Reporting Justice

III/6: Trauma & Safety

III/6: Trauma & Safety

Journalism Module 6:  Trauma & Safety

Survivors and witnesses of violent conflicts often suffer from traumatic stress, which may manifest itself in a variety of ways from the immediate scene through justice developments. Journalists may inadvertently aggravate these injuries through their reporting and the stories and pictures they publish. This module covers ways reporters can approach trauma survivors to minimize harm and maintain reliability.  Journalists also can experience trauma by witnessing violence, writing about it, or confronting threats to their own safety. The second part of the module explores ways journalists can safeguard their own mental health and safety when reporting on traumatic events.

Key questions:

What are the signs of traumatic-related stress?

How can a reporter show sensitivity without sacrificing objectivity or journalistic rigor?

What are the ways reporters can identify and respond to trauma-related stress in themselves?

Required Readings:

Compassion Fatigue: How the Media Sell Disease, Famine, War, and Death, Susan D. Moeller,  (Routledge, 1999), Ch. 5: “Covering War: Getting Graphic About Genocide,” pp. 221-280. This excerpt explores the powerful, complex effects that graphic images of inhumanity may have on subjects and viewers.

“Unprepared, inexperienced and in a war zone”, BBC Blogs, available at

To Tell You the Truth: The Ethical Journalism Initiative, Aiden White, International Federation of Journalists (2008), Ch. 4, “The Ethical Choices: When Media Go to War,” pp 81-93 This reading provides case studies that illustrate important safety standards.

Selected Online Resources:

“Disaster and Crisis Coverage,” Deborah Potter and Sherry Ricchiardi,  International Center for Journalists.

Reporting for Change: A Handbook for Local Journalists in Crisis Areas, C. Bickler et al,   Institute for War and Peace Reporting. (London. 2004.) Ch 14: “Journalism Safety.”  This reading provides practical advice for staying safe.