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Posts Tagged ‘Media’

A critical look at violence

Friday, September 10th, 2010

Source: Ask?

By Jayran Mansouri

Last year I studied Gandhi for history class, and something about him that stuck out to me was how deeply horrified he was at violence.  I realised that violence doesn’t upset me nearly as much. I have accepted it as part of my life, something I will see daily in the media. The violence I see in the media is not all presented in a negative light, and I am rarely shocked or horrified.

There is a huge difference between Gandhi’s view of violence and the common attitude towards violence today. Gandhi was born over a hundred years ago and raised as a Hindu Indian. As New Zealanders in the 21st century, we are exposed to a lot more popular media than Gandhi was. The majority of us are not religious, and our society as a whole is not particularly spiritual.

These differences between our culture and the one Gandhi was raised have resulted in a profound difference in our attitudes towards violence. I find our contrary attitudes towards violence interesting, but ultimately concerning. Too often, we focus on whitewashing violence, rather than thinking more deeply about it and the violent messages we get through the media.

Violence and gender
violenceagainstwomenIn my English class, we were watching a film. There was a scene when a man hit his wife. My class was almost unanimously horrified and disgusted. This reaction was something I found intriguing. I realized that this was one of the few times I’ve seen people react with shock and horror at seeing violence on screen.

Why aren’t we nearly as upset when we are presented with other violence? With the exception of violence from men towards women, our culture has been desensitised to violence. A man hitting a man is no big deal, a man hitting a woman provokes a strong negative reaction.  We really, really don’t like seeing men beating up women. Fair enough. That is quite as it should be. But we don’t seem to mind any other form of violence. There’s no outrage, no horror, no disgust, no OMG!!!

Censoring violence is not the way to go
I am an adamant proponent of freedom of speech and freedom of the press. That to me includes the freedom to show violence on television and in the media.  After all, if violence wasn’t shown in the media, there would be no opportunity for us to see how it is presented and critically analyse the attitudes towards violence being communicated towards us through the media.

It is up to us, the viewers and consumers, to look at the portrayal of violence in the media with a critical eye. Unfortunately, the media, particularly the television, is designed to communicate to our emotional side, rather than the rational side. It is therefore hard to analyse the messages in the media on an intellectual level. It takes work to look at the messages you receive and challenge them, rather than swallow them whole.

But it’s thanks to the exposure of violence in the media that we have an opportunity to explore these messages. We owe it to ourselves to take advantage of it.

It’s okay
fendingoffSometimes, I’ll read or listen to someone say something about violence in our culture. Condescendingly, they say, “we’re all desensitised to it”. This has made me feel somewhat guilty and ashamed for being desensitised to a certain level violence.  I don’t want to dictate to anyone what their response to violence should be. And I certainly don’t want to shame anyone for the level of violence they are able to comfortably watch on television. We can’t help being desensitised. We can’t undo a lifetime of exposure to violence. We can’t re-sensitise ourselves. Innocence isn’t something you can get back.

I don’t think we should try to re-sensitise ourselves. For one thing, it just isn’t possible. For another, it’s misguided. Innocence is not a superior or desirable position from which to discuss mature issues. We can’t really control our emotional reaction to violence. Trying to be horrified is an exercise in futility. What we can do is control our intellectual reaction to violence. We can ask ourselves, ‘why do I feel this way?’ We can question the validity of the message being given to us.

Shades of gray
There are no black-and-white solutions to the widespread exposure of violence in the media. It seems pointless to moan about our society being desensitised to violence. Rather than aiming for any one visceral reaction to violence, our best bet is to see everything in our media culture with a critical and analytical eye.

NEW Just Write magazine

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

inkling-coverOn Monday 3 May, the Just Write team are launching a new magazine - inkling - at an event hosted by Hon Tariana Turia, Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector, at Parliament.

The Just Write team have produced this magazine - inkling - for you, their family, mates and young people their community. You will find it full of thought provoking articles on issues like education, climate change and technology, with a focus on ACTION. Yes, the world is facing some huge challenges, which is having a significant impact on young people around the world, but what is being done about it? And what can each of us do?  You will find some of the answers in these pages, as well as poetry, a quiz to find out what sort of activist you are, information about some of our supporters and a recipe for Meredith’s mum’s delicious brown sugar muffins.

If you are a Just Focus member you will receive a copy of inkling next week. If you’re not then sign up now!!

May 3 is World Press Freedom Day. We chose to hold the magazine launch on this day to highlight the important role that young people play in creating a free and fair press.

