Caring for Journalists – College Hosting National Trauma Journalism Symposium on Campus
Events and Lectures

Natural disasters. Transportation accidents. Acts of terrorism. Pandemic cases. When emergencies happen, first responders are there to assist. Besides law enforcement, medical care and fire rescue, there is another profession that sends individuals to the same distressing events — journalism.

While journalists are not part of the tactical response, they endure many of the same sights, sounds and threats as those with specialized training. Over time, that exposure to trauma can lead to mental health problems. Additionally, journalists who lack appropriate training may unintentionally inflict further trauma upon their sources.

As greater awareness of trauma and its effects grows, Franklin College is proud to partner with those at the forefront of helping support journalists before, during and after they go into harm’s way. The College in collaboration with the Trust for Trauma Journalism (TTJ) will offer the inaugural National Trauma Journalism Symposium on campus, Oct. 20– 21, 2022. The first of its kind in the nation, the symposium centers around trauma journalism and the effects it has on those in the crossfire while reporting the news. Register here.

“Trauma is not new, but understanding what it does to journalists, as well as what it does to many other professions is new,” said John Krull ’81, Pulliam School of Journalism director. “Back at the time when I entered the profession if you reported on something disturbing — shootings, sex crimes, things awful to contemplate — there was an expectation to ‘rub dirt on it.’ There was no real appreciation of how that could affect the journalists involved, just as it did those with other high-stress and high-trauma occupations. But there was a reason newsrooms tend to breed dysfunctional relationships, problems with substance abuse and other forms of self-destructive behavior; there was pain journalists weren’t dealing with.

“Because we understand much better now what trauma is and what it does to people, communicating that understanding will allow journalists to better and more sensitively tell the stories of people who have been involved in traumatic events.”

Krull indicated the upcoming symposium is relevant to both practicing and aspiring journalists, as well as individuals who teach journalism in high school and university environments. Students pursuing careers in psychology, social work, law enforcement or health care might also benefit from attending.

The symposium is made possible through philanthropic support from the TTJ, a foundation that supports journalists as first responders and provides funding for initiatives that prepare journalists for the impact of covering traumatic events.

“TTJ is proud to partner with Franklin College on this important topic,” said Frank Ochberg, M.D., co-founder and board trustee at TTJ. “Franklin College and its Pulliam School of Journalism understand the need to report accurately, compassionately and wisely when our people suffer heart-breaking loss. TTJ is fortunate to be working together with Franklin College to launch this vital program in America’s heartland.”

Additional funding comes from a Ball Brothers Foundation grant and generous philanthropic support from Sean Thomasson, a Franklin College trustee, and his brother, Scot Thomasson. Their support honors their late father, Dan Thomasson, a longtime Franklin College trustee and legendary Washington journalist, who also facilitated significant internship experiences for Franklin students.

“My father loved all aspects of journalism and respected the profession. He respected the power and influence that it held throughout history, and the insights it provided of various events and information. Journalism wasn’t a job for him, it was a calling,” Scot said. Sean echoed Scot’s sentiments.

“Journalism, the way my father practiced it, is an honorable profession that keeps everybody honest. Without quality and professional journalists, society as a whole would be in trouble. We owe it to everybody to do everything we can to ensure that reporters and journalists are taken care of, just as they are doing for us.”

The lengths journalists go to report on sensitive and controversial issues in the public interest and the stresses they endure to deliver stories fairly from multiple points of view take a toll that many of us might never understand.

The symposium will be a safe space for broad and candid conversation, as well as a venue for camaraderie.

“It’s OK to be affected by seeing awful things. It’s OK to ask for help. And in terms of approaching people who’ve experienced traumatic events, it’s both professional and the right thing to do, to be aware of the ways those events may have affected them,” Krull said.

“Journalists are doing work that makes us proud, the least we can do is provide the support they need.”

Symposium presenters will include veteran storytellers such as “ABC News” anchor and reporter Linsey Davis, who recently covered the refugee crisis in Ukraine and the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas. Other featured presenters have deep experience in trauma therapy and fields of psychology.

Republished from Franklin College Magazine, 2022 Fall Issue

POSTED Oct 4, 2022