The characteristic elements of reporting have long been taught to young people who feel the urge to follow when an ambulance goes past and have decided that journalism is the safest way to harness this thrillseeking.
Mainstream reporting for TV or newspapers is a fairly formulaic process. Violence makes the news if it is in a reasonably familiar country populated mainly by white people such as America, Israel or Russia. Viewers have only a 30 second attention span so background information must be kept to a minimum. Quotes to explain the violence should come from the most powerful person you can talk to and, to provide balance, you then go and talk to the most powerful person you can find on the other side. A simple quote from both sides blaming the other side will normally give the balance you need.
If the other side is a terrorist then you don’t need to worry about talking to them, for they are evil and shouldn’t be given a voice. In this case the power on your side will normally refer to the terrorists as ‘these people’ with a disbelieving shake of the head – Blair and Bush both have this slightly stunned expression well honed. Ordinary people caught up in violence are given exposure according to their proximity to what the viewer can relate to his own life. Therefore the hostage from Liverpool ranks above the hostage from Italy.
1000 American deaths should be given more exposure than 10,000 Iraqi civilians, unless it is an election year, when both should be ignored.
Note: I'm finally writing up my new learning on peace journalism for an article. The above will probably be excised from the final piece, so let it live here