International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies

Media Matters

Posted 1 January 2002 in StressPoints by Terry Clark, Contributing Editor, Media

The beginning of a new year creates an opportunity for a brief update on how university journalism programs are changing the way the media deal with trauma in the United States. The following featured universities below have received funds from the Dart Foundation through the Dart Center for Trauma and Journalism at the University of Washington. Each of the writers below attended the ISTSS convention in New Orleans.

Colorado University
Meg Moritz, Associate Dean
In the wake of the shootings at Columbine High School, a group from Colorado University (CU) headed by Meg Moritz, associate dean, produced a one-hour documentary, "Covering Columbine," which focused on journalists who covered the Columbine story. Our interest was in documenting the emotional and psychological impact this story had on the people who reported it. During a period of 18 months, we interviewed reporters, photographers, editors, producers, writers, and print and broadcast journalists from local and national news organizations.

Because of the immediacy and accessibility of the video documentary format, this project has been highly successful as a training tool for professionals and students. It has been featured at the annual conferences of the Society of Professional Journalists, the National Association of Press Photographers, the Colorado Press Association at the Association of Canadian Journalists in Montreal and at the U.S. Embassy in Paris.

The premiere screening of "Covering Columbine" was held in January 2001 on the Boulder campus and included a panel discussion with editors and reporters from Denver and Oklahoma City and a workshop on posttraumatic stress disorder led by Professor Roger Simpson and Frank Ochberg. Moritz and Ochberg will present this material in May 2002 to journalists in South Africa.

The documentary has been shown to dozens of journalism classes at CU, across the state and the country, and in Canada and France. It is available free to journalism teachers through the Dart Web site at www.dartcenter.org.

Other projects include a chapter about journalistic ethics and the coverage of Columbine, "Covering All the Angles," in the forthcoming book, Image Ethics in the Digital Age. CU also hosted a series of off-the-record meetings-D├ętente Sessions-which brought journalists and members of the Columbine community together for several months in 2001. The extensive Columbine coverage had created enormous animosity between newspeople and the community.

Indiana University, Indianapolis
Sherry Ricchiardi, Director
Indiana University launched its Dart-sponsored journalism program in October 2000 with Indiana's first statewide conference on "Violence and the Media: Pitfalls, Challenges and Opportunities," which drew 75 participants. The audience included working journalists, media scholars/ educators, students and mental health experts.

The conference was co-sponsored by the Indiana University (IU) School of Journalism, Dart Center, and the Hoosier State Press Association. Journalism students were assigned to participate in trauma issues and complete reporting exercises and research. A Web site was created to showcase presentations.

One of the main projects for 2002 was "Media and Trauma: Emotional Fallout from Covering Violence," a groundbreaking workshop in the Balkans for regional journalists who have been chronicling war in their homelands of the former Yugoslavia and Albania for the past decade. This took place January 17-19 at the International Center for Education in Journalism (ICEJ) in Opatija, Croatia.

We are hoping that ICEJ will become a satellite center for Dart Europe, headquartered in London. While in the Balkans, we will test the waters for a similar conference in the former Soviet territories for journalists who cover conflicts in places such as Chechnya, Georgia and Afghanistan. Also, we have preliminary plans for a Dart Center cyber course for journalists on covering violence around the world.

University of Central Oklahoma
Terry Clark, Chair
The University of Central Oklahoma journalism program focuses on assisting regional and community journalists who cover trauma, as well as traditional journalism students.

In 2001, the department conducted four regional workshops in the state, reaching about 100 journalists, with speakers from Tulsa and Oklahoma City metropolitan papers. Workshop topics were the Oklahoma City bombing coverage and tornado coverage.

In addition, copies of the book, Covering Violence, A Guide to Ethical Reporting about Victims and Trauma, was provided to everyone on staff at all 221 Oklahoma newspapers. Other statewide writing workshops incorporated the material, reaching another 100 journalists.

Plans for 2002 include more regional workshops, training for journalism instructors at Oklahoma colleges and universities that have journalism courses, and developing a study guide for those teachers.

On campus, the department has formed Victims and the Media-the first such course in America-taught every semester and attracting national and regional attention. Curriculum revision has incorporated the instruction into basic reporting classes, reaching approximately 100 students each semester, and other classes.