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WRITING BLOGS

Trauma Journalism

Frank Ochberg, founder of the Dart Center for Journalism & Trauma, says it started with a focus on trauma rather than on issues, such as poverty, prejudice and ignorance. “We wanted to help journalists deal with human events that came up regularly in deadline reporting, and to have a scientific understanding of the vulnerability, resilience, impact, treatment and outcome.” Ochberg, one of the pioneers of trauma science, uses his expertise and enthusiasm to connect people in both the therapeutic and journalistic communities worldwide to enhance media coverage of tragedy and trauma. Read More 
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Trauma Journalism

University of Washington student publications director Kristin Millis believes that journalists get “bombarded by the traumatic and the negative” and become very closed off emotionally over time. This disconnection contributes to the newsroom culture of being “hardened, angry, and unfeeling.” She says she unintentionally became “a very cynical person in a short period of time” during her five years as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers and trade magazines. But she feels fortunate to have changed her outlook and to be able to help young journalists learn about their responsibilities as well as their rights. “In order to be a truly effective reporter," Millis says, "you need the human element and the relevance and connection to community.” Read More 
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Trauma Journalism

Emotional care for media editing and production staffs has concerned newsroom managers in recent years, related to coverage of the Haitian earthquake, the South Asian tsunami, 9/11, the terrorist videotaped executions of Daniel Pearl and Nick Berg, and other troubling footage
of war and disaster. Veteran Canadian broadcast journalist George Hoff advocates for reasonable work shifts, mandatory breaks and opportunities for debriefings and counseling, if necessary, for in-studio crews who spend extended periods exposed to second-hand traumatization. Hoff says the impact of violence on a news worker’s psyche is too often “kept in the closet,” either because of organizational policies, fears of job losses, professional insecurities, or other “chilling” effects that block employees from discussing their psychological health. Read More 
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Trauma Journalism

When tragedy strikes a community, local media face many challenges. Don Corrigan, editor and co-publisher of a suburban St. Louis weekly, wrote of how he and his staff confronted trauma issues after a city hall shooting spree left six dead in Kirkwood, Mo. One of Corrigan’s reporters was an eyewitness. “In the case of a community weekly, when do we say ‘no’ (to national media) and take care of our own coverage and our own needs?” Read More 
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Trauma Journalism

Studies have indicated that photographers are more susceptible than other correspondents not only to physical harm but also to the negative emotional impact of war coverage because of their proximity to danger and the reprocessing of troubling images during editing. One explanation: To capture their subjects in harrowing situations, photographers have to focus on getting “the shot” and not on the human instinct to assist people in danger. However, veteran photojournalist Steve Connors says he observed more reporters than photographers upset by what they witnessed in battle. The former British soldier theorizes that the reflection and writing stages required of reporters may be more troubling than what photographers encounter in their work. Read More 
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Trauma Journalism

Wall Street Journal reporter Amy Dockser Marcus, who spent seven years as a correspondent covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, says medical stories can be as stressful, tragic and brutal as the longest war. In 2004, she embarked on a yearlong project, immersed in the lives of cancer patients and their families. Her nine-part series won the Pulitzer Prize. “I think reporting about fatal illnesses is often overlooked in the typical definitions of trauma,” she says, noting how as a journalist “you embark on profound relationships with people that can last years.” Read More 
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Trauma Journalism

College media advisers Kelly Furnas at Virginia Tech University (2007) and Jim Killam (2008) at Northern Illinois University were praised for guiding their student newspaper teams through extreme crises when horrific violence struck their campuses. Each adviser kept his journalists focused on their mission of providing the “extended” community of readers with accurate, timely and sensitive news coverage. But Furnas and Killam were also responsible for the safety, health, and welfare of dozens of student reporters, editors, photographers, designers and support personnel. Read More 
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Trauma Journalism

On Oct. 21, 22, the Dart Center for Journalism & Trauma, Columbia Univ., NYC, is staging workshops for journalists on domestic violence issues. (http://dartcenter.org/content/out-shadows-reporting-on-intimate-partner-violence) Daily Herald (Everett, Wash.) asst. city editor Scott North advocates compassionate approaches to reporting (local) violent, tragic stories. He works closely with community reps. and uses rotating team coverage and debriefings to alleviate stress, burnout among his staff. Read More 
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Trauma Journalism

CNN news crews were fired upon this week during ongoing fighting in Libya. Although war correspondents have long been at risk, the intentional targeting of journalists intensified in the late 20th century in Bosnia and Africa. Numerous deaths and injuries of reporters and photographers led to reforms such as mandatory body armor and hostile-environment training.
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Trauma Journalism

Australian psychologist Cait McMahon has researched the resultant post-traumatic growth that may occur when reporters are exposed to conflict and crises. McMahon refers to “positive outcomes of trauma exposure that result in dramatic enhancement of the individual.” This enhanced perspective toward self or others is an outcome of journalists sharing their trying experiences with supportive colleagues. Read More 
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