Teaching Trauma Pt. 3 – Covering trauma


Meg MoritzThe third part of the Teaching Trauma workshop focused on how we cover trauma stories — Act One of Bruce Shapiro’s three acts of trauma (see Part One of my reports). Speaker Meg Moritz, from the University of Colorado, talked about some lessons learned especially from Columbine. A good resource distributed to workshop participants is a one-hour documentary called “Covering Columbine.”

Some questions to ask when covering violence and other trauma stories include:

  • Decide what aspects of the story you want to cover and avoid too much self-censorship. Decide how you are going to get information; ethically, how far will you go to gather information? Decide how you will present the information and avoid overreaching.
  • Know when to stop covering a story. Listen to your community and social networks to tell you when coverage is getting to be too much. Keep your readers’/viewers’ sensibilities in mind with your coverage.
  • Be aware of visual stressors you might add to stories by looping video (how many times do you have to see the planes crashing into the towers?), dding odd camera angles or dramatic music,
  • Be aware of reactions by journalists while covering emotional stories and the impact that will have on your audience. Think about the news anchor who breaks down crying or chokes up in telling the story.
  • Take care of yourself. We heard this several times during the morning sessions.

Discussion then focused on how to ethically cover stories and avoid guilt when you find yourself reporting emotional stories, how to avoid senationalism, exploitation, invasion of privacy, insensitivity, rejection by the community and disrespect for victims.

We also got some more ideas on how to defien trauma stories. Yes, there are the big shootings and natural disasters, but trauma also occurs with auto accidents, everyday crime, student crime, domestic violence, etc.


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