- Sarah French
Advice for Journalists
According to the Dart Center for Journalism & Trauma (2007), here are some suggestions journalists should keep in mind while covering potentially traumatic assignments:
Before a potentially traumatic assignment, a journalist should:
While on the job, a journalist should:
After the job, a journalist should:
Talk through possible emotional risks with your editor or manager.
Understand that distress in the face of tragedy is a normal human response – not weakness.
Diffuse with someone you trust. Choose a good listener. Don’t bottle up feelings.
Agree how you will keep in regular touch, particularly if difficulties arise.
Ensure proper eating, hydration and sleep. All these can affect journalistic judgement.
Monitor for delayed reactions – they can catch you by surprise at a later date.
Agree that partners and families are kept informed.
Easy on ‘self medication’. Overuse of substances is an indicator that all is not well.
Maintain normal routines and activities, but slow down. Look after yourself.
Maintain strong social supports and peer networks.
Get some exercise if you can. Even a walk helps break down ‘stress chemicals’ in the body.
If distress continues beyond 3-4 weeks seek professional assistance from a health care practitioner trained in trauma.
See crises as challenges to learn from. Maintain an optimistic outlook and positive self-view.
Remember that the journalism of trauma matters. What you do is important and worthwhile
Acknowledge your feelings. Understanding feelings informs your journalism and helps you process trauma.
Talk to others. Take time to reflect on what you are witnessing and how you are responding.
Call home. Maintain contact with loved ones and peers– especially on long assignments.
Don’t look at grotesque images too long.
Look out for others in your team.
Know your limits. Request rotation if needed.
If you are feeling distressed don’t hide it. Such responses are human and it is neither weak, unprofessional nor career-threatening to admit them.
“Your success level is based on how well you present, right? So you're always going to present well, regardless of how you feel, regardless of what's on your mind, your heart, whatever, you're always going to. You're good at putting on an appearance. So we are very susceptible to struggling and very susceptible to people thinking that everything is okay.” - Anchor/Reporter Fred Shropshire