In the Aftermath of a Massacre: Traumatization of Journalists Who Cover Severe Crises

Klas Backholm, Trond Idås

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceedingChapterScientificpeer-review

Abstract

Covering crises comes with its risks for the messengers. While journalists on the scene of a crisis may see gruesome details that remain stuck in their minds, those working at the head office may be exposed to distressing descriptions of dead bodies or extreme cruelty when interviewing victims or editing graphic pictures. In the worst case, both types of exposure may lead to severe long-term psychological impairment. This chapter focuses on the mental health of news journalists working with sudden and unexpected crises. It provides an insight into the issue from the fields of psychotraumatology and journalism. The chapter discusses the most common forms of trauma-related psychological disorders, with a focus on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). By using examples from the authors’ studies on several man-made crises in Nordic countries, including a truck rampage case, school shootings, and a terror attack, the chapter summarizes the central factors that put journalists at risk for trauma-related problems. One of these, an inner conflict between carrying out journalistic duties and showing enough respect towards crisis victims, is presented in more detail. The authors conclude that pro-active work by media organizations can both prevent long-term psychological impairment in their employees and diminish the risk of journalists causing additional harm to crisis victims.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMedia Health. The Personal in Public Stories
PublisherScandinavian University Press
Chapter11
Pages236-254
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2020
MoE publication typeA3 Part of a book or another research book

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