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WRITING BLOGS

Trauma Journalism

TRAUMA JOURNALISM: ON DEADLINE IN HARM'S WAY, was recently reviewed (12/9) by Matt Porter, the Daily ((SOT)), Syracuse University: "I believe Masse’s book is another welcome addition to the study of trauma’s effect on journalists. Masse’s most effective tool is the stories he takes directly from journalists. The book is littered with powerful quotes from domestic and international journalists who have seen the effects of tragedy on reporting. This book should be mandatory for any young journalist thinking of pursuing a career in the field. The book touches on important topics that are often not discussed in classes either because they are “taboo” or simply uncomfortable. But, Masse’s well-researched book shows the reality of the profession."
http://www.mp-reports.com/blog/?p=307 Read More 
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Trauma Journalism

A conflict overlooked by most non-journalists was the civil war in Sierra Leone (western Africa) in 1999–2000. It was considered another “bleeding field” for reporters, as a dozen lost their lives there, including Reuters correspondent Kurt Schork and APTN cameraman Miguel Gil Moreno. Schork, who had left a career in corporate law to become a conflict journalist, was 53 when he died. A 2001 Media Studies Journal article cites Schork’s haunting admonition to his colleagues. “War reporting,” Schork said, “is a job, is a craft—not a holy crusade. The thing is to work and not get hurt. When that is no longer possible, it is time to get out.” Read More 
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Trauma Journalism

Nov./Dec. 2011 issue of QUILL magazine honors two slain journalists from Kyrgyzstan: Alisher Saipov (26) and Gennady Pavlyuk (51). Both were murdered after they had reported about political corruption, repression and human rights abuses. Saipov was shot to death in 2007. Pavlyuk was bound hand and foot and thrown to his death from a high-rise in 2009. According to Bruce Swaffield, "Colleagues and friends gathered recently to pay tribute" to the two men, in front of a bronze statue of journalist Pavlyuk erected in 2010. Read More 
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Trauma Journalism

Journalism students need to know what is appropriate behavior for interacting with those affected by tragedy and trauma. Instruction on progressive techniques should include discussion of the role of emotion and empathy in critical incident reporting. By informing students of the effects of trauma journalism, educators will help prepare them for what they will encounter, and, hopefully, enable them to be more resilient, empathetic, and effective as news media professionals. Read More 
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Trauma Journalism

For those reporting continually on the Sandusky (Penn State) sex-abuse criminal investigation, there will likely be emotional effects. That psychological impact will intensify once a jury trial begins. Research has documented that coverage of criminal trials can result in secondary traumatization to those exposed to disturbing details and images on a long-term basis.
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Trauma Journalism

Terry Anderson, author of "Den of Lions," a survivor of terrorism and a hostage in Lebanon from 1985 to 1991, says that being a disciplined professional journalist does not preclude passion or empathy for a given subject or source. While he believes journalists should utilize the tools of their craft and strive for balance and fairness, not all stories have the obligatory two sides. For example, he notes that when covering the Rwandan genocide, there was only one side to consider— the truth. Like others who have experienced tragedy and trauma firsthand (Anderson was a Marine correspondent in Vietnam), he does not believe that being detached is the proper perspective for a reporter. Being in touch with one’s feelings when reporting on a difficult story, Anderson believes, will enable that journalist to write a more accurate, realistic, and dramatic account. Read More 
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Trauma Journalism

Judith Matloff teaches a graduate "Covering Conflict" course at Columbia University. She is frank when advising her students about the risks of trauma journalism: "Know your limits and motivations. Understand that it is normal to have extreme reactions to extreme events. Anticipate that you may feel very distressed; know the symptoms and get help if they appear. That was the biggest problem with my generation. We didn’t have a word for 'trauma.' No one talked about 'shellshock,' or whatever it was called in those days. You went forth with a bottle of scotch and pretended to be really tough and macho and then had terrible nightmares that resonated during the day. Friends became alcoholics, got into car crashes, split with their wives. Two colleagues committed suicide. That wouldn’t have happened if we understood trauma." Read More 
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Trauma Journalism

The new age of converged, interactive, and social media has ushered in new rules governing objectivity and detachment on the part of reporters. Old ways are being replaced by immersive, collaborative, and intimate news coverage. Purists are offended, criticizing reporters for becoming too intimate with their stories, displaying their emotions on air, in print, or online. But audiences tend to respond positively when journalists act like “real people” when reporting on difficult stories. The lines, however, are blurring between information, advocacy, and opinion, between honest emotion and showmanship. Read More 
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Trauma Journalism

With U.S. military involvement in Iraq ending and tens of thousands of troops returning home, news coverage rightfully focuses on the lives of these men and women and their adjustment to non-combat roles. Notable stories document the challenges facing those veterans coping with physical and mental health injuries, including depression and PTSD. However, what is typically missing in the analysis of post-war issues are accounts of the print and broadcast journalists who have spent extended time embedded with troops and bearing witness to death and destruction while working in harm’s way. Several recent research studies have documented that news media workers may suffer from stress, burnout and mental anguish, in percentages comparable to military personnel and other first responders, as a result of being brutally close to the action. Read More 
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Trauma Journalism

Freelance photojournalist and documentary filmmaker Molly Bingham agrees that more journalists are now willing to discuss the impact of reporting on tragedy and trauma. But she cautions those in the news media who cling to outdated notions: "If the (journalistic) culture is: 'Suck it up. Things are tough for everybody. Don’t be a crybaby.' That’s not constructive for anybody. I’m a forthright, honest person who doesn’t hide her feelings well, and I would die in an environment that expected me to deny being affected by what I’ve seen and done." Read More 
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