Journalism and Trauma

Meg Spratt and Sue Lockett John

in Communication

ISBN: 9780199756841
Published online May 2012 | | DOI:
Journalism and Trauma

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The consideration of journalism and trauma as a distinct field of practice, education, and research is relatively new. In the final decade of the 20th century, efforts at both Michigan State University and the University of Washington stressed the need to teach sensitive and accurate reporting of victims and survivors. The pioneering Victims and the Media Program launched by William Coté at Michigan State University (1991) and the Journalism and Trauma training program founded by Roger Simpson at the University of Washington (1994) figure prominently in any overview of this significant shift in journalism education and scholarship in the United States. Both programs were informed by the work of the psychiatrist Frank Ochberg, an expert on post-traumatic stress syndrome, and funded by the Dart Foundation in Mason, Michigan. In 1999 the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma was founded at the University of Washington. Efforts to improve teaching and research of the newsgathering, journalistic narrative, and effects of trauma journalism spread quickly, and an international network of journalists, educators, and mental health professionals resulted. Subsequently, the Dart Center headquarters moved to Columbia University in New York, with satellite offices in London and Melbourne, and a research node at University of Tulsa in Oklahoma. In addition to the development of these university-based programs, a series of natural and human-caused tragedies through the 1990s and first decade of the new century further fueled the need for journalism and trauma education and research. In the United States, journalists needed to find affective and compassionate ways to tell tragic national stories, including the Oklahoma City bombing in April 1995, the Columbine High School shootings in April 1999, the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Internationally, uprisings and unrest in the Middle East, the Israeli-Palestinian and Sri Lanka conflicts, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and terrorist acts such as the 1995 Sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway, the Bali and London bombings in 2005, and the 22 July 2011 mass killings in Norway, presented challenges for both local journalists and nonlocal correspondents. Natural disasters, including devastating earthquakes and tsunamis in Indonesia, Haiti, Chile, and Japan, have added to the need for journalism and trauma scholarship. It has become crucial for reporters, photojournalists, editors, and news managers to recognize and understand reactions to trauma, including their own. Because of the cross-disciplinary nature of journalism and trauma scholarship, journals publishing related research are diverse. Communication publications include those focusing on general media studies, journalism practice, ethics, and political communication. However, more work on journalism and trauma is beginning to appear in publications covering other disciplines, including psychology, sociology, public policy, and criminal violence.

Article.  9330 words. 

Subjects: Communication Studies

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