construction of Reality in Colombia
Unformatted Document Text:  and traditions, was developed following Berger and Luckmann’s Theory of Social Construction of Reality. Four senior students enrolled in the Program of Social Communication at Universidad del Norte, Colombia, were trained to carry out the coding of the news. A pilot phase was conducted to minimize differences in students’ understanding of each category. Authors supervised the coding process and responded concerns or questions students had throughout the process. Unlike coding of traditional content analysis, the segment corresponding to the coding of the social construction of reality was done in a different fashion. Students were asked to read the entire news story and then code the categories related to social construction of reality. In doing this, unnecessary coding of words was avoided, while coding the existence of specific trends in the text. For instance, in the case of sedimentations, instead coding fear every time this word came up, coders would assess whether the text conveyed a sense of fear based on its content. This is why no coding agreement was assessed among students. Results were tabulated and then presented to two groups of journalists who cover the armed conflict. This was done in the form of focus groups and participants were asked to provide their reactions to each finding. Main findings and discussion Conflict in the symbolic daily life The first finding arising from this analysis is that the Colombian armed conflict is a part of the daily life of this country’s inhabitants, as it can be observed through the symbolic recurrent representation of violence through the print media messages studied in this research. The conflict is visible through an average of 50 news pieces a week or seven pieces a day, without taking into account editorials and opinion columns that discuss the conflict. Nevertheless, as a paradox, the scope of such a complex reality is presented to the audience through traditional news accounts as opposed to more comprehensive journalistic genres such as reportage and chronicle. The prevalence of this type of news account is the result of “the battle of contents in which the most important thing is the daily life, the day to day, due to the traditional practice of highlighting the news”. This is the general opinion of journalists participating in a focal group with whom trends found in the study were discussed. 11 On the contrary, a more coherent approach to the reality of the armed conflict in Colombia suggests that news discourse about the conflict should rely more heavily on the structures of more analytical genres provided by the journalistic profession such as the reportage and the chronicle, known as the major journalistic genres. Using these genres would reduce coverage of the conflict with a focus on the immediate, while privileging the contextual analysis of news events. Thus, by giving out more elements for analysis, the symbolic universe of readers can be supplied with more accurate scenarios. However, the emphasis highlighted in this research around the need of a greater use of thematic genres in the coverage of news, also leads to the realization that the most frequent use of these genres does not necessarily lead to a more balanced coverage. In this case, the use of the 11 The results of this research were discussed by journalists of various written and electronic media in the country, who were attending a workshop on covering conflicts, a workshop organized by the Foundation for a New Journalism. Focal groups contributed to validate the results of the study and made part of the final methodological structure of it.

Authors: Obregon, Rafael. and Cura, Marta.
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and traditions, was developed following Berger and Luckmann’s Theory of Social Construction
of Reality.

Four senior students enrolled in the Program of Social Communication at Universidad del Norte,
Colombia, were trained to carry out the coding of the news. A pilot phase was conducted to
minimize differences in students’ understanding of each category. Authors supervised the coding
process and responded concerns or questions students had throughout the process. Unlike coding
of traditional content analysis, the segment corresponding to the coding of the social construction
of reality was done in a different fashion. Students were asked to read the entire news story and
then code the categories related to social construction of reality. In doing this, unnecessary coding
of words was avoided, while coding the existence of specific trends in the text. For instance, in
the case of sedimentations, instead coding fear every time this word came up, coders would
assess whether the text conveyed a sense of fear based on its content. This is why no coding
agreement was assessed among students.

Results were tabulated and then presented to two groups of journalists who cover the armed
conflict. This was done in the form of focus groups and participants were asked to provide their
reactions to each finding.

Main findings and discussion
Conflict in the symbolic daily life
The first finding arising from this analysis is that the Colombian armed conflict is a part of the
daily life of this country’s inhabitants, as it can be observed through the symbolic recurrent
representation of violence through the print media messages studied in this research. The conflict
is visible through an average of 50 news pieces a week or seven pieces a day, without taking into
account editorials and opinion columns that discuss the conflict. Nevertheless, as a paradox, the
scope of such a complex reality is presented to the audience through traditional news accounts as
opposed to more comprehensive journalistic genres such as reportage and chronicle. The
prevalence of this type of news account is the result of “the battle of contents in which the most
important thing is the daily life, the day to day, due to the traditional practice of highlighting the
news”. This is the general opinion of journalists participating in a focal group with whom trends
found in the study were discussed.
11
On the contrary, a more coherent approach to the reality of the armed conflict in Colombia
suggests that news discourse about the conflict should rely more heavily on the structures of more
analytical genres provided by the journalistic profession such as the reportage and the chronicle,
known as the major journalistic genres. Using these genres would reduce coverage of the conflict
with a focus on the immediate, while privileging the contextual analysis of news events. Thus, by
giving out more elements for analysis, the symbolic universe of readers can be supplied with
more accurate scenarios.

However, the emphasis highlighted in this research around the need of a greater use of thematic
genres in the coverage of news, also leads to the realization that the most frequent use of these
genres does not necessarily lead to a more balanced coverage. In this case, the use of the
11
The results of this research were discussed by journalists of various written and electronic media in the
country, who were attending a workshop on covering conflicts, a workshop organized by the Foundation
for a New Journalism. Focal groups contributed to validate the results of the study and made part of the
final methodological structure of it.


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