Peace journalism is an attempt at persuasive communication, usually by a social movement, to advocate in favor of ending war and violence. Journalism that advocates reforms such as social justice, the abolition of slavery, woman suffrage, and, most centrally, international peace has flourished in the United States, partly because of the press freedom the First Amendment of the US Constitution affords. Perhaps not surprisingly, most of the research to date on peace journalism has focused on US subjects and concerns (Roberts 1991, 1995).
Underpinning the scholarship is a rich history of international peace movements. Several scholars have emphasized the vigor and continuity of Anglo-American efforts originating early in the nineteenth century (Brock 1968; Chatfield 1971; Curti 1936; DeBenedetti & Chatfield 1990; Phelps 1930; Wittner 1969). Recent studies focus on modern, international peace efforts such as the post-World War II nuclear disarmament movement (Wittner 2003). The research usually notes the important role of the advocacy press in promulgating ideas about peace.
Some scholarship views peace journalism as a tool of peace societies, first organized in the United States early in the nineteenth century. The Massachusetts Peace Society and the New York Peace Society formed in 1815 and the American Peace Society (APS) in 1828. These nonsectarian, Christian organizations sponsored periodicals such as the Advocate of Peace, Calumet, and Harbinger of Peace (APS), Friend of Peace (Massachusetts Peace Society), and American Advocate of Peace (Connecticut Peace Society). Another example, the New England Non-Resistance Society, published the Liberator and other titles. The League of Universal Brotherhood (founded 1846) and the Universal Peace Union (founded 1866) also published several periodicals.
Besides these comparatively nonsectarian, sponsored periodicals (Stewart et al. 2006), peace journalism also emerged in religious institutions, within the communication strategies of historical peace churches: Quakers (Society of Friends), Mennonites, and Church of the Brethren. All have proselytized for peace as a religious tenet. In the nineteenth century at least, the nonsectarian peace publications greatly overshadowed the religious ones, which thus received less scholarly scrutiny.
A third category of nineteenth-century peace journalism came from religious communitarians who advanced peace as a key principle of their vision to remake society. The Oneida Community in upstate New York published American Socialist, Oneida Circular, and Witness (Roberts 2005). The Shakers issued Shaker Manifesto and other publications, and the Owenite New Harmony group published New Harmony Gazette. Also in this category are the Adventists (Review and Herald and World’s Crisis) and the Disciples of Christ (American Christian Review, Christian Baptist, and Millennial Harbinger).
After the nineteenth century, peace journalism grew along with the number of peace organizations. Examples of the publications from religious institutions (including the historical peace churches) are Brethren Life and Thought, Friends Journal, Mennonite Life, Fellowship (Fellowship of Reconciliation), and Catholic Worker. Examples from secular organizations include Liberation, International Conciliation, and Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, as well as WIN, from the War Resisters’ League.
Beginning in the early twenty-first century, individuals and groups turned to new media technologies such as the Internet to proselytize for peace. For instance, most peace organizations today take advantage of computer networking and email to help organize their international members’ activities, including the production of media messages. Many peace periodicals have either developed an auxiliary website or are primarily web-based, such as Peace Journalism (www.peacejournalism.com), an international e-magazine.
The best-developed scholarship on peace journalism grows out of the field of peace history, especially institutional histories. Some scholars have focused on influential practitioners of journalism for peace advocacy, such as Dorothy Day and her Catholic Worker (Roberts 1984) and I. F. Stone, editor of I. F. Stone’s Weekly (Cottrell 1992). Such research demonstrates that some practitioners such as Day focused almost equally on content and journalistic craftsmanship.
Research on peace advocacy journalism and new media technologies is still in its infancy. Other areas that demand study include peace advocates’ uses of communication, economic aspects of peace journalism, audiences peace journalists reach, the social and cultural context, and the journalists’ background and training, especially compared to mainstream professionals.
- Brock, P. (1968). Pacifism in the United States: From the colonial era to the first world war. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
- Chatfield, C. (1971). For peace and justice: Pacifism in America, 1914–1941. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press.
- Cottrell, R. C. (1992). Izzy: A biography of I. F. Stone. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.
- Curti, M. (1936). Peace or war: The American struggle, 1636–1936. New York: W. W. Norton.
- DeBenedetti, C., & Chatfield, C. (1990). An American ordeal: The antiwar movement of the Vietnam era. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press.
- Phelps, C. (1930). The Anglo-American peace movement in the mid-nineteenth century. New York: Columbia University Press.
- Roberts, N. L. (1984). Dorothy Day and the “Catholic Worker.” Albany, NY: SUNY Press.
- Roberts, N. L. (1991). American peace writers, editors, and periodicals: A dictionary. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.
- Roberts, N. L. (1995). The peace advocacy press. In F. Hutton & B. Straus Reed (eds.), Outsiders in 19th-century press history: Multicultural perspectives. Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green State University Press, pp. 209–238.
- Roberts, N. L. (2005). Oneida community journalism. Oneida Community Journal, 19(2), 4–9.
- Stewart, C., Smith, C. A., & Denton, Jr., R. T. (2006). Persuasion and social movements, 5th edn. Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press.
- Roberts, N. L., & Klejment, A. (eds.) (1996). American Catholic pacifism: The influence of Dorothy Day and the Catholic worker movement. Westport, CT: Praeger.
- Wittner, L. S. (1969, rev. edn. 1984). Rebels against war: The American peace movement, 1933–1983. New York: Columbia University Press.
- Wittner, L. S. (2003). Toward nuclear abolition: A history of the world nuclear disarmament movement, 1971 to the present. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.