Conciliatory journalism is an approach that seeks to support journalists who work with controversial and conflict-prone social issues.

Conciliatory journalism criticizes contemporary journalism for over-emphasizing the frame of polarity in their news coverage and provides tools, practices and ideas for producing high-standard journalism that values diversity, nuances, listening and understanding. At its core, conciliatory journalism is a practical resource for journalists who wish to make valuable and socially responsible journalism about complicated issues.

The aim is to help people understand social conflicts and to find ways to deal with them. An important part of this is to support people’s right to be heard and understood in public debates, and thereby to encourage citizens’ trust in their ability to participate in society. The underlying objective is to support the functions of a diverse democratic society and to mitigate social polarization. 

Theoretical and practical support is sought from conflict mediation and conciliation. Mediation is a process that seeks to prevent damage that conflicts may inflict on individuals, groups or the environment by facilitating dialogues between the involved parties with the help of a neutral mediator (Moore, 2014). A model that can best enrich journalism is transformative mediation, which does not strive for a solution but focuses on enabling all parties to better understand each other, themselves and the conflict at hand (Bush, 2005) (Hautakangas & Ahva 2018).

About the Conciliatory Journalism Research Project

The concept and principles of conciliatory journalism were developed in an action research project that brought together over 50 Finnish journalists, journalism students, and researchers of journalism, communication and online interaction. The project was conducted in 2016-2018 by a team of Tampere University’s researchers of journalism and communication. The project was funded by the Kone foundation. 

The project developed as a response to the concerns stemming from the polarizing public discourse and the rise of fake news and counter-media outlets. It was initiated as the researchers’ attempt to provide support for journalists who were experiencing difficulties in covering controversial social topics that would easily invite aggressive public discussion and even attacks against the journalists. The main research objective was to study the journalistic practices that would help in maintaining a meaningful public discussion around conflict-prone topics in the current polarizing media environment.

The theoretical background of the project combined theories from journalism studies, online studies and communication and interaction studies. The term ‘conciliatory’ stems from this background of mediation, moderation and civic participation.

Principles of Conciliatory Journalism

The three main principles of Conciliatory Journalism are derived from patterns that have worked well in dispute mediation.

  1. Clarify the tension: the first step towards constructive discussion is a mutual understanding of what, exactly, is being talked about and where the disagreements lie.
  2. Facilitate listening: good coverage of a dispute should leave all parties, and those in the audience who side with them, feeling that they have been heard and understood correctly – even when they are being challenged.
  3. Maintain trust: Create a trustful environment where all relevant actors can feel safe enough to address delicate or conflict-prone issues.