Emotion and trauma in reporting disaster and tragedy

Duncan, Sallyanne and Newton, Jackie (2014) Emotion and trauma in reporting disaster and tragedy. In: The Future of Humanitarian Reporting. City University London, London, pp. 69-74.

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Abstract

Images of humanitarian reporting often involve compelling accounts of distant human suffering, such as Michael Buerk's iconic coverage of the 1984 Ethiopian famine. Yet, for every major disaster there are personal tragedies by the score, or even by the thousand, and reporting these stories of individual bereavement is a form of humanitarian reporting many journalists are likely to come across. Whilst there are clearly significant differences in reporting humanitarian disasters and reporting personal bereavement there is also common ground. Behind every major tragedy and those images of distant suffering are individual families who have endured the loss of a loved one. Reporters often approach covering the bereaved, the vulnerable and the traumatised from an insufficiently informed position which creates a reliance on instinct, previous experience, and a variable application of regulatory systems and personal decision-making. This article suggests that a greater professional understanding of the conditions, involvements and responses to grief, loss and trauma would educate journalists – including those involved in the production process as well as in frontline news gathering – in the appropriateness of their treatment of a vulnerable person's story.