Covering tragedy and trauma

Today’s lecture focused on a topic that’s very important to me, particularly in the field of journalism that I’d like to pursue. For a majority of the period, we talked about covering tragedy and trauma as a journalist.

Although many people have faced some sort of trauma in their lives, you can never truly say you understand exactly what someone’s going through. This is one of the points that my professor, Katherine Reed, mentioned. Katherine also teaches a “reporting on trauma” class here at Mizzou, which I’m looking forward to taking (hopefully next semester)!

As a journalist, no matter what your beat, you’re most likely going to encounter some type of trauma in your reporting, whether it be a car accident, the loss of a family member or a court case. It’s important to know how to handle it when this situation does make an appearance.

Katherine gave several tips for how to report on traumatic events, including warming up to the difficult questions (and asking them in an appropriate manner), explaining your intentions for reporting the scenario, letting the survivor decide when and where he or she will talk and to use emphatic interviewing strategies to avoid mistakes and to allow the interviewee to better remember the event.

We also talked a great deal about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and how it impacts journalists and the work they do in the field.

This topic is something that I’m extremely passionate about, and the emphasis for my psychology minor. I would eventually like to use my journalism degree and psychology minor to be a war correspondent. So, knowing how to report on traumatic events and having a deeper understanding of psychological disorders such as PTSD is tremendous help!

This has definitely been my favorite lecture thus far in my Missourian class. I’m looking forward to putting these tips to the test as I continue on my journalistic path.


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