When you think of emotion-provoking news, whether it be angering or heart wrenching, you most likely only consider the victims. Rarely do you consider the journalist reporting the news.
The trauma on the victims themselves is by far more superior to that of the reporters. This detail, though, does not make the suffering of reporters immaterial.
Reporters are witnessing the horror stories we only read about or get a glimpse of on television. Jon Alpert, and award-winning reporter, can recall all the terrors he has seen. In the Philippines 14 soldiers were “turned into hamburger” before his eyes. Women in Iraq begged for help as they held up their shriveled dying babies. Alpert says he suffers through all this “So the audience will never forget.”
Many reporters like Matthew Reilly spend months in order to correctly cover a tragic story. Reilly spent more than a year conducting nearly 200 interviews to ensure that “The Short Life of Viktor Matthey” was the best it could be. Stories begin to consume reporters lives. Reporter Caren Boddie quit her job not long after covering the Columbine shooting. Boddie said she felt an abundance of stress, and no longer focused on what was truly important to her.
The consequences of covering deaths and abuse may hit right away or in later years. Dr. Frank Ochberg, a Michigan psychiatrist, has found that reporters experience a wide range of emotional, cognitive, physical and interpersonal effects — all of which can lead to more serious illnesses. Reporters don’t realize that they are traumatized, not until after the popularity of the news dies down or until the effects are severe.
Journalists are on a deadline; they do not stop to realize what they are actually reporting. An unnamed reporter spoke of his experience of tsunami reliefs “There are times when it all falls silent and we all remember is the taste, the smell, and the lingering feeling that we should have done more, but didn’t.”
The job of a journalist is to get the truth, which requires them to stand by during tragedies. Journalists aren’t robots. Experiencing horrific events causes them trauma only the victims can surpass. Journalists are humans too.