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Journalism and Trauma

“In doing this study, it became clear to me that trauma journalism should be a fixture of journalism curricula and training programs. There exists a diverse and rich body of knowledge on this topic, as the Winter 2009 issue of the Nieman Reports displays. And given the prevalence of conflict and war, the violence and criminal acts that reporters are asked to cover, and the predictable incidence of natural disasters, there can be no debate about the necessity of putting this topic front and center in j-schools and newsrooms.

Perhaps the most salient argument is the moral one; it is journalists’ obligation to those who are victims of traumatic events to tell their stories in ways that don’t inflict more emotional damage on them while informing the public about what has happened.”

– Jad Melki surveyed journalists and j-school professors about trauma journalism in a study done by the International Center for Media and the Public Agenda at the University of Maryland’s Phillip Merrill College of Journalism.


These paragraphs are an excerpt from “Why Journalists Need to Learn About Trauma” by Jad Melki. 
  • Aftermath | Journalists’ Stories From coverage of murders in a small town to the assassination of a journalist in Sri Lanka, journalists describe how they report on traumatic events and cope with trauma they experience.
  • Aftermath | Conveying Complexity Journalists explain why details matter, how trust can be established, and when the intimacy of the story’s telling can help in understanding the impact events have had on people’s lives.
  • Aftermath | Voice and Language Relying on experiences, reporters tell how best to approach and talk with someone who is coping with trauma. They also offer guidance about choosing words and images to convey the story.
  • Aftermath | Purposeful Storytelling Primarily through the lens of foreign reporting, journalists tell of ways they connect what has happened to victims of violence or abuse to their readers.
  • Aftermath | Digging for Meaning An author, psychiatrist, reporters and a photojournalist explore why we tell stories about trauma and speak to decisions involved with determining the voice and perspective in storytelling.
  • Aftermath | Art and Trauma Journalists learn about trauma—and its expression—through exploring its depiction in painting, poetry and film.