Trigger Issues - Diamonds

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

By Nikki van der Gaag

tiffanysHow many other symbols of love also fuel violent conflict? At the same time as sparkling innocently in a footballer’s ear, the gems fund some of the worst fighting in Africa.

Diamonds are not as rare as we think and they have been mined by virtual slave labour, so why are they so expensive? These simple pieces of carbon have, over centuries, turned into the ultimate ‘rocks’: desired, possessed, traded, stolen, smuggled and, literally for many, ‘to die for’.

You can join our library and get books and DVDs out for Free!

YWCA of Aotearoa-New Zealand (YWCA and Y-Dub)

Friday, February 20th, 2009

What do they do?
The YWCA of Aotearoa-New Zealand work to empower women, especially young women, to reach their potential. They acknowledge their Christian and women’s heritage and commit themselves to Te Tiriti o Waitangi and to addressing all forms of oppression so that women together may attain social and economic justice.

How can I get involved?

There are nine YWCA Local Associations around Aotearoa-New Zealand, each offering valuable programmes and community services.

Check out the local association web sites here to discover what they are doing in your community.


Friday, February 20th, 2009

What do they do?
The New Zealand YMCA is a community organisation, based on Christian principles, which aims to enable individuals and families to develop physically, mentally and spiritually and enjoy a healthy quality of life.

How can I get involved?

YMCA is represented all around NZ, and they run a variety of programmes depending on the needs of that particular community. One programme that is currently run in many YMCA centres is ‘Raise up and Represent’.

The aim of Raise Up is to support youth in being physically fit, to encourage personal ownership and leadership, and to foster a sense of pride and respect for themselves, and the communities in which they live. YMCA are often searching for student leaders to help plan and implement Environmentally focused youth initiatives and activities for youth in their community. Contact your nearest YMCA for more info.

UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund)

Friday, February 20th, 2009

What do they do?
UNICEF - the United Nations Children’s Fund - is the world’s leading agency for children. UNICEF works closely with children, women and communities as well as governments, other UN agencies, faith-based groups, non-government organisations and the private sector to create a better world for every child.

How can I get involved?

Fundraise – Put the ‘fun’ back into fundraising!  Take part in a run, cycle, or swim while raising money for UNICEF.  It’s easy to make your own fundraising web page!

Campaign for Change - Make some noise and help shape better policies and practices for children.  Whether you write to your local MP about an issue affecting children, fill out one of our surveys or sign a petition, you’re helping affect change for a new generation of kids.  Join UNICEF’s Campaigners for Change by emailing for further updates.

Buy an Inspired GiftDoes your Dad need another pair of socks?  Why not help girls in Ghana go to school instead?  Purchase a bicycle for a girl in Ghana from our online shop and help give a better future to children!

- Your donation will go further with UNICEF! For every dollar donated, we can leverage $10 for children who need your help.

Volunteer - There are a number of ways that you can get involved with UNICEF NZ as a volunteer:

  • You can help out in their Wellington office with administration duties
  • You can help them with fundraising events
  • If you think you have some specific skills and experience that will be of value to them then you can apply for an internship

Trade Aid

Friday, February 20th, 2009

What do they do?
Trade Aid is a New Zealand founded, alternative trading organisation which has been working with craft producers and small farmers in developing countries around the world for 35 years. Trade Aid currently has 32 retail shops in both the North and South Islands and runs an extensive public education programme which aims to equip New Zealanders to speak out for greater justice in world trade.

How can I get involved?

Shop at Trade Aid! =D

Volunteer for Trade Aid - At Trade Aid there are opportunities to be a retail volunteer, speaker about Trade Aid issues to community or school groups, campaigner, education team member or a trustee. Get in touch with your local shop and see what you can get involved with today, sign up on-line at or pop in for a chat.

50 facts that should change the world

Thursday, February 5th, 2009

By Jessica Williams

learningAt the risk of sounding sensationalist…did you know that a third of the world is at war, 30 million people in Africa are HIV positive and more than 150 countries use torture.

The facts and information provided in this book is often missed, glossed over or hidden by government and the media. So to continue: cars kill 2 people every minute, landmines kill or maim a person every hour…

You can join our library and get books and DVDs out for Free!

Connected Media

Wednesday, January 14th, 2009


What do they do?

Connected Media is a New Zealand based charitable trust whose mission is to promote sustainability through media.

How can I get involved?

