The Dart-Nieman Collaboration

With its strong commitment to the Dart-Nieman collaboration over the past six years, the Dart Foundation of Mason, Michigan, has been the major supporter of the Nieman Foundation’s efforts to bring emotional literacy to Nieman Fellows and alumni, and to others in the Harvard and greater journalism communities.

As a result, emotional trauma and trauma journalism are now subjects of frequent discussion, exploration and instruction at the Nieman Foundation. The annual fellow’s workshop teaches self-care and peer support for journalists as well as some basics about acute stress, PTSD and resilience. Collaborations with other Harvard institutions such as the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs and the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy bring the emotional literacy lens to conversations about issues as diverse as war, brain science, poetry and press freedom.

Fellows focusing their Nieman year on trauma and resilience now have expert networks and clinician resources to tap into while at Harvard; and some alumni are involved in bringing resources and support to their own and to other countries in need. Also, relationships and collaborations with other Dart-funded journalism entities such as the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma and the Dart Society are strong and productive.  

As the collaboration has achieved many of its original goals and trauma awareness has become an integral part of Nieman programming in many ways, this initiative is winding down as an officially sponsored program in 2013. In sync with long-term strategic planning at the Nieman Foundation and the Dart Foundation, funds may be raised for new and/or larger projects, such as conferences or country workshops, as needed in the future.

Helping journalists in need

In May 2012, the Nieman Foundation successfully collaborated with the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma at Columbia University and the Mexican journalism organization Periodistas de a Pie to host an intensive one-day trauma journalism workshop for Mexican journalists. The meeting focused on providing initial support for a select group of Mexican colleagues strongly affected by the recent wave of violence against journalists in the country. By offering a common language to express and acknowledge the impact violence has on people and their lives, and by drawing from the ingenuity of each journalist present, many of whom have developed successful strategies to handle threats and risks, the workshop provided education, inspiration, and community to all participants – trainers and attendees alike. Several Mexican Nieman alumni were a crucial part of the team conceptualizing, organizing and supporting the workshop.

Mexico has become one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists, with more than four dozen killed or gone missing in the past six years. Others have been forced to flee the country.

In the fall of 2012, Finbarr O’Reilly, an Africa-based photographer for Reuters and a 2013 Nieman fellow, and Bessel van der Kolk, medical director of the Boston Trauma Center, drew a full house for a talk on the day before the U.S. presidential elections. Under the headline “Covering Conflict: War, Storytelling, and the Impact of Covering Violence,” they explored the emotional toll of war, how trauma affects brain and body alike, and what it takes to witness and narrate violent struggle in the world.

Two Nieman Fellows are focusing on trauma subjects this year:
O’Reilly is taking courses in psychology to better understand how the human mind and behavior are affected by personal experience, with a focus on trauma and conflict zones.

Chong-ae Lee, senior reporter at the Seoul Broadcasting Corporation and a 2011 Dart Asia Fellowship recipient, is studying journalism related to complex trauma, focusing on people who have experienced the effects of periods of colonialism, war, and military-influenced dictatorial administrations followed by rapid economic growth.