Self-care makes you a better reporter says Professor of psychology at the University of Tulsa, Elana Newman.
The trauma faced by journalists in the field came under the spotlight at one of the workshops at the Global Investigative Journalism Conference, taking place at Wits University from November 16-19. Investigative journalists Amantha Perera, Gavin Rees, Juliana Ruhfus, Ismail Einashe and Patricia Evangelista joined a panel moderated by Dart Centre managing director, Cait McMahon. The Dart Centre, part of the University of Columbia, is dedicated to addressing trauma and violence.
Professor of psychology at the University of Tulsa, Elana Newman who also joined the panel, said that “trauma is a universal experience and 90 to 100% of journalists are exposed to it”. In response, Perera, the Asia Pacific coordinator for Dart Centre Asia, elaborated on strategies that she uses which range from exercise to prioritising family time in an attempt to deal with the trauma that she experiences in her work.
Multimedia manager for Rappler, , Evangelista, recounted her experience of the trauma that she faced while reporting the drug wars in the Philippines which has left journalists regularly facing dead bodies and other victims. “We are there when families discover the bodies of their loved ones,” she said. In these instances both the journalist and the sources are severely traumatised.
Ruhfus, a journalist at Al Jazeera talked about her coverage of the sex trade of Nigerian women in Italy. “It is very difficult for women to talk, they are overly traumatised because they are trafficked,” she said. She highlighted the importance of getting consent from people who have been impacted by trauma and violence. In addition, Perera said that often, when interviewing in cases of trauma, he will takes an individual along with whom the traumatised sources can relate to and trust.
Newman cautioned journalists, saying that they need to be aware of the differences between Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and trauma. “If you are going to tell a story of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder talk about PTSD. If you are telling a story of trauma, don’t talk about PTSD. When reporting it is important to talk about the distinction”.