In partnership with Enviroschools and the Global Education Centre, Connected Media run an annual Sustainability Film Challenge called ‘The Outlook for Someday’. Anyone up to the age of 20 can make a film on sustainability of any length up to 5 minutes, of any genre they like – drama, documentary, animation, music video, advertisement, video blog, reality tv. The prizes are awesome – laptops, cameras, even a short course at a film school. Deadlines for films is usually late September. Check out the website here:


How much is too much?

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2008

By William Zhang

Have you ever turned on the six o’clock news, only to tune out a few minutes later, thinking “oh, not again… another gloomy story about disaster and destruction”? If so, you’ve experienced compassion fatigue.

hurricane-tvCompassion fatigue occurs when we get tired of seeing images of suffering in the news and TV, images like the ‘millions left homeless after their homes were destroyed’ or the ‘child who now has to walk for two hours a day just to get clean drinking water’. Heartbreaking stuff isn’t it? Yet, as we see more and more of these images on TV and the news, they start to lose their impact on us.

Many people, and some aid agencies, are worried that the world may experience mass compassion fatigue following the cyclone in Myanmar and earthquake in China. Before we look into the effects of this, it’s important to ask, why exactly does it occur? Compassion overdose?

As humans, we can only tolerate so many stories about pain and suffering before we experience compassion fatigue and tune out. We aren’t capable of constantly feeling pity, sadness or empathy. Compassion fatigue is like our body’s defence mechanism to cope with a ‘compassion overload’.

We develop a resistance to these stories of suffering. We get so used to seeing them we actually DON’T see them anymore. We become less likely to react or respond to them so that we don’t become too emotionally drained.

Its too much!!un-helicopter
As these stories lose their impact on us, we become less likely to respond by giving or donating to charities and relief funds. The amount of humanitarian relief organisations like the Red Cross, Tear Fund or Oxfam, are able to provide declines as a result. Humanitarian relief is needed because many countries don’t have enough resources themselves to respond to emergencies and strife.

A striking example of world-wide compassion fatigue occurred in 2004 and 2005. Within the period of a year, the world was forced to deal with the Boxing Day tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, and the earthquake in Pakistan; three huge natural disasters which led to a compassion overload. As a result, “we saw a tremendous outpouring of support for the tsunami and less support for the emergencies which followed”. (Eileen Burke, Save the Children)

What (or who) is to blame?
Media coverage of poverty, suffering or natural disasters hugely influences society. They direct our attention to important events, conflicts and disasters, but they can also swamp us with information and images to the point where we switch off.

darfurmarthaObviously, a lack of media coverage isn’t too good. The media has been criticised for not devoting enough attention to the genocide in Darfur for example, so people knew very little about the situation or the amount of aid and relief needed. According to a Tyndall Report (which monitors the news in the US), in 2004 the Darfur genocide received only 18 minutes of coverage on ABC News, 5 minutes on NBC and 3 minutes on CBS. That’s the total for the entire year! In contrast, Martha Stewart (celebrity author, editor and homemaker) received 130 minutes of news coverage.

However, too much coverage can also be equally as devastating. Media saturation of images and stories about suffering and destruction is a major cause of compassion fatigue.

It’s a delicate balance
The gap between too little and too much media coverage is a very thin line, with ignorance on one side and compassion fatigue on the other. Either way, if the fine balance between the two isn’t kept, people could suffer as a result.

Control of this delicate balance is in the hands of the world’s media corporations. Pretty important job huh? Should we actually trust a few media companies for this crucial role though? Sure, they have a role to play, but in reality, we should be taking the initiative ourselves. So, the next time you see that story on TV about the relief efforts in Myanmar, don’t switch off. Just think, you might have the choice not to see images of such tragedies, but for the people involved, these images reflect their everyday reality.

Check out the Take Action section for other things you can do to fight compassion fatigue.


4 quick steps to combat compassion fatigue:

  • For a breath of fresh air and a new perspective on things, check out one of many alternative news sources like the ones mentioned in the Learn More section.
  • Chat with your friends about an important issue that’s been on the news and find out what they think.
  • Get involved! Schools often have Amnesty International groups, or you could volunteer to help collect donations for a relief fund. You’ll become informed about the issue, help out in supporting it, and have fun at the same time.
  • If you do want to donate money, do your research and choose an organisation whose work you really want to support.


Go to the Council for International Development for details on how you can help in disasters and emergencies
Check out these alternative news sources.,,,

    This article was originally published in the Global Focus pages of Tearaway Magazine.