Journalists need training in covering trauma responsibly

It doesn’t take long to realize that this world is filled with disasters and painful events. It is essential for a journalist to have the tenacity to get into the heart of the action. A good journalist must be willing to ask the hard questions, boldly facing up to the truth in the face of adversity.

However, from the subject’s point of view, this determination may easily be perceived as insensitive and irreverent. There are certain events that must be handled more delicately than others. For instance, a woman who has just been raped, or the family members of a plane crash victim perhaps.


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When it comes to these kind of scenarios Nieman Reports stresses the importance of “trauma journalism” becoming more widely taught as a part of journalism teaching and training. So the story will be told without emotional duress being inflicted on the subject.

There is a project at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, to make this kind of training available. “The Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma” is this project. According to the website the Dart Center is;

“dedicated to informed, innovative and ethical news reporting on violence, conflict and tragedy…The Dart Center provides journalists around the world with the resources necessary to meet this challenge, drawing on a global, interdisciplinary network of news professionals, mental health experts, educators and researchers.”

Their presence on various platforms, specifically Twitter, is growing.


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A study at the University of Maryland’s Phillip Merrill College of Journalism interviewed journalists who confirmed that they realized the importance of learning how to tactfully handle traumatic situations with respect to the subject. This study calls for increased venues for discussion and educational opportunities for journalists, as well as change of the “newsroom culture” and policies.

Is this education of journalists so important? The evidence would suggest so. By learning sensitive ways to approach trauma victims, journalists could gain the trust of the subject and it is likely the news coverage would be more successful.

-Catherine Jacoby

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