Good afternoon blog.
Today in class, we discussed covering traumatic events and interviewing trauma victims. It was pretty heavy, to say the least, but we touched on a lot of points that I found to be quite helpful.
One point that really stuck out to me was our tendency to comfort someone who has witnessed or been a victim of a traumatic event. It is totally normal to (and I would argue that you should) want to comfort someone going through something horrible, but it isn’t appropriate to say you understand what the victim is going through. Our professor said it’s because trauma and normal grief are so different, and while they often exist together, they are not the same.
Another thing we talked about is how the repeated coverage of traumatic events can take a toll on journalists. Repeated exposure to graphic photographs, interviewing people going through horrible pain, etc. can impact your life in a big way. That’s why it is important to monitor your emotional state and step back or talk to someone if necessary.
We also talked about the tactic of covering mass shootings, and how there is a “no notoriety” campaign that is gaining popularity. This is because of the contagion effect that happens after intense coverage of a mass shooting including the shooter’s name, photograph, and detailed background of their life. In the no notoriety strategy, we would eliminate the publishing of the photograph and name of the perpetrator.
Intense coverage like this walks a fine line of informing the public and re-traumatizing the victims of a traumatic event such as mass shootings and big accidents. I think we need to evaluate the news value of publishing certain things and if it essential for the public to see a graphic photograph or other materials that might do more harm than good.
It was a tough topic today. But these hard discussions are essential for us to do our jobs well and serve our community as much as possible.