Webinar stresses sensitivity while covering trauma victims

Experts at a webinar on Thursday said that journalists should exercise restraint and sensitivity while covering trauma survivors and at the same time remain mindful of their own psychosocial well-being.

Center for Communication Action Bangladesh (C-CAB) organised the webinar on ‘Covering and coping with trauma: building resilience through trauma-informed journalism’ in collaboration with Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma, says a press release.

Cait McMahon, managing director of Dart Centre Asia Pacific, said in her keynote presentation that covering traumatic events can take a psychological toll on journalists, and newsrooms should build a support network to help journalists who need psychosocial counseling.

McMahon said that it is natural for journalists who report on tragedy and disasters to experience psychological reactions like mood swings, sleeplessness, depression and disorientation, which in the long run can affect their work and personal lives.

But these issues can be overcome using peer support networks and self-care techniques, she added.

Journalists also need to be careful and ethical while interviewing trauma survivors to avoid re-traumatizing them, she said, adding that simple things like asking permission and letting them choose the time and place will empower them.

Syed Zain Al-Mahmood, executive director of C-CAB said that there should be discussions about journalists’ mental health needs and newsroom should build guidelines and support mechanisms to help journalists who were facing psychological trauma.

C-CAB would work with newsrooms to bring trauma journalism resources to local journalists, he added.

C-CAB has localised Dart Center’s Style Guide for Trauma-informed Journalism which contains guidance on best practices in trauma reporting.

British high commission’s head of media and communications Frances Jacks, Dhaka Tribune’s editor Zafar Sobhan, Prothom Alo English web’s head Ayesha Kabir and University of Liberal Arts’ (ULAB) professor of media studies and journalism department Jude W Genilo also spoke at the webinar.

Around 90 journalists from print, electronic and online media attended the main presentation.

C-CAB has been working on both the supply and demand sides of the news ecosystem, ranging from building capacity in mobile journalism, conflict-sensitive journalism, and data journalism to training young people in media literacy.

The Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma, a project of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, is an international resource centre dedicated to improving media coverage of trauma, conflict and tragedy.