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University of Wisconsin–Madison

Ethics in the News Oct. 13

A journalism ethics summit themed on traumatic event reporting is scheduled for Oct. 27 at the Center for Ethics in Journalism at the University of Arkansas.

The summit, “Take Care of Yourself: an introduction to journalism, trauma and the workplace,” aims at addressing the ethical concerns about the impact of traumatic events both on survivors and journalists.

Stephen Ward wrote about the steps newsrooms can take to ethically care for its journalists who face traumatic situations. He suggested:

      • Media outlets must acknowledge trauma as reality and a concern; not as a career “stopper”
      • They must regard trauma services as part of staff well-being, similar to other programs
      • They need to make information available to journalists and hold information sessions
      • They should offer confidential counseling
      • They should encourage journalists to monitor themselves and their colleagues
      • They need to develop a policy on reporting crises, such as rotating reporters and de-briefing

Journalists are obliged not only to be considerate when interviewing survivors and witnesses, but also to care for themselves Self-estrangement, frequently experienced by war reporters, may cause journalists to become antisocial and unable to emphasize for future reporting. Many institutions, like the Dart Center, have been providing guidance for journalists to report traumatic events.

Another aspect of this ethical issue is the line between objective reporting and active engagement. A CNN report featuring a correspondent providing medical treatment to a baby survivor of the 2010 Haiti earthquake had been criticized for misrepresentation and self-promotion. And media-savvy NGOs feeding journalists with disaster stories further complicate the issue.

Read more about trauma and journalists from the Center for Journalism Ethics here.

In other news this week:

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